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    Maafe (Senegalese Peanut Stew)

    Do you know you can actually cook with peanut butter? Yes, you can… the African way! This West African maafe, or mafe, is one of the creamiest and yummiest stews you will ever make in your kitchen.

    Your pot is going to be a combination of peanut butter richness, tangy tomato, aromatics and spices, and your choice of protein and veggies.

    Round dutch oven full of peanut stew with beef, carrots and bell peppers.

    This maafe starts with protein rubbed with some heady spices, ginger and garlic. Then your meat is simmered in an onion and tomato based sauce which is ultimately thickened up with a serious amount of peanut butter. It all results in a deep and rich, nutty flavored gravy… How does all this sound to you?

    As for me, Maafe won my heart in a heartbeat, as it reminds me of my very favorite butter chicken in look, texture and even comes close in taste. Why not? Both of them are buttery tomato based stew-like “things” with luscious fall of the bone meat. Take one look at this bowl and if this one piques your curiosity, you may ask me…

    Blue bowl full of beef mafe.

    So what is Maafe?

    In Africa, especially on the West coast, you will find something called “Groundnut stew” in abundance, mostly made with ground peanuts or peanut butter. Different countries, regions and ethnic groups have their specific spins, with whatever ingredients are on hand.

    The same orange red concoction, which is sometimes referred to as groundnut soup instead of stew, is known by different names in different African countries like… Mafé or Maafe (Senegal), Sauce d’Arachide (Ivory coast ) Tigadèguèna or Tigadegena (Mali) , Domoda (Gambia), African Peanut Stew, Groundnut Stew…

    Mafe can trace its origins to the Mandinka and Bambara people of Mali. Its name in the Mandinka language is “domodah”, and “tigadenmga” in Bamanankan.

    From Mali it spread to neighboring Senegal and the rest of Western Africa. It even found its way across the Atlantic to the American South, where you see remnants of peanut stew or peanut soup in some regions.

    It’s believed that peanut stew became popular in Western Africa during the Colonial era, when more efforts were channeled into groundnut farming. Plenty of nuts, what to do? Incorporate them into everyday food like stews and soups.

    Maafe, as mentioned above, is the Senegalese version of peanut stew.

    Black bowl full of chicken maafe garnished with cilantro and peanuts.

    What kind of meat to use

    Some folks make it with lamb, some with beef, others make it with chicken or even fish.

    Sometimes boiled eggs are used in place of meat, and even just a vegetarian stew is not that uncommon. Pork is mostly out of the question, as most Senegalese are Muslims.

    Like any stew, you need fattier cuts to make it melt in your mouth delicious.

    If you are using beef, chuck is always a good choice. Short ribs or oxtail would also go great.

    If you are opting for chicken, chicken breasts have no business in a stew pot. Go for thighs or drumsticks. Bone in or boneless or a mix is perfect. I prefer skinless when I am stewing chicken.

    Another picture of the bowl of beef maafe.

    What kind of veggies to use

    The most common vegetables in the maafe pot are root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and yams. Often cabbage, okra and eggplant are also used.

    I am using red and green bell pepper along with carrots.

    Using peas and mushrooms is not traditional, but I can see them going great in this stew.

    This is what you need to make some great Maafe

    • Meat – I am making two batches here, one with boneless skinless chicken thighs and one with beef chuck.
    • Peanut butter – The STAR.
    • Onion – Chopped.
    • Tomato – Sauce and paste that gives beautiful vibrant color and flavor.
    • Aromatics – Garlic, ginger, cilantro (for garnishing).
    • Hot pepper – Some like it hot so they use habanero. Some don’t, so they can handle a little jalapeño.
    • Veggies
    • Chicken broth
    • Spices – Paprika, red chili flakes, freshly ground black pepper.

    How to make Mafe happen in your kitchen

    Cut the meat into big chunks. You don’t want small bites in stew, as they might disintegrate. Season them with salt, freshly cracked black pepper, paprika, chopped ginger and garlic. If you have time to spare, marinate it for a few hours.

    When ready to cook, heat oil and sear the meat pieces 4-5 minutes per side. This gives them a nice color and adds flavor to the stew. Plate them out.

    Two images of cooked meat chunks on a plate, one chicken and one beef.

    In the same pot, add in chopped onions and sauté, stirring up the brown stickings from the bottom. Cook till onion becomes golden brown.

