West African Chicken Stew – A Recipe Right Out of Well Fed 2

OMG you guys I did it.

For the first time in my life, I managed to follow a recipe TO A TEE! Well, okay, I’ll be honest. I do need to add an *almost* to that. But I swear, I just made one or two VERY slight modifications: nothing too serious.

And lucky for you, Melissa Joulwan, the creator of this West African Chicken Stew, blogger behind “The Clothes Make the Girl” and author of the fabulous cookbooks Well Fed (which I previously reviewed here) and Well Fed 2 was kind enough to let me share that recipe with you.

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

If you don’t own that book yet, I say it’s one that you should seriously consider adding to your collection! That second edition of Well Fed is just as brilliant as the first: the photos are just as mouth watering, Melissa’s voice is just as fun and lively and she pretty much takes you on a trip around the world. Melissa sure knows her stuff when it comes to exotic flavors! This West African Chicken Stew is the perfect example..

Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan

To help you get the flavoring just right, the book includes an entire section on sauces and seasonings, where you can find the formula to many spice mixes and numerous tasty sauces. Melissa also shares a whole bunch of quick tips and very simple but useful ideas such as flavor boosters, burger toppers, stuff to put on your eggs as well as neat fixes to quickly and easily dress up your broccoli.

Oh, and my personal favorite: there is this super cool section on burgers, meatballs and bangers, where you get to mix and match meats, shapes and flavors to create your very own dish. Melissa’s made it very easy to follow the guide, too! You choose your favorite “shape” and flavor, follow the master recipe and then follow through to the instructions specific to your picks. Very handy! I want to try all the different flavors, but my first try is going to be a toss between Moroccan Chicken and Apricots or Japanese Gyoza.

Every recipe has its own little introduction story, includes Melissa’s handy-dandy “You know how you could do that?” capsules where she offers substitution ideas and more neat tips and tricks, as well as suggestions for side dishes, prep time, cook time and number of servings.

Seriously, this is a little gem of a recipe book. Get it, you won’t regret it.

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

Now let’s start this recipe. Oops… looks like right from the get go, I’m already changing things…

You see, I had no chicken thighs on hand, so I used chicken breasts instead. I figured it wouldn’t really change the integrity of the dish… so I chose not to get out of my way to get the thighs.

But, just like the recipe says, I browned the chicken, in batches so not to overcrowd the pan. See? I can follow instructions! 😉

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

I added the onion and ginger and cooked until soft, then threw in the garlic, coriander, cayenne and bay leaf.

This got tossed around for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

Tomatoes and water went in…

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

And I stirred to combine!

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

Back in went the chicken along with the juices it released. I brought this back to a boil then lowered the heat, covered and let that simmer for precisely 25 minutes.

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

And here is where I made another slight modification.

Since I wasn’t removing the chicken (because I didn’t need to seeing as how it was already bite sized) I figured it would be easier to incorporate the sunflower seed butter if it was a bit on the looser side. And since I thought my sauce was a tad on the thick side and could use a little bit of water, I mixed 1/2 cup of water in with my sunflower seed butter, and while I was at it, I added the vanilla right in there too!

Gave that a good whisk then poured this beautiful creamy mixture right into the chicken stew.

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

And it blended with the tomato sauce so beautifully well. See how rich and thick and creamy that sauce is? Unreal! And OMG the smell! I really, REALLY wish you could smell this!

At that point, I just couldn’t wait to dig in. My stomach was rumbling like mad, screaming GIMME! GIMME!

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

I think I could’ve eaten this stew straight out of the pan, standing right next to the stove… but it wouldn’t have been fair to it. It just wouldn’t have done it justice.

Eating is an experience that must be savored with all the senses, and it is said that one eats with their eyes first! Gotta make it look pretty, don’t I?

Besides, the recipe does say to serve, sprinkled with raw sunflower seeds and chopped parsley. I’m pretty sure that Melissa didn’t mean for this to be served directly in the skillet! 

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

This experience thought me a valuable lesson: I need to learn to follow recipes more often. Had I played with this one even a tiny bit, I would have missed out on a lot.

Of course, I would have added my own twist to the flavoring and it would’ve tasted nothing like what I just experienced. Trust me, this dish is the kind that has A LOT to offer in the flavor department. The union of the tangy tomato and smokey sunflower seed butter creates the most unique and interesting aroma, while the hints of ginger and vanilla do an amazing job at intriguing the taste buds.

Served alongside a healthy serving of Almond Coconut Cauliflower Rice, this stew really transported me to a very, very distant place, far far away from all that cold and all that snow.

