This creamy sweet potato soup is made with coconut milk and flavored with lime juice and a kick of cayenne. The smooth citrusy tropical flavored broth pairs beautifully with the zesty spice-crusted shrimp that float on top. A sprinkle of fresh slivered spinach adds an elegant finishing touch.
This sweet potato soup recipe is inspired by a small island nation in the South Pacific called Vanuatu. When people ask me what my food blog is about, I tell them that my mission is to find great recipes from every country in the world, and their next question is usually: "how do you find the recipes?" There's no simple answer to that question. Sometimes I'll share one of my long-time favorite recipes. Other times, I get inspired by a recipe I find in a cookbook or a magazines or on another blog.
Occasionally I get out of the house and actually travel somewhere and discover an exciting dish in a restaurant. Often I look at a list of all the 196 countries of the world, pick one randomly, and start researching it. That was the case with Vanuatu.
Sometimes a country's national dish will interest me. But Vanuatu's national dish, called Lap Lap, is way too labor intensive. It starts with the difficult task of pounding taro root into a paste, and that's just the beginning - the rest involves layers of cabbage and meat and a banana leaf - and my research tells me that Lap Lap is not a dish that everybody loves.
What got me excited about Vanuatu cuisine was thinking about how to combine the popular local ingredients to come up with something fun and tropical. Coconuts are their largest agricultural commodity. Coconut milk is used to cook almost everything. Sweet potatoes and yams are also an abundant and popular year-round crop. Since Vanuatu is an archipelago, consisting of over 80 islands, there's no shortage of fish and seafood available. So there you have it - the inspiration for Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spicy Shrimp from Vanuatu.
The people of Vanuatu are called Ni-Vanuatu. It is an extremely diverse culture with over 112 different languages spoken on the islands. In fact Vanuatu is the most language-dense country in the world. But in addition to their unique languages, the majority of the Ni-Vanuatu share a common language called Bislama. It's a form of Pidgin, based on English vocabulary. But the language has taken on a life of its own, due to traders traveling around the Pacific, picking up bits and pieces of dialect and grammar from here and there. TripAdvisor has a good explanation of the language with some interesting examples.
Here's a phrase of the language to give you a sense of it: I am very happy in Bislama is mi glad tumas (me glad too much). That's how I'm feeling about this soup!
Here's the recipe for Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spice Crusted Shrimp. If you try this recipe, I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!
Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spice Crusted Shrimp
- Total Time: 40 mins
- Yield: 6-8 1x
The creamy coconut and sweet potato soup pairs beautifully with zesty spice-crusted shrimp. Delicious and company-worthy. (dairy-free)
For The Spice Mix
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons coriander
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
For The Soup
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 6 cups low salt chicken broth broth (I recommend Swanson's)
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 9 cups cubed)
- 1 13 ½-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (shake can well before pouring)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
For The Shrimp
- 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp (18-24) peeled, deveined, tails removed
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves, slivered (stack leaves and slice them thin)
- Mix spices in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in a soup kettle or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add sweet potatoes and broth, bring to a boil and quickly lower the heat a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
- Puree the soup using an immersion blender or puree the soup in batches using a food processor or blender. Once the soup is pureed and in the pot, add the coconut milk, lime juice, salt and cayenne. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside, covered, while you sauté the shrimp.
- Put shrimp in a mixing bowl, pour the spice on top and toss to coat. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large skillet until hot but not smoking. Cook shrimp for a minutes or two per side over medium-high heat, or until there's a nice brown spice crust on the outside and the shrimp is just cooked through.
- Heat the soup gently, if need be, until it's hot. Ladle soup into shallow bowls. Place 3-4 shrimp in each bowl and add a small pile of shredded spinach to the center of each bowl. Serve hot.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Category: Soup
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: Vanuatu
Keywords: Sweet potato soup with shrimp, sweet potato soup with coconut milk
Great recipe! Only thing I don't have is onions. Could you sub them out entirely or just use something else instead?
Hi Angelina, The onions add some flavor but the soup will still be delicious without them. If you want a substitution, you can stir in a teaspoon of onion powder or you can sauté some finely chopped carrots in place of the onions - sauté them on medium low until they soften and start to turn golden. I hope that helps.
This is a wonderful chowder. I have also made it with cubed blackened chicken. Will make again and again. Many thanks,
I tried this tonight, and it was delicious, certainly company-worthy. I did make a little change, though. My fiancé is not crazy about sweet-savory dishes (a shame - that's kind of my favorite thing), so I sauteed a little garlic in some olive oil and two tablespoons of red curry paste for a few minutes, and added that mixture to the sweet potatoes right before the blending step. It punched up the spice level and we were both really happy with the soup. I served it with a baguette to soak up the yummy and a little acidic side salad. Great dinner!
I made this recipe tonight and it was really delicious! I'll definately make it again. Super easy too!
I know all of Lisa's recipes are great, but I do love the ones I've already made so much that it takes me
awhile to try something new.
Wow! Delicious! Followed the recipe exactly and my taste buds are raving:) Thank you for sharing this recipe, I look forward to trying your others!
This sounds so good! I'm going to make this for a dinner party but serve as an appetizer in a shot glass with a sprig of cilantro and one shrimp hanging on the glass. I think it's going to be a showstopper!
What a great idea Terry!
Hi Lisa. We made this at the beach for Nancy M and it was delish! I used homemade Vietnamese-style chicken stock which I make from a recipe from Charles Phan that includes roasted onion and ginger. Goes great in this recipe. I'm planning to make it again tonight for my family. Thanks!
The stock with ginger and onions sounds really good!
I made this using both tofu (drained coated with the spice mixture and fried) as well as scallops (ditto for the technique. Not only were they both delicious hot, I've been eating it cold with a dollop of greek yogurt. Really delicious and refreshing.
Hi Margie. I'm so glad to hear that the tofu and scallops worked well with the coconut sweet potato soup. I also love the idea of a dollop of Greek yogurt. Thanks!
What a glorious recipe -- all my favorite things in one place! Can't wait to try it!
Lisa, Not only are your recipes delicious, but they help out with thinking about the dreaded question of, 'what to cook tonight'. I bet this would be good with scallops or even crispy tofu (well drained and sliced extra-firm tofu, fried in a bit of vegetable oil).
Since I live with someone with a shrimp allergy and one who is a vegetarian (who will, thank goodness eat something with chicken broth in it), I'll be making this tonight with those modifications.
Hi Margie, I'm so glad you commented with all of these ideas. Someone else asked what they could substitute for the shrimp and you gave the answer. One thing that I think is important is to use the same spices on whatever you substitute - the soup is rather mild and sweet from the potatoes, and it definitely needs the counterpoint of something spicy. I'd love to know how it turns out with your modifications. Lisa
I'm off to the market now!! Wow looks amazing.
Love this recipe, making it tomorrow. Ev thing I love is in this soup.
Mouthwatering, literally! What's a good substitute for shrimp do you think? For non seafood eaters? I love the spices and coconut milk, sounds so yummy.
Hi Marisa, you could try tofu. That was suggested by someone else. If you cut it into cubes and let it drain on paper towels for 10 minutes or so, then you can toss the cubes in the same spice mixture and sauté them.