This vegan peanut quinoa soup is a take on Bolivian sopa de mani. Quinoa and assorted vegetables are coated in a luscious peanut sauce, and topped with fresh herbs, roasted peanuts and crunchy matchstick fries.
Every time we reach a South American country in our around-the-world cooking challenge my heart skips a beat. I have been desperate to get to this continent for such a long time. There is just something so captivating about Latin America’s vibrant culture. I also have a very limited knowledge on most of the countries that make up South America, and I think the mystery makes it all the more alluring.
One thing I do know about South America is that it is not the easiest place to be vegetarian. However, we managed to successfully cook our way through Argentina, which is notoriously one of the most meat-heavy cuisines (with some rather delicious vegetarian empanadas). We were curious to see what vegetarian offerings Bolivia had for us, while very much hoping we’d be pleasantly surprised.
This challenge has been great for learning the vegetarian dishes (or lack thereof) of each country in the world. This will hopefully prove very useful one day we get to travel again and visit these places in real life. Ah, travelling again. Those will be the days. Anyway, enough dreaming about post-COVID life and back to Bolivian cuisine…
History of Bolivian Cuisine
Like many countries throughout South America, Bolivian cuisine stems from its Spanish roots. More recently, the cuisine has been influenced by immigration from countries including Germany, France, Italy, France and the Middle East. Besides these external influences, indigenous ingredients and Aymara traditions feature heavily in Bolivian cuisine.
The traditional staples of Bolivian cuisine consists of potatoes, quinoa, corn and beans. Rice, wheat and meat were ingredients introduced by the Spanish that now feature heavily in Bolivian food. The cuisine varies throughout different regions in the country. For instance, in the lowlands, fresh produce is abundant, so a lot of vegetables, fruit and fish is consumed. In the mountains, the food consumed is suited to cold climates and features a lot of spice.
Compared to a lot of other South American countries, Bolivia is actually quite vegetarian-friendly (which was a nice surprise). Even a few of the traditional dishes commonly come without meat or can easily be adapted to be vegetarian.
Popular Bolivian Dishes
- Papas Rellenas- Although this is originally a Peruvian dish, it has been adapted in Bolivia. Balls of mashed potato are stuffed with different fillings, such as cheese or boiled egg, covered in batter and deep-fried.
- Salteñas- Bolivia’s version of a baked empanada, they are most commonly filled with meat, vegetables, and eggs, however they can also be made vegetarian. They are typically eaten with a generous amount of sweet, spicy gravy.
- Plato paceño– One of Boliva’s most popular lunchtime dishes consisting of corn, large lima beans, potato and fried cheese served on a plate.
- Sopa de Mani- A hearty soup which combines of peanuts, vegetables such as peas, onion and tomatoes and sometimes pasta or rice. It often comes topped with finely sliced, fried potato. Whilst it is typically is made with beef or chicken, you can find vegetarian versions (like the one we made below).
- Crema de choclo– A corn cream soup made from ground up raw corn which is turned into a thick the broth. It also contains lima beans, cubed potatoes, cumin, garlic, ají, and cream. It is traditionally served over slices of salty cheese and topped with a poached egg.
- Cuñapes– Small, round cheesy bread rolls made from yucca flour. They are soft and puffy on the outside, and have gooey cheesy on the inside.
- Budín de quinoa– A dessert consisting of quinoa that is cooked with sugar, cinnamon, eggs and raisins to form a sweet, creamy pudding.
Making Sopa de Mani
Peanuts are a key staple in Bolivia, as they are in our household. We go through jars of peanut butter like its nobody’s business. When we found out that one of Bolivia’s traditional dishes was a peanut soup, we couldn’t resist choosing this as our recipe to make.
Peanuts are one of those ingredients that we don’t think we could grow tired of. However, we might take back that statement by the end of this challenge. We are becoming more and more aware that almost every African country has some form of peanut stew as part of their cuisine. This infers that we are going to be eating a heck of a lot of peanuts this year.
