Snack time just got tastier with this twist on a fan favorite. Giving Corn Nuts the traditional Roman pasta dish treatment, cacio e pepe, meaning "cheese and pepper," gives them a nutty, buttery and salty boost along with the punch of fragrant toasted black pepper.
The classic Corn Nuts we know today, date back to 1936 when Albert Holloway introduced the snack to the United States by selling them to tavern owners. Originally dubbed, Olin's Brown Jug Toasted Corn, the one of the original salty bar snacks to drive patrons to drink more pints of beer. In 1998, Nabisco purchased Holloway's family company and transformed the bar food into what we know today.
We baked these corn nuts for ease and less cleanup, but the nuts benefit from a bit more crunch if you fry them—see alternate directions below. Either way, fully drying the hominy before cooking helps to ensure proper flavor and texture in the end. If it is still wet before going into the oven, this will end up steaming the corn turning it soggy.
- 14 to 16 ounce package dried hominy
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or canola oil)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh ground pepper
- 2 ounces Pecorino Romano, freshly fine grated (about 1 cup)
Gather the ingredients
Sort the dried hominy kernels, removing any stray strings, then place in a large bowl along with the water. Let soak overnight or at least 12 hours.
Drain the hominy, then spread onto a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Once the hominy is dry, remove the paper towels from the baking sheet, Add the oil, salt, and pepper; toss to coat the hominy. Spread into an even layer.
Bake the hominy for 40 to 45 minutes or until the kernels are golden brown and some are bursting. Be sure to rotate the baking sheet and toss the hominy every 15 minutes or so to promote even browning.
Let the corn nuts cool for 5 to 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle, then add the Pecorino Romano to the baking sheet; toss to coat. Taste and add any additional salt or pepper to your liking. Enjoy!
Fry Them Up!
To fry the corn in place of baking, easily adjust the recipe as follows.
- Once the hominy has dried on the baking sheet for an hour (very important for frying to prevent spatter), heat 1/4 cup neutral oil in a medium saucepan to 350 F.
- Very carefully, add a small batch of hominy (1/4 cup per batch) to the oil.
- Be extremely careful as the kernels will pop and oil can splatter. Place a lid slightly ajar on top or use a splatter cover to protect yourself from the hot oil.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer corn nuts to a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet to drain.
- Pat any excess oil off, then toss with the salt, pepper, and Pecorino Romano.
- Make sure the oil comes back between batches and fry the remaining hominy.