Peanut soup (also known as groundnut soup) is a dish with variations enjoyed throughout West Africa. If you have yet to try this unique and wonderful combination of peanuts with tomatoes and spices, then you’re in for a treat! As a bonus, I offer a tested nut-free spin on this dish for those with tree nut allergies.
Over a decade ago now, I lived in Ghana. (It was a complicated experience). The foods I still dream about are the peanut stew, fufu (pounded potato) and the creamy beans with fried plantains. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to recreate those beans, but I’m happy with the vegan peanut soup recipe that I managed to synthesize stateside. It brings back happy memories of enjoying dinner around the table with my Ghanaian family.
The peanut soup recipe that you see here today isn’t something I’d claim you would find in Africa, since I’ve made lots of modifications to accommodate ingredients that are easily available here in the USA, to make the soup vegan, and to simplify the preparation (I figured most of you don’t want to get out a blender or mortar and pestle). So while this is inspired by authentic Ghanaian peanut soup it’s really more American and Yup, it’s Vegan-esque.
How is vegan peanut soup made? It’s really quite simple; onion, garlic, chilis, and ginger are cooked down with spices before adding tomatoes, stock, and peanut butter (or more traditionally ground toasted peanuts). Finally, collard greens (or another green of your choosing) are cooked in until tender. The soup or stew is finished with a little bit of vinegar to round out the flavors.
Sound weird? It’s not! It’s so dang savory, hearty and delicious. If you like South Asian peanut sauce then you will also LOVE West African peanut soup. They don’t taste like each other, but they have the same sort of appeal. You can either eat this dish as a thick and hearty peanut stew, served over rice or another starch (it’s great with mashed potatoes – yum), or thin it out with more vegetable stock and enjoy it as a peanut soup.
The real thing often uses palm oil and I struggled for a while to find a sustainably sourced red palm oil here. I finally did, but then in my old age it didn’t quite sit right with my stomach. So, I’ve switched over to coconut oil, with its similarly rich mouthfeel that also helps make up for the lack of meat in the traditional version. The peanut butter already adds some protein contribution to this peanut soup but you can add chickpeas, tofu etc. if you are looking for even more!
To make this vegan peanut soup a complete meal I also add another veggie in the form of sweet potato. We make this dish all the time and also substitute yam, cubed winter squash, or even carrot. It’s quite flexible that way. An older version of this recipe on my site called for butternut squash, and I got a lot of heat for that. But hey, like I said, I don’t claim this is precisely authentic, so I have some creative authority there. 😉
Last but not least – the nut-free option! I have been making this with unsweetened sunflower seed butter recently and it is still making our hearts sing in the Yup, it’s Vegan household! While I find the sunflower flavor overpowering in some recipes when substituting it for peanut butter, in this recipe it works great. There are so many other awesome spicy flavors going on that you won’t notice anything is wrong (haha)!
Vegan West African Peanut Soup
Spicy, nutty and delicious West African peanut soup, inspired by my time in Ghana. A hearty stew with incredible depth of flavor that can even be made nut-free using sunflower seed butter! Naturally gluten-free too.
I know the ingredients list looks long, but most are pantry items and it really comes together easily :).
- 1 and 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 large yellow or white onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger minced
- 2 small chili peppers minced (I recommend red chilis, but use jalapeno if needed)
- 1 and 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp white pepper (or use regular pepper)
- 1 large sweet potato peeled and cubed (about 1.5 cups) or use carrot or squash
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 14 oz. crushed tomatoes (or use 1 and 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes)
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary (optional)
- 1 large sprig fresh thyme (optional)
- 1/2 bunch collard greens cut into 1-inch slices (about 2.5 cups) or use kale
- 2 tbsp vinegar divided
- salt and pepper (to taste, for serving)
- fresh cilantro (for serving)
Warm the oil in a large pot. When shimmering, add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chilis with a pinch of salt, and cook on medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, coriander, and pepper, and stir. Cook for about 60 seconds until fragrant.
Add the cubed sweet potato, tomatoes and tomato paste, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the tomatoes are starting to break down and release their juices.
Add the broth and peanut butter, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme sprigs, and collard greens. Partially cover and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the collards are tender and the sweet potato is soft. Stir in half of the vinegar.
Remove the bay leaves and fresh herb sprigs. Season to taste with salt (this dish generally needs a lot) and pepper, and add the rest of the vinegar if more acidity is needed. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, and accompanying starch of choice such as potatoes or rice.
NUT-FREE/PALEO OPTION: Recipe successfully tested and loved with sunflower seed butter! Yum. The soup will have a slightly more greenish/brownish color rather than being as bright orange with peanut butter. I recommend finding an unsweetened, no-oil-added variety of sun butter if you can. Trader Joe's brand fits the bill. It wasn't on purpose, but I think using the sun butter option also makes this recipe paleo-friendly.
FRESH HERBS: Seasoning with herb sprigs and bay leaves is traditional in some areas. However, the soup doesn't necessarily need it. I just throw it in if my backyard herb garden happens to be thriving that day.
Sources consulted: Wikipedia and beyond.
Peanut butter fiend? Try some of my other peanutty recipes: