Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recipe: West African Inspired Peanut Soup {And my first gaffe in our latest virtual travel}

The most commonly known West African dish seems to be Groundnut soup (aka West African peanut soup). So many recipes abound for this dish, I thought as our first West African recipe, we would try a popular American recipe, and compare it later with a truly traditional recipe. I did believe we were using West African staple foods: peanuts and sweet potatoes. It wasn't until after we made (and enjoyed) this soup that I learned that sweet potatoes are not a staple food - in fact, they are rare in the region. 

My mistake was in assuming that when I read about yams in West Africa, they were equivalent to what we call yams in North America (which are generally interchangeable with sweet potatoes). Yams are an important part of the West African diet, but they are nothing like sweet potatoes, and aren't even part of the same family. Oh, and they don't actually feature in groundnut soup. This was another reminder that when exploring an unknown country or different culture from your own, throw away your assumptions :)

You can watch a video that shows and describes the differences here.

North American yam/sweet potato (Source)
The sweet potato is a starchy, sweet tasting root vegetable

Yam (Source)
The yam is a starchy edible tuber
And so, this recipe is inspired by West African groundnut soup. And it was delicious! To hubby and I, that is. Pea enjoyed it, even if she wasn't raving about it. Elle, did not care for it at all - but then again, she doesn't care for sweet potatoes. Elle also found the taste of peanut butter too strong, which is worth noting - I was generous with the measurement, so depending on your appreciation for the taste of peanuts, add the peanut butter to suit your taste.

West African Inspired Peanut Soup

Recipe adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites
Serves 4-6

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or grated)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (tobasco, or the like) *optional
  • 540 ml tomato juice (approximately 2 1/4 cups)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make this vegetarian)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in large pot.  Add onion, garlic and sweet potatoes and cook until softened, stirring often for approximately 15 minutes. Stir in the ginger and hot sauce. Add the stock and bring to a boil on medium high, then reduce to low and simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are softened. 

2. Add the tomato juice and peanut butter. Stir well until the peanut butter is blended, and then puree the soup - I used an immersion blender, but  you could also use a blender in batches.

Serve hot and enjoy!


  1. This is so interesting. I knew that yams and sweet potatoes were different, but I did not realize they were so very different. It is for these things you learn that you do these in depth studies, right?

    1. It is funny how many "little known facts" (or little known to us!) that we learn that I don't expect :) I added a video link to see the difference if you're interested

  2. Sounds like when I make recipes for other countries, nothing is like I've assumed...

  3. I've always been curious about the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, too. Thanks for the clarification. :-)
    The soup looks scrummy. I love sweet potatoes, I find it so odd that noone else in my family does!

    1. You just never know what you'll learn :)
      It's difficult to find opportunities to enjoy the foods you love when your kids won't eat it, isn't it?

  4. It looks scrummy yummy! And it's a really vibrant colour!

    1. So tasty, and healthy - we'll definitely be making this again. It's still all about the hot soup here!


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