Mafé is the name for peanut sauce in Senegal. To me, it is the ultimate comfort food and one of my favorite sauces to eat with fonio. I like it mildly spicy. You can add chopped okra, which adds a bit more rich, thick texture to the sauce. Here, I serve it simply with lamb chops and grilled asparagus, but mafé is a versatile sauce so the choice of meat and vegetables can vary.

This particular recipe was inspired by a dish prepared by Mañima Camara when I visited her in Hainou Salam, a lush and peaceful hamlet located in Sedhiou in South Senegal, a region that is considered the breadbasket of Senegal.


For the Mafe Sauce

  • 1  tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil

  • 1  onion, finely chopped

  • 1  tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2  cups unsweetened smooth peanut butter

    The Fonio Cookbook: An Ancient Grain Rediscovered The Fonio Cookbook: An Ancient Grain Rediscovered Pierre Thiam
  • 1  quart chicken broth

  • 1   whole Scotch bonnet pepper (optional)

For the Lamb and Asparagus

  • 8  lamb chops, trimmed of excess fat

  • 2  tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

  • 2  teaspoons minced garlic

  • Salt

  • ½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound green asparagus, trimmed

  • 5 cups cooked fonio (stovetop and microwave directions below)


1. Prepare the mafé sauce: In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft but not brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and reduce the heat to low. Stirring with a wooden spoon, cook for about 5 minutes, until the tomato paste is deep red. Add a few tablespoons water only if necessary to avoid scorching.

2. Add the peanut butter and stir well to combine. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the Scotch bonnet (if using). Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir periodically to dissolve the peanut butter in the liquid. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until oil rises to the surface. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

3. Prepare the lamb and vegetables: Preheat the grill to high heat. Rub the lamb chops all over with the oil, thyme, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Grill for about 5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned and medium; cook for more or less time, depending on the thickness, or for a different doneness 

4. Set the lamb chops on a platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.

5. While the lamb rests, season the asparagus with salt and grill them for about 3 minutes, turning occasionally, until nicely charred.

6. Serve with the lamb and fonio with a generous amount of sauce.


Steaming, the most common of the traditional methods of preparing fonio, is a foolproof way to avoid overcooking the grains, but cooking it on the stovetop is an easy alternative if you don’t have a double boiler. Adding oil is optional but if you do, the grains will have a richer, fluffier texture and will keep separated.

Raw fonio can be stored for up to 2 years in a sealed container or resealable plastic bag at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Cooked fonio can be kept refrigerated in a covered plastic or glass container for 2 or 3 days.

Stovetop Method



  • 2 cups water

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup raw fonio, rinsed and drained well

  • 1 tablespoon peanut, vegetable, or olive oil (optional)

Combine the water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the fonio and stir once. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover tightly. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the water is absorbed.

Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered for another 2 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Mix in the oil (if using), and serve.

Microwave Method



  • 1 cup raw fonio, rinsed and drained well

  • 2 cups of water

  • 1 teaspoon salt

Place the fonio in a large microwave-safe bowl and add the water and salt.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 6 to 8 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the fonio is tender.

Uncover carefully, fluff with a fork, and serve.

Pierre Thiam is the chef at Le Grand Dakar in New York City and author of the cookbook YOLELE, which was nominated for a Julia Child Award.