    Add in chopped garlic, ginger and jalapeño and cook for a minute. Add in tomato paste and cook for a minute. Time to add the tomato sauce along with paprika, red chili flakes and salt. Cook for 5 minutes.

    Mixture of tomato sauce and aromatics cooking in a square dutch oven.

    Stir in chicken broth and mix well.

    Chicken stock added into the pot.

    Add meat back into the pot. You can add carrots too at this time, and any other root vegetables you are using. Cook covered for 5 minutes.

    Add in a nice heap of peanut butter and keep on stirring till it melts nicely into the sauce.

    Measuring spoon full of peanut butter.

    Now you need to cook this sauce till the butter starts separating onto the surface, the stew develops a vibrant red orangey color, and the meat is nice and tender.

    In the last half hour, add in bell peppers chunks.

    Cooked chicken maafe in a square dutch oven.
    Cooked beef maafe in a round dutch oven.

    All that’s left is to garnish your stew with some chopped cilantro if you like or some fresh peanuts.

    How to cook Maafe in an Instant Pot

    Season and marinate the meat with salt, pepper, paprika, chopped ginger and garlic. Heat the instant pot using SAUTE mode and once oil is hot, sear the meat pieces till they are little brown, 4-5 minutes per side. Plate them out.

    Add chopped onions to the pressure cooker and sauté, stirring up brown stickings from the bottom. Cook till onion is golden brown.

    Add in chopped ginger, garlic and jalapeno and cook for a minute. Add in tomato paste and cook for a minute.

    Stir in tomato sauce along with paprika, red chili flakes and salt. Cook for 5 minutes.

    Stir in chicken broth. Add in peanut butter and stir well till it is dissolved.

    Add meat along with carrots and bell peppers. Mix well. Close the lid and pressure cook on HIGH for 5 minutes for chicken and 35 minutes for beef. In the case of beef, add in bell peppers later, as they can turn to mush, or skip.

    Release pressure using the natural release method according to manufacturer’s instructions, 10-20 or 10 minutes. Select CANCEL and open the lid. Garnish with cilantro.

    Or a Slow Cooker

    Season and marinate the meat with salt, pepper, paprika, chopped ginger and garlic.

    You can directly put the meat in the crock pot, or take the extra step to brown it first in an oiled pan searing 4-5 minutes per side. After browning, place it in the crock pot.

    Saute onions till golden brown along with ginger, garlic and jalapeno. Add this mixture over the meat. In a bowl, stir together tomato paste, tomato sauce, paprika, red chili flakes, chicken broth, peanut butter and salt. Pour this mixture over the meat and mix everything well.

    Add in carrots or any other root vegetables you want. Cover and cook 4 hours on high or 7-8 on low for chicken. If using beef, cook 5-6 hours on high or 8-9 hours on low.

    Towards the last one and half hour you can add in bell peppers. Taste for seasoning and garnish with cilantro.

    What to serve Maafe with

    It is absolutely delish over a heaping bowl of rice.

    It’s very common to pair it with millet couscous, so I believe that regular couscous will be great too.

    Low carbers, try this peanut buttery goodness over cauliflower rice.

    How about some warm flatbread. Or I might make my regular Indian naan, roti or paratha… all good!

    How is Maafe served in Senegal?

    Maafe, like other food in Senegal, is made for sharing and eating together with friends and family. Guests or family gather around the meal, which is mostly served on a big huge platter.

    Everyone chooses a place around the platter. They mostly eat with their hands. He or she will only eat the food from his or her section of the platter. It’s considered very rude to eat from another person’s section of the platter. The host will distribute the meat and vegetables to ensure that everyone gets plenty.

    Leftovers

    Mafe is great when sitting in your refrigerator for a night or so, when all the flavors mingle together. You can store it for 3-4 days in your refrigerator or freeze it in an airtight container for up to a couple of months for future meals.

    Bowl of chicken mafe with the dutch oven in the background.

    Senegalese food is not only one of the richest cuisines in West Africa, but it embodies the practice of enjoying it TOGETHER. I am sure when you make this bright and fragrant stew, it’s going to win your heart in a heartbeat… just like mine!

    Make this happen and embrace new flavors in your life. There is plenty more coming your way. Show GypsyPlate love… Subscribe and Share!

    Chicken Maafe…

    Bowl of chicken maafe atop the Gypsy Plate.

    And Beef Maafe, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    Bowl of beef maafe atop the Gypsy Plate.

    Try these other great African recipes!
    South African Chicken Curry
    Chicken Jollof Rice
    Chermoula Sauce
    Moroccan Lentil Soup
    Kedjenou Chicken
    Chakalaka

    Maafe.

