Recipes from Africa: Groundnut Stew


Ever wonder what your sponsored child eats every day? If your child is from Sierra Leone, chances are this rich, fragrant peanut stew is part of their staple diet. Peanuts—or groundnuts, as they call them—are a major crop for small farmers in Sierra Leone. They are also a great source of protein!

The finished groundnut stew, served over rice
This stew often contains chicken, but I tweaked it to be vegan. It also, incidentally, is gluten free, if you care about these things. 

Making it in the United States looks a little different than making it in Sierra Leone. But it's delicious no matter where you enjoy it!


Black pepper
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, chopped
2 ½ tbsp palm oil (or vegetable oil)
2 bay leaves
1 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (I use two teaspoons!) 
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock 




Chop up the onion, sweet potato, and pepper before you start cooking, so you are ready to go. This is what the palm oil looked like that I bought at a gourmet grocery store. You can always use vegetable oil, too.    

In a large cooking pot, heat the palm oil.  
Palm oil is another major product in Sierra Leone. Most families harvest palm nuts and make the oil themselves in small batches, though you can also buy it. It is dark red and has a very distinctive flavor. I like it, but many Americans prefer vegetable oil. You can find palm oil in most ethnic food stores or gourmet grocery stores. In Sierra Leone, it was always liquid, but in my cold Northwest home, it was completely solid!

Toss in the onions and sautée for about five minutes. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and red pepper for five more, then add the sweet potatoes.
If you would like chicken in your stew, now is the time to add that too. Sierra Leoneans use the whole chicken, so if you want to be authentic, chop one up and throw it in, bones and all (or you can always just buy drumsticks). Another option is to just use small pieces of boneless, skinless chicken. I like to rub the chicken with salt, pepper, and a little coriander before I fry it up.  

Reduce the heat to low, grab the peanut butter and tomato puree, and stir-fry this into the mix for about 30 seconds. Then slowly add the vegetable stock, stirring as you go. 

When the peanut butter is all blended into the stock, you can bring the whole thing down to a simmer. 

The stew needs to simmer for about 45 minutes, so while you're waiting, you can thank God that you have a nice jar of peanut butter to use, instead of pounding groundnuts like this:

And rolling them out with a bottle, like this:

(Although, we do have a lot of fun with these activities . . . )

And as you occasionally pop back to stir your stew, you can imagine what it would be like if you cooked over three stones, instead of a stove.

You'll still probably have a little time before the stew is finished after you're done with all that imagining, so why don't you write a letter to your sponsored child while you wait? If you don't sponsor a child yet, this would be a perfect time to look at photos of children who need sponsors.

When you're done with that, it's time for dinner. Serve the stew over rice. Smile when you dig in!