West African Peanut Stew Recipe

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Why It Works

  • Brining the groundnuts (peanuts) seasons them thoroughly.
  • Roasting the peanuts deepens their flavor and nuttiness.
  • Adding the different vegetables at staggered stages during cooking ensures that they are tender without falling apart.

My memories of groundnut stew—the West African stew of simmered meat and vegetables coated in a velvety, thick groundnut (aka peanut) sauce—are always sparked by cold weather. I connect this hearty, savory, and sweet stew to my time in the Netherlands, and the kindness of a Nigerian friend, ‘Layide. ‘Layide and I are FFFs, Friends for Food, a very Nigerian saying that speaks about friendships embroidered with the enjoyment and discussion of food—essentially food as a love language. We’d long established that if anything would cause a rift between us, it would likely be food. Fortunately, over 17 years of friendship, we haven’t had a single food-related disagreement.

In 2007, ‘Layide and I and our families lived on the same street in Wassenaar, a small village between the Hague and Amsterdam. Our friendship was a lifeline for many reasons, including a shared pantry. When either of us ran out of sugar, salt, or eggs, it was no big deal because we could head up or down the street to borrow some. Occasionally, we would order large batches of Nigerian food—egusi soup, jollof rice, fried rice, fried meat, and ewa riro (stewed beans) from Bose, our resident Nigerian caterer—to share. 

Serious Eats / Vy Tran

For one order, ‘Layide got a batch of creamy, darker-than-beige-but-not-quite-brown groundnut stew from Bose. We ate this stew with delight, savoring its creaminess, nuttiness, and spice. We ladled spoonfuls over freshly boiled white rice, licked the pot and spoons, gnawed on the chicken bones, and didn’t rest until the pot was clean. With this recipe, I’ve set out to recreate that stew and its perfect combination of freshly roasted groundnuts, various meats and vegetables, and a restrained hand with the spices so the sweet and nutty flavors of the peanuts shine.

What Are Groundnuts?

In Nigeria, groundnuts (Arachis hypogaea) are the same plant as peanuts in the U.S. The term groundnuts simply refers to the fact that they grow underground. There are records of groundnuts in West Africa since the 18th century and in early cookbooks. In the 1960s, Nigeria was home to the groundnut pyramids, constructed from sacks of groundnuts, piled high close to rail lines in preparation for export. It is no surprise that this ingredient memorialized as an attraction is loved and used in many ways, from snacks to sweetmeats, soups and stews, spice blends, drinks, and creamy porridges, many of which I enjoyed growing up and continue to enjoy today.

Key Ingredients in Groundnut Stew

Throughout West Africa, a thick, velvety and spicy peanut sauce is a key feature of groundnut stew, but the stew can contain a range of meats and vegetables. Some versions will have just chicken or beef, while others include both, and some have no meat at all. I’ve had versions with tofu, mushrooms, and hearty greens as well.

Serious Eats / Vy Tran

In this recipe, I use both chicken thighs and beef chuck—I like the flavor combination of the two proteins and they are a good match since they both benefit from simmering until spoon tender. You can use all chicken or all beef if you prefer. If you make the stew with all chicken, the cooking time will be shorter by about a half hour.

To finish the stew I prefer a combination of sweet carrots, aromatic onion, and earthy baby bok choy for a variety of fresh flavors to balance the rich peanut sauce. I add the vegetables at staggered stages once the meat is mostly tender to ensure they retain a bit of texture and don’t fall apart.

Tips for a Velvety and Nutty Groundnut Stew

Start with skin-on, shelled groundnuts. Roasting your own groundnuts is easier than it sounds, and the freshly roasted deep nutty flavor is well worth the effort. In the U.S. these are sold as red-skin peanuts, also known as Spanish peanuts, and can be found in grocery stores and online—just look for peanuts labeled raw, as this variety is also sold roasted. (Note that if fresh shelled peanuts are unavailable, you can use store-bought roasted peanuts or unsweetened peanut butter in a pinch; just skip the nut roasting steps in the recipe.)

Take the time to brine the groundnuts. Soaking the peanuts in warm salty water draws flavor deep into the groundnuts before you roast them. Not only does this soak season the peanuts, it also neutralizes some of the phytic acid (like with beans), improving the digestibility. I tend to soak mine for no less than eight hours. 

Roast the peanuts and watch them closely. Roasting the peanuts develops the stew’s signature nutty, savory flavor. As the peanuts roast, it’s important to turn them every 10 minutes for even roasting, until some begin to crackle and pop, and check on them to prevent overcooking. I err on the side of caution and remove them earlier rather than later as they continue cooking out of the oven and if left longer, easily burn. 

Remove the peanut skins. After they cool on a rack, I rub the peanuts to remove the skins. I recommend using a kitchen towel to rub them vigorously for more friction to speed up the process. Once that’s done, I put them in a colander set on a tray and shake so the skins fall through the holes, rubbing them further if need be. Alternatively, you can set the groundnuts directly on a plate or tray, as we do in Nigeria, gently tossing them up and blowing to remove the skins.( It’s ok if a few skins remain; they will dissolve into the stew when cooked.) 

Blend the peanuts well for a silky smooth stew. Once the skins have been removed, blend the peanuts with a generous amount of homemade chicken stock or store bought low-sodium chicken broth and aromatics to make the flavorful sauce for the stew. Once cooked, the stew should have the consistency of heavy cream. You can adjust its consistency by cooking and reducing the stew further for a thicker texture, or thin it with additional stock. It should be velvety and thick enough to cling to the meat.

Serve with your favorite sides. Spoon the stew over rice, or serve it with cooked plantains, roasted sweet potatoes, or your preferred flatbread—I love it with Indian roti and naan.


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