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This is one of those “I’ll have what she’s having” dishes.
If you don’t believe me, I’ll wait while you whip up the recipe. I can binge plenty of Netflix thrillers in 8 hours. Then we’ll see who’s laughing when you feed it to your friends and they make embarrassing “yummy” noises uncontrollably.
On that note, I blame the above on the fact that this stew is anything but one-note.
Pulling on inspiration from several different regions of Africa, the flavors unravel onto your tongue as follows: sweet, savory, warm, earthy, spicy, yowza! I mean, have you ever made stew with peanut butter in it?
If the addition of peanut butter strikes you as odd, its nutty flavor and creamy texture will most definitely surprise you in the best possible way. Peanut stews are common across West Africa and the earthiness this ingredient brings is incomparable. It also balances the acidity of the tomatoes, which contribute a prominent flavor to the broth.
Peanut butter is a longtime friend of mine, sticking with me since childhood. So I had no fear when dumping the sweet paste into the pot. I couldn’t wait to scatter the stew over rice, since one of my fondest summertime snacks is a crunchy rice cake slathered with the sticky condiment.
But I had to wait. Because, well, this is a slow cooker recipe.
Peanut butter is just one of many drops of magic that go into this potion though. The chicken calls on coriander and cinnamon for color and flavor, giving every mouthful an especially floral, almost orangey flavor. Cinnamon is added as a nod toward the stews of South Africa, and it melts onto your tongue with warmth without being overwhelming.
A hefty handful of aromatics is a must when you’re working with sweet ingredients, and that’s where the onions and garlic come in. In my opinion, the arrival of these two is always when things start to get good.
Just like when Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller unexpectedly make cameos. Good stuff.
The sharp garlic sort of pulls the stew back into savory territory, while peppery ginger clears the sinuses in the best way.
Speaking of, let’s talk a little about chilies, shall we? When it comes to the fiery little nuggets, it’s good to know what you’re getting into.
Scotch bonnets may present as adorable mini bell peppers with several more wrinkles, but they are a force to be reckoned with and will blow your eyebrows right off if they’re not handled with care. On the Scoville Scale, they come in around 80,000 to 400,000 SHU.
For comparison, jalapenos average around 5,000 SHU.
Scary as that may sound, chilies are an absolute must to give this stew the fresh, fruity burst of heat that it needs. Habaneros can be a bit easier to find, so they make a great stand-in, but deciding how far up the heat index scale you’re willing to climb is always personal preference.
At the very least, dust in some of that ground cayenne pepper I know you have in your spice cabinet.
Layering chilies into the broth as an aromatic element allows the spice to stretch and spread out, but a few thin slivers for a spark of heat on top are always welcome. Keep in mind, you can always remove the seeds and ribs to reduce the heat.
Sweet potatoes help thicken the broth, and they’re a common ingredient in African cuisine. Don’t let them cause you to hesitate when it comes to serving the stew over rice. Carbcayennes on carbs is perfectly acceptable.
We just covered so many notes we might have made a song. And believe me when I say that every mouthful of this stew has perfect pitch.Print
A batch of this African-inspired slow cooker stew with rich peanut butter, tomato, and ginger will quell that sweet and spicy craving.
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 small thinly sliced Scotch bonnet chilies or habaneros, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 medium-size sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup natural unsweetened creamy peanut butter, stirred
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons roasted unsalted chopped peanuts, for garnish
- In a small bowl, combine the pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Season the chicken pieces all over with the spice mix, gently pressing to make sure it adheres.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the insert of your slow cooker and set the saute setting to high/more (or heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat on the stove).
- Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken in batches, and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Lower the saute setting to medium/normal, or if you’re cooking on the stove, reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining oil and saute the onion until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chilies, and the remaining coriander, cinnamon, and salt. Cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the tomato paste.
- Cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute and then deglaze the pan with the stock and tomatoes, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. If you’re working on the stove, transfer everything to your slow cooker insert.
- Stir in the peanut butter. Add the chicken and the sweet potatoes to the insert, and gently stir so everything is evenly distributed.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours. The chicken and sweet potatoes will be extremely tender when they’re done.
- Just before serving, season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
- Serve the stew over white or brown rice and garnish with green onions, peanuts, and chilies (for those who like it extra spicy).
