Gluten Free Nut Free Vegan African Stew Image

Gluten Free African Stew Recipe

Most people spend the two years following college graduation partying with their friends, deciding what they want to do with their professional life, looking for love, and generally being young and carefree. Not so with my little sister Karen. She spent those years in the Peace Corp in a small village in Central Africa teaching the youngsters so they could dream and reach for something more in their lives.

She lived without plumbing, electricity, internet, telephones and antibiotics. She taught the children, learned the culture and food as she gave of herself – while also gaining much out the experience.

My own trip to Africa ten years ago changed my life. The sweeping majesty of the landscapes, the primal call of the rich red earth and the African people amazed and awed me, especially the women – beautiful women, with perfect posture, grace and elegance.

When in Bamako, Mali, one of the poorest countries on Earth, I watched three women in particular. Day after day they did hard, physical work, grinding millet into a fine grain by hand just using a huge mortar and pestle, in the blazing hot sun for 14 hours a day, seven days a week – yes, seven days a week!  The only breaks they took were to prepare a meager meal of grain and water by building a fire with sticks and cooking the porridge in a crude pot.  And they did all this with babies strapped to their backs!  They worked and tended their children in circumstances few of us can imagine and yet they laughed and sang and held themselves with such honor and pride.

As I watched these women I reflected on the things I tend to complain about in my own life; the washing machine is on the fritz, poor cell phone service, and sore feet from dancing in high heels. I vowed then and there never to complain again!  While I have broken that vow from time-to-time, I often bring these women to mind when times seem unbearable to me – and I realize that nothing in my life is truly unbearable.

I did not photograph these women as it clearly would have been an invasion which they did not welcome (obviously I am not cut out to be a paparazzi) but I did snap these shots:

Gluten Free African Stew Recipe Image

Gluten Free African Stew Recipe Image

Gluten Free African Stew Recipe Image

Gluten Free African Stew Recipe Image

When I had a hankering for African stew I called my sister to get some pointers. She explained that the onions, garlic and tomatoes needed to be chopped really finely (I used my food processor) and softened in hot oil, a type of chili powder not available in the United States was added (I used 2 red chilies, again, blitzed in the food processor) and they add a combination of sweet and bitter leaves (I used spinach and arugula). To bring it all together, peanut butter is worked into the mix, however the peanut butter in Africa is different than here; it has a much more roasted flavor.

As I mentioned before in this blog, my nephew Kelton has a nasty peanut allergy, so we discussed the use of Sunbutter instead and she decided this was the perfect thing. Sunbutter is made with roasted sunflowers and has a deeper, richer flavor than peanut butter and is perfectly safe for people with nut allergies. As it turns out, the use of Sunbutter was genius; it added such depth of flavor that even if we could have used regular peanut butter we wouldn’t have.

The woman of Africa would make this stew over an open fire in an outdoor communal “kitchen” using crude cutting and cooking implements. I used modern conveniences and celebrated once again the abundance of my life.

So from Karen, Kelton and I, and in honor of the wonderful women of Africa, I proudly submit to you this gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and nut free stew that is full of flavor, complex, delicious and has all the richness of the Dark Continent. Have a bowl and reflect on the richness of your own life!  (As a note, my sister does not think the addition of black beans is “authentic” but she is my younger sister and thus not the boss of me!)

Gluten Free Nut Free Dairy Free Vegan African Stew

5 from 3 votes
Gluten Free Nut Free Vegan African Stew Image
Print Recipe

Gluten Free African Stew Recipe

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: African
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 286kcal
Author: Gluten Free & More


  • 2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1 medium onion – very finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic – finely minced
  • 1–2 red chili peppers – (depending on the heat-factor you like), seeds and veins removed and finely minced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce can) crushed tomatoes – (or blitz a can of diced tomatoes along with their juice for a few seconds in the food processor or blender)
  • ½ cup Sunbutter
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes – peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1 can black beans – drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups frozen corn
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup arugula


  • Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chili and cook for about 5 minutes to soften. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine then add the Sunbutter, stirring it in until smooth. Add the water and salt, stir, then add the sweet potatoes. Cover the pan and simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender but not falling apart, about 15 minutes.
  • Add the black beans, corn, spinach and arugula and cook until the beans and corn are heated through and the spinach and arugula is wilted. Serve with or without rice.


