Peanuts can be tasty in ways both sweet and savory, but there’s one particular application Filipinos love: the garlicky sort.
TASTE: Happy gets you a simple, straightforward punch of saltiness and garlic powder. It can feel a tad simplistic taken by itself, but the bits of toasted garlic mixed in work to give it just the right amount of burnt complexity.
CRUNCH AND CONSISTENCY: Past its powdery exterior, you get a gentle crunch that’s on the soft end of the spectrum—gratifying without being too hard on the teeth. Being on the dry side, there’s barely even a hint of grease (aside from the peanuts’ natural fat content).
TASTE: Growers offers a saltier nut with a milder (but ample) garlic flavor. Though some tasters were left wanting more depth, we found that it well highlights the natural sweetness of the nuts underneath.
CRUNCH AND CONSISTENCY: Growers’ nuts feel less powdery, with seasoning that’s more tightly stuck to the peanuts underneath. You get a firmer, more satisfying crunch, with peanuts that seem to have been toasted longer (and that feel even dryer) than Happy’s.
TASTE: The seasoning on Tobi’s tastes saltier and more garlicky, if not too intensely so, but it’s balanced by the sweeter depth of the toasty nuts underneath. Our bag could use more garlic flakes—but where they do appear, they contribute a welcome bitterness.
CRUNCH AND CONSISTENCY: Tobi’s has the seasoning stuck on to the nuts, much like Growers, albeit less evenly distributed (some nuts come very heavily coated; others are barely seasoned at all). They also feel even firmer and crunchier than Growers.
TASTE: The sole imported (specifically, Thai) brand of the bunch offers a different garlic nut experience, with the garlic playing more of a supporting role to the seasoning. You get a mostly-sweet, umami blend with a whisper of garlic background, evened out by toasted garlic bits mixed in.
CRUNCH AND CONSISTENCY: Each nut in the bag comes heavily dredged in the said powdery seasoning, which can make it messier to eat but does not necessarily pose a bother. Like Happy’s, the peanuts themselves possess a soft but ample crunch.
TASTE: Sugo takes a page from the street-side snack of adobong mani, offering skin-on nuts fried with garlic chips that perfume the cooking oil itself. Apart from the presence of a slight chemical finish, it stays true to the authentic version: the nuts are wonderfully toasty, exhibiting the less in-your-face but deep flavor of actual fried garlic, before ending with pops of salt.
CRUNCH AND CONSISTENCY: These nuts can feel a tad oily, albeit not as oily as those you’d find out on the street. The team had mixed feelings about the presence of the skins, but the author admits to loving the added papery texture they provide.
The Verdict: Tobi
Tobi’s robust-tasting, especially-garlicky (and crunchy) version best satisfies our garlic peanut hankerings, especially when paired with a bottle of cola. Those looking for a milder take, on the other hand, would be well to check out Happy or Growers (the latter being toastier and crunchier). Should the salty-garlicky flavor profile bore you, try Tong Garden’s sweeter, more amped-up version. And when you’re after the distinct freshly-fried character of adobong mani outside the streets, Sugo’s packets have your back. Garlicky breath be damned; these nutty snacks never go out of style.