West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com

Do I need to tell you that this stew was gone in no time? For once, I was happy not to have anyone to share with. This was mine, mine, mine and only mine!

I’m already looking forward to making it again… perhaps I’ll give the thighs a go this time ’round.

Who knows, maybe I’m missing out on something! 

West African Chicken Stew – A Recipe Right Out of Well Fed 2

Yield: Serves 2-4

NF based on 1 of 4 servings

West African Chicken Stew – A Recipe Right Out of Well Fed 2


  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used breasts)
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (no sugar added)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • garnish: minced fresh parsley leaves, sunflower seeds


  1. Sprinkle the chicken enthusiastically with salt and pepper. Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the chicken in a single layer and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. (Don’t crowd the pan; cook in batches if you need to.) Remove the chicken to a bowl to catch the juices.
  2. In the same pot, cook the onions and ginger until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cayenne, and bay leaf, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and water, stirring to combine. Nestle the chicken into the sauce, along with any juices it released. Increase the heat to bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the pot; it will be very tender. Break the chicken into large pieces with the side of a wooden spoon. Add the sunflower seed butter and vanilla to the pot and mix to combine. Return the chicken to the pot and cover. Heat through, about 5 minutes, then serve, sprinkled with parsley and sunflower seeds.


Source: Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat

Even though I made a few substitutions, I chose to leave Melissa's original recipe exactly as it appears in Well Fed 2 so you can get an idea of her writing style. Even her recipes are a fun and easy to read. My very minor substitutions have been documented in the body of the post instead.


West African Chicken Stew | www.thehealthyfoodie.com


  1. says

    I’m pinning this recipe right away and plan to make it soon! And like you, I have a REALLY hard time sticking exactly to recipes as they are prescribed. Maybe I’ll try my best as you did. ;]

  2. says

    That looks fantastic!! I’m so gonna make that. I haven’t made sunflower seed butter yet so want to try that as well. One thing I noticed if I compare your cauliflower rice to mine is that yours seems a bit chunkier. Do you cut it by hand or with a machine? Just wondering. I do it with the machine but than it can get a bit more like couscous… :)

    • says

      I always do my cauliflower rice using a food processor, Simone. I think the trick it so not overcrowd it and work in several smaller batches. A few quick pulses is really all it takes anyway…

      As for the sunflower seed butter, OMG! You really have to make that. It’s so tasty, unreal! I think you’ll be hooked for life! :)

    • says

      That’s very nice of you to say Mike sweetheart, but I wasn’t the one who came up with this awesome spice combo… Melissa is the genius behind this recipe, and frankly, I say you should try it. I just know you will LOVE this!

  3. Abby says

    Delicious and completely worth the time to make sunbutter. This is another recipe that proves the best food I’ve ever had was staying whole 30 compliant.

  4. Savanah says

    I made this tonight for dinner and it was amazing!!!!!!! I didn’t have sunflower seeds to make sunflower seed butter so I used raw almond butter. This recipe is definitely going on the favorites list!

    • says

      Glad to hear you liked it, Savanah! And I bet almond butter was just as good. I might very well give it a try myself next time I make this (it’s on my list of faves, too, so no doubt it will be made again very soon!) :)

  5. Michelle C says

    I made this tonight and it was delicious!! I used almond butter instead and added some carrots. Next time, I’ll try adding sweet potatoes

  6. Vicki says

    I made this last night, using chicken thighs and adding some cinnamon. Very easy to make and extremely tasty, the children wolfed it down, so an even bigger thumbs up.

  7. Danielle says

    Do you cook the chicken breasts as whole pieces and then break them up later? Or cut into chunks then cook them?

  8. Camilla says

    Made this tonight, didn’t change a single thing from your version of the original recipe. We liked it but the chicken breast weren’t tender and falling apart after 25 min simmering in the sauce, I think I might try thighs next time to get more tender chicken or do it with breasts in a slow cooker. Never cooked with sunflower butter before, interesting variation.

    • says

      Next time you cook with chicken breasts, Camilla, try brining them overnight in a solution of 1 teaspoon of salt to one cup of water. It makes a BIG difference. I love the idea of making this dish in a slow cooker, too. I might have to give it a try myself…

  9. jennifer says

    Thanks! We made this last night. As one of us in the family is nut- and seed-free, I substituted 1/4 cup of coconut flour for the sunflower seed paste. It was a beautiful dish and we’ll make it again.

      • Oleander says

        What can be used as a substitute for sunflower seed butter in this recipe? I read in the comments above that someone used coconut flour, was it made into a paste before adding? And lastly what country in West Africa does the dish originate from?

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