Before we go further, we want to disclaim that this recipe for peanut quinoa soup is simply inspired by sopa de mani. Like many of our recipes in this challenge, we aren’t claiming it be a completely authentic representation of the dish. Rather, we try our best to stick true to the typical ingredients and flavour profiles used by the country in question.
Typically, sopa de mani is made with beef ribs or chicken alongside an assortment of vegetables. The thick broth of the soup is generally made of ground fresh peanuts blended with potato. Sometimes rice or pasta is added. Of course, we made ours sans meat. We added peanut butter to the vegetable broth instead of ground peanuts. We also added quinoa as our grain of choice to act as an extra source of protein. Everything else we tried to keep authentic, including the type of vegetables and spices we included, and the addition of the matchstick fries on top of the dish.
How to make Sopa de Mani
This peanut quinoa soup is really simple to make. It comes together in one pot and requires only 10 minutes prep time and 30 minutes cook time, making it a great weeknight dinner.
- Fry the onion and garlic until tender.
- Add in other vegetables, quinoa and vegetable broth, bringing to boil then down to a simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add in capsicum, then stir in peanut butter and spices and cook for another 3 minutes.
- If making matchstick fries, fry up potato then serve on top of soup with roasted peanuts and parsley.
Ingredient notes for Peanut Quinoa Soup
- Quinoa- Typically, a small amount of carbohydrate such as rice or pasta is added into sopa de mani. We choose to add quinoa in our soup, as this is another common grain in Bolivia and is a great source of protein. However, feel free to sub quinoa for a grain of your choice.
- Peanut butter- For the peanut butter in this recipe, we’d recommend unsweetened, smooth peanut butter. You can also use whole peanuts and ground them down. Peanut butter just saves the time.
- Vegetables- We made our soup with sweet potato, carrot, peas and capsicum. However, the beauty of this soup is you can chuck in whichever vegetables you like! It’s a great recipe for clearing out the fridge.
- Matchstick fries– Sopa de mani is typically topped with crispy matchstick fries. This isn’t an essential but it certainly makes a tasty garnish! We’ve included these in our recipe below.
Serving suggestions for Peanut Quinoa Soup
The great thing about sopa de mani is that it is filling enough to have as a stand-alone meal. However, if you want something to go alongside, we’d recommend cuñapes. This is a typical Bolivian cheesy bread roll that is made from yucca flour that would taste great dipped in soup.
Other savory dishes to try:
- Vegetarian Poutine with Mushroom Gravy
- Vegan Currywurst with Seitan Bratwurst
- Draniki Recipe: Mushroom-Stuffed Potato Cakes from Belarus
Peanut Quinoa Soup (Sopa de Mani)
This hearty peanut-based soup is a vegan version of Bolivia's sopa de mani. The soup is filled with quinoa and a variety of chopped vegetables, then topped with crisp matchstick fries, parsley and roasted peanuts.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup carrot, diced
- 1 cup sweet potato, diced
- 1/3 cup peas
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 capsicum, sliced
- 1/3 cup peanut butter, smooth
- 1 tbsp hot sauce
- 1 tsp cumin
- Salt & pepper, to taste
Matchstick fries (optional)
- Oil to shallow-fry
- 1 potato, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Matchstick fries
- Crushed peanuts
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Add in garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add carrot, sweet potato, peas and quinoa into pan, followed by 4 cups of vegetable broth.
- Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Add capsicum, then stir in peanut butter, hot sauce, cumin and salt and pepper to taste and leave to cook for 3 more minutes. Turn off heat.
- If making matchstick fries, heat a few centimetres of oil in a shallow frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, place potato matchsticks one by one into oil. Fry until brown and crispy, around 5 minutes. Remove and place on paper towel.
- Serve soup topped with fries, crushed peanuts and chopped parsley.