Peanut butter is an American staple, beloved by kids and adults alike for its creamy richness and sweet, nutty taste. You can count on it to be affordable, portable and easy to find. It’s protein for the masses.

And whether you knew it or not, if you had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, you were eating vegan.

That makes peanut butter the common-ground food for omnivores and veg-heads. Many of us grew up eating it.

Peanuts originated in South America, and the Incas and Aztecs were grinding them into a paste between two rocks 3,000 years ago.

They are used in mole pastes in Mexico, spiked with dried chiles and spice. As the peanut spread from South America to the rest of the world, they found a place in African cuisine, ground to make soups and sauces.

The Chinese embraced peanuts, often ground, to make savory sauces for noodles. The most popular peanut sauce on our menus these days is the satay sauce at Thai restaurants, which is made with coconut milk and curry paste.

To honor the region where peanuts originated, I wanted to introduce an easy Peruvian peanut sauce. It’s a traditional preparation, using potatoes, which also hail from Peru. You might not think of peanuts and potatoes going together, but this is one of those time-tested combinations.

If you like Thai peanut sauce, you’ll love this recipe, which is more subtle, with a mild chile heat, a hint of cumin, and a good undercurrent of sweetly sautéed onions and garlic. Contemporary Peruvian recipes for this dish often call for evaporated milk, but you can use dairy or nondairy milk.

I like to present this hot, with sliced potatoes napped with warm, creamy peanut sauce, and a boiled half an egg nestled into the plate. A sprinkling of fresh chiles and salty queso fresco or feta cheese is the perfect finish, but vegans can skip the egg and sprinkle with a favorite nut-milk cheese.


Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at