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Did you know that you can use peanut butter to marinade beef? That’s the secret ingredient of these West African Beef Kabobs (Suya) that I enjoyed eating while growing up in Sierra Leone. The beef is simply flavored with peanut butter, tomato paste and a few spices. And the result is irresistibly juicy, spicy and tender beef!
If you’ve never tasted West African food/recipes, this is definitely a great one to start with!
What is suya
As part of my West African recipes, I’m going to slowly share some of the recipes we enjoyed when living in that region. Suya is one of the them, although we called it Seree in Sierra Leone. It’s basically spicy skewered beef that’s made with a tomato and peanut blend. This dish originated in Nigeria and they call it the epitome of West African street food. The beef kabobs are very popular in Nigerian barbecue.
Although my recipe is not completely authentic, it’s inspired by Suya with some Middle Eastern influences. The town I grew up in had a huge Lebanese community. So that meant using 7 Spice in the spicy peanut butter blend for example, or serving the skewered meat with pita. Essentially though the core of the authentic recipe is here.
How do you make West African beef kabobs
Ingredients for marinade
This recipe is all about the marinade. And the hero in the marinade is the peanut butter! The natural oils in the peanut butter coat the beef and allow it to soak up the flavor and fat of the peanut oil. This locks in the moisture, keeping the skewers of beef juicy and absolutely dynamite.
And now, on to how to make the marinade! Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- Peanut butter: use any brand you like and any variety. I prefer the smooth peanut butter, but chunky works just fine! Or use this guide to learn how to make your own peanut butter.
- Tomato paste: You’ll just need one tablespoon to give it that rich red color and some acidity.
- Allspice: You can substitute 7 Spice or another warm spice like cloves, nutmeg, paprika or cumin.
- Ginger: Ground or fresh is fine.
- Crushed red pepper: You can skip this if you have little kids. I use less than a teaspoon generally, and it gives it a great flavor without being too spicy. Traditionally, this would be the second most important ingredient in this recipe after the peanut butter.
Make the marinade
We start with the onion in the food processor and process it until the onion in finely grated. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a cheese grater or use a sharp knife to finely chop the onions. I prefer using a food processor though. Once the onion is finely grated, you’ll add the marinade ingredients.
The final outcome is a vibrant red orange sauce marinade that is ready to be slathered on the beef kabobs. It won’t look perfectly smooth, but this is the texture you’re looking for.
Marinade beef and skewer
Next, you’ll add all that sauce on top of large chunks of cut steak, toss well to combine and let it sit for at least 20 minutes in the fridge to marinade. There might be extra sauce leftover, but I like it saucy. You can use the extra sauce for more beef or to dip on the side.
After the beef absorbs all the sauce, it’s time to skewer the beef and grill them. Depending on how many pieces of beef chunks you add to a skewer, the recipe will yield 4 to 8 skewers.
Tips for making West African beef kabobs
- Use single-ingredient peanut butter. The authentic recipe uses ground peanuts and results in a crunchy spicy blend that’s very typical of West African food. The peanuts are a crucial part of the recipe, so make sure to buy peanut butter that includes only one or maybe two ingredients: peanuts and salt.
- Use high quality meat. What you’re looking for is meat that is tender, has some fat on it and easy to cut into 1-inch uniform cubes. I would recommend sirloin as a top choice for this recipe. You can also try chuck roast or ribeye roast.
- Allow time to marinade meat. The marinade you’ll make is the most important part of the recipe. So, not allowing ample time for the beef to absorb that marinade would be wasted effort. This is what locks in the moisture of the beef and flavors it, so every bite has a nutty fiery flavor!
If you’ve ever had Suya or any other West African food, you know how much flavor is packed into these beef kabobs. If you’ve never had anything like this, the recipe is super accessible because you don’t need any fancy ingredients or hard-to-find ethnic items. It pretty much comes down to the peanut butter, onions, tomato paste and some spices. But it will pretty much be one of the juiciest most flavorful beef kabobs you’ve ever tried. Thank you, peanut butter!
More peanut butter recipes:
- West African Peanut Soup
- Stuffed French Toast
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Bread
- Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
- Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
- Cassava Stew (Yabeh)
If you’ve tried this feel good West African Beef Kabobs recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
West African Beef Kabobs
- In the bowl of a food processor, grate the onion until it’s finely chopped. Add the peanut butter, tomato paste, olive oil, all spice, salt, crushed red pepper and powdered ginger. Continue to blend until the mixture is well combined and smooth.
- Transfer the sauce from the blender to a large bowl. Add the beef to the sauce and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the beef to marinade.
- When ready to grill, thread the beef onto wooden or metal skewers. Pour any leftover marinade on top of the beef kabobs.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, and grease the grill with cooking spray.
- Cook on the preheated grill, flipping once, until meat is browned, about 10-15 minutes.
- Instead of fresh onions, you can use onion powder, but I highly recommend using fresh onions.
- Instead of Allspice, you can use 7 spice or another similar spice or combination of spices including cloves, cumin, paprika or nutmeg.