Senegalese Mafe

5 from 16 votes
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I am indebted to Chef Pierre Thiam for this amazing mafe recipe. I learned about it in his book Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl.

Mafe (mah-fay), is a variant on a peanut stew. Here in the United States, peanut stews, in their various forms, are perhaps the best known dishes from sub-Saharan Africa. You see them a lot as vegetarian, with chicken, often with lamb, or, for the more exotic, goat. This is an elk mafe, made with a shank.

Senegalese mafe on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

It looks awesome, no? Tastes even better.

Don’t get all hung up on the elk, however. If you don’t have any elk kicking around, you can get the same effect with a cross-cut beef or bear shank, or just use a whole shank from a deer, lamb or antelope. I bet even a pig shank would be good.

The key here is a cut of meat that has a lot of connective tissue, which will melt and render the meat silky and luxurious. In a pinch you can use shoulder or neck meat.

The main flavors of any mafe recipe are peanuts, tomato and, if you’d like, a bit of chile heat. Pretty much everything in here is easy to find in a supermarket, although you’ll need to go to a large market to find Asian fish sauce. Yes, it’s in there, but it doesn’t make the dish fishy — you only add a little bit.

You have two choices when you make your mafe: You can simmer the shank until it’s almost tender, then add the rest of the ingredients to make it a mafe, or you can do as they do in Senegal and simmer it all together. The flavors won’t be as bright this way, but they will be deeper and more melded together. I like the latter method, but it’s your call.

Most mafe recipes normally feature rice or a grain called fonio, but a good chunk of crusty bread would be nice, too.

If you are looking for other recipes from Senegal, try my slow cooked shoulder roast, or, for a broader West African dinner, Ghanaian red red is a great side dish.

Senegalese mafe on a plate
5 from 16 votes

Senegalese Mafe, with Elk or Venison

Mafe is a Senegalese peanut stew, in this case a braised elk shank. Use whatever shank you happen to have, or shoulder or neck meat. It's done a lot with chicken, too. Serve with rice or crusty bread. 
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: West African
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes


  • 2 large. cross-cut elk shanks, or 4 smaller shanks
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup red palm oil, vegetable oil or clarified butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 to 3 quarts stock, ideally venison but beef will do
  • 1 to 2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 2 to 4 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 or 2 habanero or Scotch bonnet chiles, minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (optional)


  • Salt the shanks well and set aside for 30 minutes. Heat the palm oil or vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy, lidded pot over medium-high heat. Pat the shanks dry and brown on all sides. Take your time and do in batches if you need to. Set aside the shanks when they're browned. 
  • Add the chopped onions and brown them, too, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to be well browned, so this might take a solid 15 minutes or so. Toward the end, stir in the garlic. 
  • Stir in the tomato paste and let this cook for a minute or two, then pour in the stock. Stir in the peanut butter. Add the bay leaves, thyme and chiles. Return the shanks to the pot and simmer gently until they are tender, about 2 to 3 hours. 
  • Toward the end, add the fish sauce, or, if you really hate the stuff, just salt. Serve the shanks with lots of sauce. 


I love using red palm oil, which is used a lot in West Africa. It's solid at room temperature, and keeps a long time. You can find it in bigger supermarkets now. 


Calories: 624kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 1800mg | Potassium: 1784mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 315IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 96mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

5 from 16 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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  1. I took some venison and antelope shanks and made this for a dinner with some friends tonight. Everyone absolutely loved it. This is despite me forgetting to add the fish sauce. I used the freshly ground roasted peanut butter from the local grocery that is not quite smooth, not quite chunky, and my guess is that was a much better choice than your typical smooth peanut butter from the big brands. This recipe is definitely a repeater recipe.

  2. This is a staple at elk camp each fall. We’ve made it with deer neck, shanks, and more. It’s delicious! Also very rich, so we mellow it out a little with rice.

  3. Made this with the shoulder of a young buck. It was excellent and will be in rotation regularly now. Thanks so much, Hank!

  4. Really good. Actually, really amazing! I used Thai chilis from the garden and some some store bought serranos.
    Turned out fantastic. Thanks for helping me see the light! I will never, ever grind my venison shanks, calves, etc. to burger again!

  5. I made this with the shoulder of a whitetail buck I killed last season. Wife and I loved it. She’s a keto eater so she had hers over cauliflower, which I’ll never understand. I had mine over rice. We both loved it. After having leftovers for several meals, we froze almost 5 lbs in portioned vac bags. We’ll boil in bag to heat them up for fast meals at home, or from the cooler on road trips. (We do the same thing with your barbacoa recipe.)

  6. Hi, I liked the sound of this recipe, but elk are few and far between here in the UK, and all in zoos, so I substituted oxtail. Tasted absolutely delicious and went down a treat with our guests. Thanks again!

  7. I think short ribs would work. I’m going to try this with bison short ribs. We are working hard on getting an elk this season!

  8. I made this using lamb shanks I had in the freezer. I can’t wait till I have some venison shanks on hand. I wanted something that was a departure from traditional wine braised shank recipe. This recipe is so rich and tasty its out of this world. I served it over rice but any of the recommendations would do. I was thinking this might work with beef short ribs also? I’ve made a number of your recipes Hank and they’ve all been spot on. Thanks so much for what you do.

  9. This one’s a real winner Hank! We made it with venison shanks, (cleaning out the freezer), and omg! I shared some of the leftovers yesterday with the friend that got me into hunting when we were in our twenties, (we’re in our 50’s now). He is exclusively a trophy hunter now, hunting the fabled areas of southeast Ohio and the 4 county area in West Virginia that has allowed bow hunting only since 1979, (Logan, Mingo, Wyoming, & McDowell counties). With that being said, he claims it’s the best venison recipe he’s ever tried & was blown away that it was made with a part of the deer that he routinely discards or gives to the dogs. I’ve been utilizing them since trying your other shank recipes. You’re doing important work Hank! Keep it up!

  10. Hi Hank, when I saw that this recipe included peanut butter, I had to try it. My wife and I are big fans of a peanut sauce (on soy marinated pork) from The Netherlands which I think is Indonesian. Unfortunately I didn’t have Elk or Venison, so substituted bottom round and shank bones. I used my slow cooker 6-8 hours on low until the meat was tender. The sauce is amazing. I served it over hand-made egg noodles. Thanks again.

  11. Made the maafe with venison roast, cubed. I used harissa and a can of diced tomatoes. Then, I dumped big chunks of carrot and a cup of frozen garden English peas from this summer. It was fabulous served over rice. The fish sauce is a huge positive for this dish. Next time I’ll sprinkle a little Amchur powder over it or squeeze half a lime. Great recipe.

  12. I had some lamb shanks hanging around and wanted to do something different from the typical braised in red wine type dish. I’ll never waste venison shanks doing something else again. This recipe was fantastic and actually really simple. Very rich and hearty and has a unique taste. I think this could probably be done using beef short ribs also though they might not have the connective tissue of shanks or neck meat. I used ghee (clarified butter) as I did not have red palm oil. I substituted dried red chili’s for habanero and no fish sauce. Not because I don’t like them just didn’t have them in stock.

  13. Ok, I’ll bite. This recipe is perhaps a little exotic for my normal recipe boundaries – but hey, that’s the point too. I just happen to have some newly acquired elk shank, and I have already tried one of your other shank recipes. So, here goes…Thanks for the inspiration. Good Hunting!

  14. I can’t wait to try this on the Mt. Shasta Wild Foraged Beef Shanks I have in the freezer! What do you think about chunky peanut butter & how spicy are the chilies?

    I spent some time in Benin Wst Africa & remember goat peanut based stews!