I know you may think it seems funny sounding to have peanut butter in a stew but if you keep an open-mind, you really won’t believe how amazing this is. If you are vegan, I would recommend substituting the meat with tofu, although I haven’t tried it yet but with the flavorful sauce and rice, I can’t see how it could taste poorly.

I learned of this dish when I first visited West Africa – a large country called, Mali. Mali has a severe rainy season (so bad that the plains are completely flooded and rivers and lakes appear out of nowhere in the desert) and they also have an extreme dry season that begins in late March and extends through the summer. It’s so insane that I’ve never witnessed a market that had such few items of food….and I was there in March before it got really hot so I can’t even imaging how little food is available through the summer. Many people survive on stored grains such as millet.

Anyway, one interesting thing to note when you are in the Africa and the food gets scarce is, you see mostly tomatoes, peanuts, potatoes and onions left. A lot of them are in poor condition but people have no choice and use them anyway.

While I was staying in one small village on the way to the Badiagara escarpment (beautiful mountains where ancient civilizations lived and built homes) from a small village called Sevaré, this stew was made for me. I was completely floored. It was one of the best things I’d ever eaten!

I found the recipe online and followed it; adjusting it to my own tastes, as you may do. And wanted to share it with you. The photos are from my own kitchen.

Here is a map of Mali – and great thanks to the wonderful, incredible people from there that I met along the way.  It was 100% the best trip I have ever had in my life.

I took this recipe from the Monterey Herald because others I had found had so many other additions and I wanted to keep it as simple as what I had found in the country. Of course, you are welcome to add other things and I added raisins in my recipe. Have fun and enjoy!

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1½ yellow onions, minced
8 garlic cloves, sliced
3 lbs. chicken thighs, bone in and skin on (chicken is the most common choice of meat in Mali, followed by mutton or goat; substitute with tofu or gluten if vegetarian)
2 cups chicken stock (or 2 tsp. Better Than Bouillon organic chicken base, available at Costco, dissolved in 2 cups water; bouillon cubes are used in Africa)
4 tablespoons of tomato paste
3 cups potatoes (or yams)
2 tsp. kosher salt
½ cup natural chunky peanut butter
1 cup natural smooth peanut butter
3 cups hot water-plus 3 or 4 cups of water as needed
2 cups diced tomatoes
1½ habanero chiles, minced (or more if you like it hot; see notes)

Steps: Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat; sauté onion and garlic until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken thighs or selected meat and brown approximately 6 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and the stock and cook for about 1 minute until blended. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 8 minutes.

Add the potatoes or other vegetables you want (except for the tomatoes) to the pot and stew until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the salt and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the peanut butter with 3 cups of hot water, stir/whisk until well blended.

Add the peanut butter to the pot and mix well, incorporating the peanut butter with the stock; cover the pot and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 40 minutes or until the meat is tender and the oil rises to the surface. Skim excess oil.

Add water as necessary to maintain desired consistency (it should be more or less like a cream sauce, if it’s too thin, you can add a bit of corn starch – but don’t just add to the pot, take a cup and use the stew’s broth and mix cornstarch first before adding it). Stir in the chopped tomatoes and minced chiles and bring to a boil. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Remove pot from the heat, remove the chicken skins (they will be lose and often floating on the sauce), skim visible oil, stir, and serve the chicken and peanut stew over rice, which is traditional in Mali — or, also traditional in Mali, over ground millet or cornmeal mush.

In Mali, the stem of the habanero is removed from the chiles and they are added whole to the stew early on in the cooking process, where they float on the surface as the stew cooks. When serving, the juice from the chiles is squeezed over the individual portions to add heat.

If children will be eating this dish, you can set aside their portions in a smaller pot, before adding the chile. Kids enjoy the peanutty taste.