A hearty West African-inspired stew of chicken thighs and legs, sweet potatoes, and peanuts that is perfect for a chilly day.
Chicken, sweet potatoes, and peanuts are one of those magical flavor combinations that make me feel all warm and happy. 20 years ago I met some fellow University of Wisconsin students from Ghana who made this stew at their apartment.
Chicken groundnut stew is, in various forms, common all over West Africa, and this is my version, inspired by my colleagues at UW.
The best way to make this stew is with two whole stewing hens—older chickens available at Asian and Latin markets. You start by simmering the birds to make stock, which then becomes the base of the stew, and then you use the meat from the hens.
This is a bit labor-intensive for most, so I normally use pre-cut chicken parts: legs, wings and especially thighs. This stew is just made for chicken thighs.
What is a little unusual about how you make the stew is that you first brown the chicken and then stew it on the bone. You can certainly eat it off the bone in the stew, but this is messy, so I prefer to fish out the meat and shred it. Why bother with the bones and skin at all? They add a ton of flavor to the stew.
Sweet potatoes or yams are a must in the African version, but if you hate them, use regular potatoes or turnips.
The stew is supposed to be pretty spicy, so I normally use a lot of hot sauce thrown in at the end of the cooking. I only call for 1 teaspoon of cayenne here, because no matter how chile-adverse you are, it ought to have at least a faint bite of heat. If you truly can’t take chiles, skip the cayenne.
Use chicken legs, thighs or wings for this recipe. They have more flavor and will hold up better with the flavors of the stew than breast meat.
- 2-3 pounds chicken legs, thighs and/or wings
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced
- 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
- 6-8 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
- 2-3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup roasted peanuts
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- Salt and black pepper
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
Brown the chicken:
Heat the vegetable oil in a large soup pot set over medium-high heat. Salt the chicken pieces well, pat them dry and brown them in the oil. Don’t crowd the pot, so do this in batches. Set the chicken pieces aside as they brown.
Sauté the vegetables:
Sauté the onions in the oil for 3-4 minutes, stirring often and scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes and stir well to combine.
Cook the stew:
Add the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts, coriander and cayenne and stir well to combine. Add the chicken. Bring to a simmer and taste for salt, adding more if needed.
Cover the pot and simmer gently for 90 minutes (check after an hour), or until the chicken meat easily falls off the bone and the sweet potatoes are tender.
Remove bones and chop the cooked chicken:
Remove the chicken pieces and set them in a bowl to cool, until cool enough to touch. Remove and discard the skin if you want, or chop it and put it back into the pot.
Shred the meat off the bones and put the meat back in the pot.
Adjust the seasonings for salt and cayenne, then add as much black pepper as you think you can stand—the stew should be peppery. Stir in the cilantro and serve by itself, or with simple steamed rice.
Filipino Oxtail and Peanut Stew – from Rasa Malaysia
Out of (West) Africa – story by Sean Timberlake about an African peanut stew