Ingredients & Condiments
The Haitian peanut butter first tastes creamy, then the peppers hit you.
Unlike most peanut butters, which exist on the spectrum between sweet and plain, the Haitian version known as mamba is typically laced with chilies.
When made by hand, mamba starts with a giant pot over an open fire, often in a backyard. Cooks roast the peanuts, keeping them moving against the pot’s hot walls, then pour them into a woven winnowing tray. The process of separating the peanuts from their shells is a practiced maneuver, a rhythmic tossing and catching, tossing and catching, until the nuts are rendered shiny and skinless. Before the batch of nuts takes a ride through a grinder, cooks swirl in sugar and hot peppers (Scotch bonnet or habaneros are popular options). When it’s finished, the smooth mixture is ready to be spread onto its preferred partner, cassava crackers. The spice doesn’t show itself right away. It creeps up at the end, cutting into the creamy richness.
Beyond the island’s home producers, Haiti boasts a few commercial labels, supplied by a budding peanut farming industry. Haitians abroad often complain that the peanut butters of other nations don’t satisfy their cravings, so it’s not uncommon to see suitcases leaving the island packed with jars of the spicy stuff.