(Slow Cooker) Chocolate Peanut Clusters with Sea Salt

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It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is finally over – welcome to the new and improved Fountain Avenue Kitchen! After nearly four years of sharing recipes, it was time to make a few upgrades to the blog.

My new website includes a fresh look and a structure that will allow for better organization as the recipe archives continue to grow. As I worked on this website, user-friendliness was a main goal as was keeping the overall feel of the website familiar to my readers. So while the logo has been tweaked and the pages will look a bit crisper, you’ll still find all the old recipes and my same basic approach. At the same time, the recipe index will be easier to navigate and, for everyone who has requested it, there’s a recipe box feature. This will allow you to save all of the recipes you’ve tried and enjoyed as well as the ones you’d like to try sometime soon. There’s also a Helpful Tips section, where I’ll continue to add tips, tutorials, substitutions, and more.

My hope was that this site would have a magazine quality, where you feel compelled to keep turning the page, only to uncover unexpected goodies as you go. So after taking a look at the following portion-controlled treat–which is utterly mouthwatering, by the way, and makes a big batch that’s perfect for Valentine’s exchanges, teachers’ gifts, etc.–I hope you’ll take a few extra minutes to look around the new site and maybe even let me know what you think. I always welcome your comments in the space below the recipes, and you can contact me directly via this page.  So without further adieu…..

February 6, 2016


Amidst all of the goodies we enjoy throughout the holiday season, there’s a special delivery that stands out from all the rest. It’s a cookie care package sent by Cindy, a long-time colleague of my husband, who lives and works in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

I can only imagine the time Cindy spends on her holiday care packages. Once the final touches are put on her popular assortment of cookies, candy, and spiced nuts, Cindy carefully packages them in festive boxes and tins to ensure a safe long-distance delivery.

This year, I stowed one of the boxes in the far reaches of the refrigerator in an attempt to—I admit this somewhat sheepishly—have it all to myself. Apparently, no corner of the refrigerator is safe in our house, because my effort failed miserably!

Ostensibly, this box contained basic chocolate peanut clusters, but the first bite told me that they were more than the sum of two simple parts. Plain old peanuts and chocolate are certainly tasty enough, but these offered something more.

When I thanked Cindy, I inquired about these crunchy clusters with their salty-sweet appeal. There were, in fact, a few other key ingredients in these mouth-watering treats. Yet the recipe was easy and conveniently incorporated a slow cooker in lieu of a double boiler, making the initial step hands off.

Cindy found her original recipe, which we both modified slightly, in the 2014 Wisconsin Energies Cookie Book.  Cindy makes the chocolates throughout the year, changing the muffin liners to suit the holiday, and says they are always a hit.

I couldn’t agree more. As someone who can be a bit too heavy handed when it comes to dishing out dessert, I also appreciate the built-in portion control. One of these clusters truly satisfies a sweet tooth.

(Slow Cooker) Chocolate Peanut Clusters with Sea Salt
Yield: 6-7 dozen clusters
  • 2 (16-ounce) jars dry roasted peanuts (you won’t use the entire second container)
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) dark chocolate chips (like Ghirardelli or Guittard)
  • 1 (4-ounce) bar semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped or broken (like Hershey’s or Baker)
  • 1 (24-ounce) package chocolate almond bark or melting chocolate (see notes*)
  • Coarse sea salt
  1. 1. Place 4 1/2 to 5 cups of the peanuts in a 6-quart slow cooker.** (Cindy always uses the whole first jar of peanuts and between 1/2 and 2/3 of the second. There are roughly 3 cups of peanuts per jar, and I used 4 1/2 cups of peanuts.) Layer the remaining ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir the mixture and cook 10-20 minutes more or until everything is just melted. (Avoid letting the chocolate cook too long. Even on low, a slow cooker can scorch chocolate if left too long.)
  2. 2. Using a spoon or small- to medium-size cookie scoop, scoop mounds of the clusters into paper-lined miniature muffin tins. (See tip.) Sprinkle very lightly with the sea salt. Allow to sit at room temperature until completely set, 1 to 2 hours. The clusters can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. They also freeze very well.
  • * Cindy uses vanilla or chocolate “almond bark,” which doesn’t actually have almonds in it. Melting chocolate is a good substitute. You may use white, milk, or semi-sweet– or a combination of–melting chocolate. (In this batch, I used half semi-sweet and half white chocolate melting wafers.)
  • **If you don’t have a slow cooker or simply prefer to use a double boiler to melt the chocolate mixture, I would recommend cutting the recipe in half. As written, the recipe is too large for most double boilers.
  • Tip: You can purchase sturdy foil liners that don’t require a muffin tin, but the tin does help to support the candies and maintain their shape. I have one 24-count mini muffin tin. Once I filled it, I put it in the refrigerator to firm up the chocolate more quickly, leaving the remaining mixture in the turned-off slow cooker with the lid on. When the chocolate became too firm to easily scoop by the third tin refill, I turned the cooker on low for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

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  1. Maryellen

    I assume the sea salt should be sprinkled on immediately after putting the mixture in the muffin cups? Thanks! I love the new look!

    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for noticing my omission, Maryellen. You are right, and I just inserted that final step in the recipe. Thanks for noticing the new look, too! 🙂

  2. Kristin

    This recipe sounds great and much cheaper than buying these in a chocolate store! Can we use cashew nuts or pistachio nuts and if yes, should we half them so they are smaller?

