This Vegetarian African Peanut Soup with Sweet Potatoes is a perfect, comforting recipe, full of sweet and nutty flavors.
Maafe: African Peanut Butter Sauce
Peanut butter sauce.
Doesn’t that sound tasty?
But, we’re not talking about the peanut butter sauce you’d drizzle over your ice cream or a chocolate cake.
We’re talking about a savory West African peanut butter sauce that is made up of tomatoes and groundnuts (peanuts) and is typically served with lamb, beef, or chicken in the form of a hearty stew.
What Are Groundnuts?
Groundnuts, or peanuts, are not actually native to Africa. Rather, they are native to South America and were brought to Africa by Spanish and Portuguese colonists in the mid 1500’s.
Since that time, Maafe, also known as Groundnut Stew, has been enjoyed throughout West (and Central) Africa. While the stew originated from Mali, it is popular in many regions, and therefore has as many variations as there are regions where it is made.
African Peanut Stew or African Peanut Soup?
We keep using the words soup and stew interchangeably here, because this is a dish than can be brothy and soup-like, or more hearty and stew-like, depending on your preference.
We could also add the term ‘sauce’ to the mix, (as the name maafe suggests) because at its most basic version, maafe is a sauce of peanuts, tomatoes, vegetables, and sometimes meat that is served over a starch, like rice.
Our Vegetarian African Peanut Stew
While many versions of African Peanut Soup may contain meat like chicken, beef, or lamb. We are sharing a vegetarian version today.
We love the way sweet potatoes add a light, savory sweetness to this soup. And they pair incredibly well with the peanuts!
Our Vegetarian African peanut stew is a version that would be most likely to be seen in the Côte d’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast, along the western coast of Africa.
If you love African peanut soup (and you’re not vegetarian), you’ll want to give our African Peanut Stew with Chicken a try!
Is It A Sweet Potato or A Yam?
The sweet potatoes that we add to this soup bring a wonderful warm sweetness to the dish. But, first, let’s make sure we know what we’re adding.
Like many people, for the longest time, we thought sweet potatoes and yams were one in the same.
Sweet potatoes and yams are actually two distinct vegetables, but, here in the States, the words can be (and are) used interchangeably.
The confusion comes in because there are really TWO basic types of sweet potatoes. The paler version is more mild in flavor with a a crumbly texture when cooked, similar to a white potato. The darker, red/orange skinned variety has a sweet, soft flesh that has made it the popular choice in the US.
The paler version was the first to be introduced in the US, so when the sweeter version was introduced and started to become popular, growers began using the word ‘yam’ to market the difference between the two.
This created a very unfortunate confusion, because real yams are native to Africa and other tropical regions. A real yam has bark-like skin and sweet flesh. And, they can grow up to 5-7 feet in length.
So, if you’re in the States and you see something labeled as a “yam,” unless it has rough, bark-like skin and is the largest ‘yam’ that you’ve ever seen, you’re probably just seeing one of the two varieties of sweet potatoes.
Yield: 6 cups of soup
- 1 tsp peanut oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 inch fresh ginger, minced, or ½ tsp ginger, ground
- 1 ½ lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
- 4 c vegetable broth (we prefer low sodium)
- ½ (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, un-drained
- ½ c peanut butter (preferably chunky, but creamy works too)
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ -½ tsp cayenne (depending on your preference)
- 2 c kale or collard greens, cut into ribbons
- ½-1 tsp salt
- 2 c cooked white rice
- Toasted peanuts* (to top)
In a 4 quart soup pot, heat the peanut oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and diced sweet potatoes. Sauté over medium heat until soft, 5-7 min.
Add the broth, tomatoes with juice, peanut butter, tomato paste, and cayenne. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Simmer the soup, covered, over medium-low heat for 10 min.
Using a potato masher, roughly mash the soup to break up the potatoes. (You are still looking to have some chunks, so a coarse mash is all you need.)
Add the greens and simmer uncovered for 5 min.
Taste the soup and adjust the salt as desired.
Serve over white rice, topped with toasted peanuts.
*To toast the peanuts: Place them in a single layer in a dry skillet. Heat the skillet over medium high heat, stirring the peanuts often, until they become fragrant and darken slightly in color. Remove the toasted peanuts from the pan and place in a bowl until you are ready to use them.
This is one of the recipes from the early days of Curious Cuisiniere. We’ve updated our pictures since we first made it, but we’ve left the original images here as a fun throwback and shout out to how far we’ve come. Enjoy!