Nutrition Facts
Gluten Free African Stew Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 286 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Sodium 56mg2%
Potassium 477mg14%
Carbohydrates 34g11%
Fiber 4g16%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 11549IU231%
Vitamin C 9mg11%
Calcium 68mg7%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owner’s. This blog accepts free manufacturers’ samples and forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. Affiliate links may be included in this post.

Disclaimer: All nutrition facts on Gluten Free & More are meant only as a guide and may differ depending on product brands used or ingredient substitutions. Some errors may occur, so you are encouraged to confirm the recipe’s ingredient and nutrition suitability for your own diet.
Have you tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and let us know your thoughts in the Ratings & Reviews section below.
Tags: African Beans Comfort Food Corn Spicy SunButter Sweet Potatoes
  1. Beautiful photographs! The color of life and food in one place. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be making the recipe this weekend!

  2. The photographs are beautiful and I agree on the Sunbutter – much deeper flavor than any peanut butter, plus so much more allergy-friendly.

  3. Karen Kraus
    March 18, 2011

    I have a similar recipe with a few differences. I use chick peas instead of black beans, no corn and Kale.
    I think the next time I make it I will use sunbutter, I love that idea.
    Thanks for sharing

  4. This time of year I need a little armchair travel and some new recipes to get out my end of winter rut. You gave me both. A beautiful, thoughtful travel piece and a recipe full of things we love to eat, but combined in a new way with new flavors.

  5. March 18, 2011

    The best thing about travel is that you discover how lucky you are. This is a lovely post and the recipe sounds delicious. I have not seen sunbutter here in NZ, but if I start asking for it, perhaps someone will import it. Thank you.

    1. Hi Janet ~ Good question! As a blogger for SunButter, ‘just wanted you to know that there’s a spot on our website where you can find where to buy SunButter. Check out the Peanut Free Planet or Amazon options near the bottom. And let us know what you think!

  6. March 18, 2011

    Yum Carol! This sounds amazing and your story was lovely. Thank you for sharing that with us. I will definitely put this on my gotta try list.

  7. March 19, 2011

    Lovely story, lovely recipe too.

  8. Love your powerful picture of those women! Makes me want to cook this up right away just to honor them somehow!

  9. Sheila
    March 19, 2011

    Mmmm yummy! Love the pictures. Thank you for sharing both the recipe and the perspective. It is good to be thankful for all we have!

  10. Doreen
    March 20, 2011

    I LOVED this post and the recipe sounds great. Thanks!

  11. March 24, 2011

    This looks and sounds delicious….can’t wait to try it!

    1. July 6, 2011

      A woendfrul job. Super helpful information.

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  13. Di Says
    November 28, 2011

    After finally coming to the realization (and with my doctor’s pushing!) that my stomach does much better when it’s gluten free, I stumbled upon your website late last night. There are so many recipes that look amazing (and I’m a vegetarian, too) and couldn’t wait to try one. I decided to start with the Vegan African Stew (had spent 3 months living in Africa) and just took it off the stove. Love it! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

    1. November 30, 2011

      Thank you so much for stopping by and your kind words!

  14. Metta
    December 12, 2011

    I love this recipe. I’ve made it several times (using kale instead of spinach/arugula and peas instead of corn) and it is fantastic!