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 8 hours, 10 minutes
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Slow Cooker
- Cuisine: Stews
Keywords: chicken, sweet potato, peanut, stew, slow cooker
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
If you prefer bone-in meat, you can use bone-in chicken thighs, split breasts, and/or legs, just be mindful that the meat will be so tender after slow cooking it will fall off the bone. You’ll want to discard the bones before serving, or put a bowl out to place them in while you eat.
Chop the onion. Mince the garlic and ginger, and thinly slice the chilies. If you can’t find fresh chilies, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper and add it just before deglazing the pot.
Chop the green onions and peanuts for garnish. For some extra nuttiness, you can toast the peanuts in a dry pan over low heat for several minutes until they’re fragrant and golden-brown.
Peel and chop the sweet potatoes.
An easy trick for chopping potatoes into cubes is to first cut a very small slit on one side so the potato lays flat on the cutting board and doesn’t roll around. Slice into thick rounds, stack a few on top of each other, cut into strips, and then cut crosswise to make cubes.
Step 2 – Season and Sear the Chicken
Make the spice mix by combining the 1 teaspoon salt with the black pepper, 1 teaspoon coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Rub the chicken pieces all over with the spice mix, gently pressing to make sure it sticks.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the insert of your slow cooker and turn on the saute. I set mine to high, which is called “more” on my Instant Pot.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, Breville Fast/Slow Cooker, or another appliance that functions as a slow cooker with a saute or sear function, you can either skip the searing step, or do this in a skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Searing adds color and depth of flavor, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Once the oil begins to shimmer, sear the chicken on all sides until it’s golden-brown, working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. This will take about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Keep in mind that the chicken is still raw on the inside at this point. This step just gives it color and sears in the spices. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Step 3 – Saute the Aromatics
Add the remaining oil to your slow cooker insert or skillet. Lower the saute setting to medium/normal, or if you’re cooking on the stove, reduce the heat to medium.
Saute the onion until it’s slightly translucent and very fragrant, for about 3 minutes.
Continuing to stir to ensure that nothing accidentally burns, add the garlic, ginger, and chilies, along with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Saute for about 30 seconds and then stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring to incorporate the paste with the rest of the aromatics, for about 1 minute.
Step 4 – Add the Liquids and Potatoes and Cook the Stew
Deglaze the pan with the stock and tomatoes, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom. If you’ve been working with a skillet on the stove, now is the time to transfer everything to your slow cooker insert.
Before adding the natural peanut butter, make sure you stir it in the jar because there will be a layer of oil on top that needs to be redistributed.
Add the peanut butter to the insert along with the chicken and sweet potatoes, and stir gently to make sure everything is evenly distributed.
Cover and set to low for 6 to 8 hours, or high for 3 to 4 hours.
If you’re using an Instant Pot, slow cooking with a tempered glass lid like this one that’s available from Amazon is best, as it will allow some of the steam to vent. Adjust your Instant Pot temperature setting to “more” and cook for 3 hours 45 minutes to 5 hours.
The chicken and potatoes will be extremely tender when they’re done.
Step 5 – Garnish and Serve
Just before serving, season the stew to taste with additional salt if necessary.
Serve the stew over white or brown rice and garnish with the green onions, chopped peanuts, and sliced chilies for those who like their stew extra spicy.
Ready, Set, Slow Cook
This stew doesn’t have to be made in a slow cooker, but boy do the ingredients get to know each other well over that extended period of cooking time. Cooking chicken low and slow also results in the juiciest, most melt-in-your-mouth meat you can imagine.
You could certainly leave it out and nudge the sweet potatoes to center stage if you’re pondering a vegan version. Just throw in some hearty greens (like collards) to help bulk things back up.
I dig the sharp flavor of scallions as a garnish to echo the flavor of the mound of yellow onions we stuck in the stew, but you can take some liberties here with fresh herbs or even jalapenos to achieve that pop of green on top.
What will you grab to jazz things up? Share your delicious decorations in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
If fiber-rich sweet potatoes bring you bliss in the kitchen, these starchy, nutrient-packed recipes will lead to happy bellies and smiling faces:
- Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Wild Rice Stuffing
- Sweet Potato Hash with Fresh Herbs, Peppers, and Onions
- Easy-Peasy Sweet Potato and Potato Pancakes
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by September 13, 2014. Last updated on March 28, 2022.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”