Recipe: West African Peanut Bites | Kanya

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this Adventure, it’s that my family’s unfaltering love of peanuts inexorably links us to the fine people of West Africa, where this little legume is ¬†enjoyed in both savory and sweet concoctions. Peanut soups and cookies are both fair game, but today we explore Kanya, an altogether new delight.

Kanya are naturally gluten free and beyond simple, made with just three ingredients: peanuts, sugar, and toasted rice flour.

That’s it!

Kanya remind me of fudge, but with a drier, slightly crunchy texture thanks to the toasted rice flour.

There’s just one catch (there always is, isn’t there?)…

If you want to make Kanya the old fashioned way, you’re going to need arms of steel to push, and punch, and grind the mixture until it is so pulverized that it begins to stick together. Women in Sierra Leone (and beyond) know this art well and can be found patiently pounding grains and peanuts in the dappled sunlight, laughing and talking all the while.

When I read about Kanya, I knew I had to try them, but I also knew hours of grinding wasn’t an option, so I whizzed them together in my food processor instead. I may have donated my microwave and bread machine early on during this Adventure, but I don’t think I could ever say goodbye to the food processor or blender.

The good news? If you pulverize the kanya in a food processor, you’ll be done in ten minutes from start to finish.

The bad news? You might have to go to the gym to get the strong arms.

Woman in Sierra Leone. Photo by Steve Evans.

Woman in Sierra Leone. Photo by Steve Evans.

Inspired by the World Cookbook for Students.


1 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup rice flour


To make beautiful Kanya, take the winding road through Sierra Leone’s grasses, until you find a nice spot to cook.

Perhaps under the shad of the palm trees.

The road from Kenema to Kailahun District, Sierra Leone. Photo by Lindsay Stark.

The road from Kenema to Kailahun District, Sierra Leone. Photo by Lindsay Stark.

To begin, crush the peanuts and sugar together in a food processor until a loose, pebbly sand forms. Set this aside.

Next, add the rice flour to a clean dry skillet and toast over medium/low heat until light brown. See the color starting to creep into the right side of the pan? That’s where we’re headed. It can take a few minutes, so just keep stirring so it doesn’t burn or toast unevenly.

Once you’re done, grind the hot rice flour, peanuts, and sugar in the food processor until the mixture not only presses together, but easily holds it’s shape.

You’re looking for the mixture to cake up, as pictured below. Even when using a food processor this can take a lot of pulsing and processing, so patience is the name of the game.

Enjoy a little traditional music to help pass the time.

With the palm of your hand, press this mixture firmly into a small casserole dish.

Now for the absolute, most important part: If you cannot slice the kanya into squares and remove them without crumbling (the squares, not you), the mixture is not ready.

If this happens, no biggie.

Simply scrape the peanut mixture back into the food processor and work it until you can.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee, a friend, and two smiles (make one of them yours).

Woman in Sierra Leone. Photo by Steve Evans.

Woman in Sierra Leone. Photo by Steve Evans.


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  1. Looks absolutely delicious!

    • I meant to ask… approximately how long a wait is it before it doesn’t fall apart?

      • Sasha Martin says:

        It’s hard to say, but a good 2-4 minutes of pulsing, maybe? It depends on how long you hold the button down, etc. You can press the mixture between your fingers to check and get a good sense if it’s trying to crumble a little or not.


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