  15. Ky
    January 2, 2012

    I made this today and it was pretty easy and delicious…with a few tweeks. I had to use peanut butter cause I couldn’t find sun butter, I don’t live near a Whole Foods or any type or grocery store that has a wide variety in organic foods :(, but it still tasted right. I also used just spinach and an Anaheim chilli. I also added some spices but they really didn’t turn up the heat so in the end I just added some hot sauce to my bowl . Lastly I added (cooked) white rice, using 2 cups uncooked to be exact, to the pot. This recipe is really unique and something different without being too out there. Since I’m a vegetarian I mind myself making a lot of Mexican or using a lot of rice and beans but this recipe lets me mix things up. It’s also real hearty so when I take some to work I can heat up a bowl real quick, gobble it down and be full, I need things that are easy to heat up since I don’t get lunch breaks I just have to eat real fast if I can find the time.

    1. January 3, 2012

      I like your tweaks! Just FYI in case you want to try it wout, Sunbutter is sold in Target (the kind with grocery sections) so if you have one of those you can check there.

  16. delyana
    January 12, 2012

    Delicious!Thanks for sharing!

  17. Stephanie
    December 17, 2012

    Made the soup almost exact. It was delicious! The only thing I changed was I didn’t cook it with peppers (too spicy for kids, so we sprinkled a bit of cayenne pepper on our servings) I also didn’t have sunbutter, but did have almond butter. I also didn’t use any arugula. It was so simple and creamy and most importantly, the kids loved it!

    1. Gluten Free & More
      December 21, 2012

      So happy you enjoyed it Stephanie!

  18. Tamara
    January 10, 2013

    Thanks for this delicious recipe! Made it as shown except for making my own sunflower seed butter, which was easy and very inexpensive in my Blendtec blender. I love the creaminess of the tomato-nut broth without the belly-aching that milk based products would bring. It will def hit the replay list in our house

    1. Gluten Free & More
      January 11, 2013

      Thanks for letting me know, so happy you enjoyed it!

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  22. GetArnit
    August 13, 2014

    Why call it “African Stew” when the recipe was found in Mali? It’s about as accurate as calling empanadas American food.

    1. Gluten Free & More
      September 2, 2014

      Well Mali is a country in the North Western part of Africa, so that’s why I named it that.

  23. Sarah
    February 29, 2016

    This recipe looks delicious. I appreciate how you spoke generally respectfully of the women in Mali…. And then later referred to Africa as ‘the Dark Continent’. I cannot believe that anyone would still use that archaic and offensive term, especially not someone as well-traveled as yourself. I encourage you to check your white privilege and consider removing that term.

    1. Gluten Free & More
      March 1, 2016

      Hi Sarah, I’m so sorry! I did not mean that term in the way I think you may have understood it. “Dark Continent” came about because for a long time very little was known about Africa and its history and its inhabitants. In other words, it was a dark and mysterious place for Europeans. I in no way, meant for this to have a racist connotation and again I am sorry if it offended you at first! :)
      All the best,

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  28. Analida
    January 8, 2020

    I made this tonight and it was delicious. I used some slight modifications. I forgot to look for sunflower butter in the store, go figure. So I used my no-sugar-added peanut butter that I had on hand. I also omitted the chilis. Wow, the natural sweetness of the corn, beans and potatoes really shone through.

    I love how rustic this dish is. It really pulls together simple ingredients and no one element is the star of the dish (but the seed/nut butter does help). Also sidebar, this is mega budget friendly! Will def make it again.

  29. Kat
    February 21, 2021

    I have made this *so* many times now and am only just commenting… I can’t believe it.

    Modifications I’ve made include:
    All arugula or all spinach
    Dried chilis instead of fresh
    Chickpeas instead of beans
    Mixed frozen veg (peas carrots corn)
    Peanut or almond butter
    All depending on what I had on hand at the time.

    I’ve also modified the cooking method, throwing everything but the beans, corn, and greens into the slow cooker for a few hours until the potatoes are soft and then adding the rest for 15-20 mins at the end til wilted/warmed through.

    This is such a standard in my meal prep. Perfectly flavorful, warm and hearty.

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