    Maafe (Senegalese Peanut Stew)

    Yield: 6 servings
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 1 hour
    Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

    This West African peanut stew, Maafe (or Mafe), is loaded with rich savory flavors. Any meat of your choice goes great in this perfectly spiced peanut butter and tomato based sauce.

    Ingredients

    • 2 lbs chicken or beef, cut into chunks (see note 1)

    To marinate the meat

    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped or minced
    • 1 tsp ginger, finely chopped or minced
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

    For Maafe

    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
    • 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
    • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (See note 2)
    • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
    • 1 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1-2 tsp red chili flakes (I used 2)
    • 1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
    • 1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks
    • 10-12, baby carrots
    • 3 cups chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup peanut butter
    • 3-4 Tbsp oil
    • Salt to taste

    Instructions

    Stove Top Method

    1. Season chicken or beef with all the marinating ingredients and marinate at least 30 minutes to a few hours.
    2. Heat 3 Tbsp oil over medium high heat in a skillet and sear meat 4-5 minutes per side, till it gets a nice brown color. Plate it out.
    3. If needed, add remaining 1 Tbsp oil. Add in chopped onion and sauté till it turns golden brown in color, scraping any brown bit from the bottom of the pan into the mixture.
    4. Add in minced ginger, garlic and jalapeño. Cook for a minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook for a minute. Add in tomato sauce along with salt, paprika, red chili flakes. Cook for 5 minutes.
    5. Stir in chicken broth and mix well. Add meat back to the pot along with carrots. Cook for 5 minutes.
    6. Add in peanut butter and stir well till it melts and combines well with the sauce. Cover and cook till meat is tender, about 45 minutes for chicken or about 1-1.5 hours for beef, depending on the cut. In the last half an hour of cook time, add in bell peppers. Taste and adjust for salt.
    7. Serve and garnish with chopped cilantro and peanuts.


    Instant Pot method

    1. Season and marinate the meat with salt, pepper, paprika, chopped ginger and garlic. Heat the instant pot using SAUTE mode and once oil is hot, sear the meat pieces till they are little brown, 4-5 minutes per side. Plate them out.
    2. Add chopped onions to the pressure cooker and sauté, stirring up brown stickings from the bottom. Cook till onion is golden brown.
    3. Add in chopped ginger, garlic and jalapeno and cook for a minute. Add in tomato paste and cook for a minute. Stir in tomato sauce along with paprika, red chili flakes and salt. Cook for 5 minutes.
    4. Stir in chicken broth. Add in peanut butter and stir well till it is dissolved. Add meat along with carrots and bell peppers. Mix well. Close the lid and pressure cook on HIGH for 5 minutes for chicken and 35 minutes for beef. In the case of beef, add in bell peppers later, as they can turn to mush, or skip them altogether.
    5. Release pressure using the natural release method according to manufacturer’s instructions, 10-20 or 10 minutes. Select CANCEL and open the lid. Garnish with cilantro and peanuts.

    Crockpot method

    1. Season and marinate the meat with salt, pepper, paprika, chopped ginger and garlic.
    2. You can directly put the meat in the crock pot, or take the extra step to brown it first in an oiled pan searing 4-5 minutes per side. After browning, place it in the crock pot.
    3. Sauté onions till golden brown along with ginger, garlic and jalapeno. Add this mixture over the meat. In a bowl, stir together tomato paste, tomato sauce, paprika, red chili flakes, chicken broth, peanut butter and salt. Pour this mixture over the meat and mix everything well.
    4. Add in carrots or any other root vegetables you want. Cover and cook 4 hours on high or 7-8 on low for chicken. If using beef, cook 5-6 hours on high or 8-9 hours on low. Towards the last one and half hour you can add in bell peppers. Taste for seasoning and garnish with cilantro and peanuts.

    Notes

    1. For chicken, I recommend skinless dark meat. For beef, chuck, short ribs or oxtail work best.
    2. Add in jalapeño according to how hot it is. They can vary greatly when it comes to heat. If you like a lot of kick, instead of jalapeño, you can use habanero or scotch bonnet peppers.
    3. Different cuts of chicken will vary in cooking time. If you are using bone in chicken thighs, they should be cooked till the meat is fall of the bone tender.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 6 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 776Total Fat 62gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 45gCholesterol 157mgSodium 988mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 2gSugar 4gProtein 46g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

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