Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Groundnut (or peanut) sauce is a Ugandan standard. This version is made with groundnut paste and comes together in 20 minutes.
Groundnut sauce, enva ebinyebwa, is a fast weekday dinner or lunch option. Our old house helper, Miriam, taught me how to make this Ugandan comfort food the way she learned to make it when she worked for a caterer. Groundnut sauce can be made from groundnut powder, which comes from pounding peanuts when they are raw, or groundnut paste, which is made by grinding peanuts once they are roasted. I’ve been told it is easier to make tasty groundnut sauce from the paste, and the powder requires more expertise.
Making this dish is a labor of love because it requires near constant stirring to keep it from burning, but the result is a delicious and hearty sauce the whole family will enjoy. It’s a fast weekday dinner or lunch option.
Cost - Benefit
Prep time: 20 minutes
Makes 6-8 servings
One 400g bag of groundnut paste
2 medium Ugandan tomatoes, finely diced
1 medium Ugandan onion, finely diced
Boiling hot water, at least 4 cups (1 liter)
Salt to taste, about 2 teaspoons (10 mL)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Before you start cooking, heat a kettle of water so you have boiling hot water on hand. Mash together the groundnut paste, tomatoes, and onions in a heavy pot. This takes about 3-4 minutes and a lot of elbow grease. Keep pressing the vegetables into the groundnut paste with the back of a wooden spoon until they are well incorporated and evenly distributed.
Place the pot over medium-high heat and heat until groundnut sauce starts to simmer around the edges, about a minute. Pour in about 2 cups of boiling hot water and stir continuously to remove all clumps of paste, about two minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and stir nearly constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent the sauce from burning.
At this point I like to switch to a wooden spatula with a straight edge to make it easier to scrape the pan. Keep adding water, about a half cup at a time, to prevent the sauce from thickening too much and burning. The sauce should be at a constant low simmer. If it is not bubbling, turn up the heat a bit. If it is bubbling so much that it is splattering, turn the heat down a bit.
After 10-12 minutes the sauce will “bring its own oil” and the sauce is ready. Turn off the heat and stir in salt to taste, ½ teaspoon at a time. Serve over steamed rice (omucerre), sweet potato (lumonde), or matooke.
For those of you who are not based in Uganda, I think this would work well using freshly ground peanut paste like you can get in the bulk foods aisle in some Western grocery stores, but I haven’t actually tried it.