Karl’s Maafe Minus (West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup)

Jan’s friend is coming to join Jan in a visit to Santa Barbara—the yearly gathering of women who went through UCSB’s Anthropology Program in the late ‘70’s. I decided to make the sweet potato and peanut butter soup I made earlier this week for their lunch, but she is allergic to both  tomatoes and milk.

Karl’s Maafe Minus (West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup)

Karl’s Maafe Minus
(West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup)

I decided to alter the recipe to meet her needs and take out the tomatoes. However, the two key ingredients to maafe are peanuts and tomatoes, so I am not sure this dish, although based upon maafe, is one. Jan’s friend suggested “Maafe Minus” as the naming solution.

I substituted  my preferred butter sauté with peanut oil. To recover the umami flavor of the tomatoes, I replaced them with crimini mushrooms. I decided that if I had gone that far I should simply go all the way and make it Vegan. I exchanged the chicken broth with a vegetable stock.

To avoid the unfortunate color problem of my last soup, I used white sweet potatoes rather than yams—what American stores call orange sweet potatoes—and yellow carrots, rather than common orange carrots. Between these changes and the added mushrooms the soup came out a much darker brown and was more visually appealing.

Karl’s Maafe Minus (West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup)


2 Tbs. peanut oil, separate uses
¼ lb. crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 cup onion, diced
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 carrot, peeled and grated (about ½ cup)
1 jalapeño, diced, separate uses
3 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tsp. fresh ginger root, grated
½ tsp. coriander, ground
½ tsp. allspice, ground
½ tsp. black pepper, ground

1 lb. white sweet potato, peeled and chopped
29 oz. low sodium vegetable broth or water

½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup red bell pepper
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, separate uses

¼ cup dry-roasted peanuts (optional)


1. Put one tablespoon of peanut oil in a large soup pot and sauté the mushrooms are well browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms to a small bowl.

2. Add the remaining peanut oil to the pot and sauté the onions and salt, over medium high heat, until the onions are starting to pick up some color.

3. Add the grated carrots and continue sautéing for another five minutes, until they are well softened.

4. Return the mushrooms to the pot and add the garlic, half of the jalapeño, ginger and spices to the pot. Cook for one minute stirring, until fragrant.

5. Add the sweet potatoes and vegetable stock to the pot and bring it to a boil.

6. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft.

7. Transfer the soup to a standing blender.

Tip: You may need to do this in batches.

Note: Blending the soup smooth is a common modern practice, but traditionally this stew/soup is served chunky. feel free to skip this step.

8. Add the peanut butter, the rest of the jalapeño, most of the red bell pepper, and most of the cilantro to the soup in the blender. Process until very smooth.

Tip: Reserve some of the bell pepper and cilantro as garnish.

9. Return the soup to the pot and bring the pot to full heat, about 5 minutes over medium low heat.

10. Serve garnished with a garnish of bell peppers, cilantro and peanuts, if you wish.

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Filed under Main Dishes, Potatoes, Soups, Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian, Vegetarian MD

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