Virginia Peanut Soup

A creamy, comforting soup steeped in history and perfect for fall


“When I first came across peanut soup at Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park, I was curious to try it but felt like I was rolling the dice on a pretty peculiar-sounding dish,” writes Lydia Ly in her new cookbook, The National Parks Cookbook : The Best Recipes from (and Inspired by) America’s National Parks. A staple of the lodge’s Spottswood Dining Room, the creamy soup fed Virginia colonists in the early 1700s, she explains.

Ly writes: “The simple dish straddles the line between sophisticated and plain. It’s made many different ways from thin and brothy to thick and more bisque-like, and my version is the latter. I love the sweetness that sweet potatoes and coconut milk add, but not in a cloying way. This is a stick-to-your-ribs type of soup and one worth trying if you love traditional comfort foods with a rich history. Don’t skip the lime juice before serving—it really brings out all the flavors.”


  • Virginia Peanut Soup (Yield: 6 servings)

    • 4 tbsp. (½ stick) butter

    • 2 celery stalks, diced

    • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour

    • 1 yellow onion, diced

    • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

    • 6 cups chicken broth

    • 1 15-oz. can coconut milk

    • 1½ cups creamy natural peanut butter, well stirred

    • 1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce

    • Salt and ground black pepper

    • Chopped salted peanuts for garnishing

    • Sliced scallions for garnishing

    • Lime wedges for serving


  1. In a medium-size stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, onion, and sweet potato and cook for about 10 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat. Pour in the broth and coconut milk, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the vegetables are softened. 

  2. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until smooth (or transfer, in batches, to a standard blender and return the pureed soup to the pot). Whisk in the peanut butter and Sriracha. Warm over low heat for about 5 minutes, whisking often. Season with salt and pepper to taste, as needed. Garnish the soup with a handful of peanuts and scallions and squeeze some lime juice into each bowl before serving.

Reprinted with permission from The National Parks Cookbook : The Best Recipes from (and Inspired by) America’s National Parks, by Lydia Ly, published by Harvard Common Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group. Text © 2022 Lydia Ly.