    1. Ann Post author

      Seriously, I am forever grateful to Cindy for first sharing these with me…they are THAT good! I’ve only made them with dry roasted peanuts, which definitely contribute something uniquely special. That said, you could absolutely try the recipe with a variety of nuts. Both of your suggestions could really be delicious. I think I would still use salted nuts. Chopping them into smaller pieces would be a matter of personal preference. If you do chop them, I would avoid stirring in too many crumbs. Hope that helps, and feel free to report back!

      1. Kristin

        Yes Ann, when I said I would make them smaller, it was in relation to how big a peanut is, so they will not be made smaller than being halved. Thanks for your two comments. Your new look is very refreshing and you have made it easier to find recipes…oh and did I say that I think your recipes are so fantastic…so much appreciated!:)

  3. Trudy

    They look yummy, I need to go buy some little paper liners!

    I love the new “search” box you have incorporated, it makes finding things much more efficient.

  4. Cindy M

    Ann – how lovely your candy looks and such a nice gift for Valentines Day! I will try these with the white chocolate wafers since I have not tried that variation. You don’t realize how wonderful all the different types of chocolate are together until you try them and experience the depth of flavors. Thank you for making and sharing one of my favorite recipes!

    1. Ann Post author

      If you only knew how many of these I have eaten, Cindy, savoring every last morsel. Thank you again for generously sharing the recipe!

  5. Carol

    Going to try this very soon-I gave up butter, bacon and beef for Lent, but not chocolate-and I am pondering variations. All dark chocolate, of course. Pecans, perhaps? A dollop of caramel sauce or half a vanilla caramel in the bottom of the cup? Goodness. Fun times ahead.

  6. Rila

    Ann, your new website looks fantastic. Thanks for pouring your energy, creativity, and love of food into this place where all of us can partake. We’re all blessed by you! I really look forward to trying this chocolate recipe and had a question about the almond bark (that doesn’t have almonds in it). I’m guessing that it’s called that because of almond extract? If so, would you recommend putting a little bit of almond extract in with the chocolate mixture?

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Rila,
      Chocolate bark is a name for melting chocolate that’s sold in a rectangular package, although coincidentally, I never saw it here until last week. Most of our local store sell the melting chocolate wafters, which are interchangeable with melting chocolate. Despite the fact that almond is in the name, there are no almonds in there! So there’s no need to add extract. I hope that clarifies. Please let me know if you have any more questions…and thank you for your very thoughtful comments!

  7. Rila Hackett

    I just made these last night (made sure I had all the ingredients before the snow hit) and — WOW! Thank you, Ann (and Cindy) for sharing this. 🙂 And Happy February Birthdays to Jack and Christian!

    1. Ann Post author

      Way to be prepared, Rila, and so glad you share our fondness for these treats! Thanks also for remembering our February birthdays. It’s hard to believe my “baby” turns 14 tomorrow!

          1. Trudy

            Still a go-to treat! I put them in the staff lounge with a Happy Holidays card and forego individual gifts. Love the hands-off slow cooker option!

          2. Ann Post author

            It’s so nice when a recipe stands the test of time and you can dependably return to it. I bet your coworkers have come to look forward to this treat!

  8. Elaine Leech

    This candy was so easy to make and a hit with everyone I shared it with. I made it exactly as Ann did with the mix of white and dark chocolate. It had a nice depth of flavor and when cooled the chocolate was on the creamy side – not hard. I picked up pink Himalayan sea salt and it looked festive on top. I used nuts I had on hand which was mostly roasted peanuts but I had to add some cashews to make up the total weight needed and that worked well. I’ll make this again and will experiment with different nuts. Thank you Ann for this delicious recipe.

  9. Trudy

    I made these last year and they were a huge hit! I am sure it is the variety of chocolates that deepens the flavor. Thanks for the reminder to make them again.

    1. Ann Post author

      I always think of these around Valentine’s Day, Trudy, although they taste great all year round…which makes me especially grateful for the built-in portion control!

    1. Ann Post author

      You could try, Linda, but they may spread a little more than you’d like. As an option, you could pour into a parchment- or foil-lined baking pan to the thickness desired (adjust pan size and use more than one accordingly–I’m thinking a half sheet pan might even be perfect if you have one). Chill until firm and then allow to sit at room temperature a few minutes before cutting. I haven’t used this method with this recipe but have done so with similar bark recipes, so I think it would work well.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Kelly, In step #2 the recipe mentions sprinkling the clusters very lightly with sea salt. It adds a nice salty-sweet component at the end.

  10. Pat

    So glad I came across this recipe. I’ve made it for the past two years, and went looking for it in my archives. Couldn’t find it. Maybe the WE Energy website has it, but now I don’t need to worry. Again, thanks.

  11. Linda

    Can you use slow cooker liners for this recipe for easy cleanup? Does this recipe fill a 6 qt. Crock pot? Mine is 5 qts. at most.

    1. Ann Post author

      Linda, I don’t use the liners but I don’t see why you couldn’t. Also, you should have more than enough room in a 4- to 5-quart cooker. Mine is a 6-quart model, and as you can see in the photos, there is room to spare. Enjoy!