Colonial Cream of Peanut Soup

Peanuts are a favorite nibble that can also add savor to a variety of dishes. Whether the main component or a subtle enhancement, they span the gastronomic spectrum - literally from soup to nuts.

Brazil is the native home of the peanut, the "ground nut” that sailed with Portuguese explorers to West Africa, where they became a staple crop for native farmers. Peanuts then arrived in Virginia by way of the slave trade. Along with black-eyed peas, and yams, peanuts were intended for consumption by slaves during passage to the New World who grew and used the nutrient-rich peanuts in a variety of foods.

In 1794, Thomas Jefferson recorded a yield of sixty-five peanut hills at Monticello. The cultivation of peanuts increased in the South in the nineteenth century, but it was not until after the Civil War that they gained national acceptance. During the Civil War, Union troops fighting in the South discovered that peanuts were a fortifying and tasty source of protein. As peanuts became a staple crop in Virginia, peanut soup became popular as well.  Many historians claim George Washington enjoyed the soup so much that he ate it every day.

When planning your traditional Thanksgiving meal, consider serving this kid-friendly colonial soup that is as American as the celebration itself.

  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 ribs of celery, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter and sweat the minced onion and minced celery over low heat for 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in one cup of chicken stock. Using an immersion blender (or food processor), puree vegetables in the broth. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve reserving broth and discarding excess solids.

Add remaining the chicken broth and peanut butter, and return to medium heat. Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into heated bowls and garnish each serving with I tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts, a dusting of paprika and/or celery greens. This soup can also be served chilled if you prefer.