Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.
– Dante Aligheri, Inferno
I discovered my love of spicy “heat” in foods during high school thanks to an occasionally heavy hand with Tabasco and Melinda’s hot sauces. Years later, access to Southeast Asian, Indian, and North African cuisines while living in Washington, DC, during the early aughts made me a bona fide addict. For years, I liked to cry tears of joy with almost every meal, even breakfast. Friends made fun of me for ordering dishes to be made “6 pepper hot” at our neighborhood Thai restaurant that offered illustrated spice meters alongside every entree. One Thai chili illustration meant warm. Two chilies meant moderately spicy, and so on, up to five little chilies in a row, meaning “beware, this will burn you.” I have to look back at that version of myself and laugh. As with so many things, I eventually found balance, and while I still love the heat, I don’t need it to dominate a dish, and I now prefer the flames to be balanced by a little sweetness, caramelization, and salt.
During those DC days, I had a Haitian friend who was always talking about the “hot and spicy peanut butter back home” and how he couldn’t get anything like it in the States. Knowing that I was a peanut butter and spicy food fanatic, he was nice enough to bring a jar back for me (and many for himself) after he went home for a family wedding. Of course, it was hot – very hot – and I loved it, quickly became addicted, and started putting it on everything. A hot peanut butter and honey sandwich was my go-to lunch every day for a week, and a spoonful of the fiery pb saved more than one bachelor dinners of sautéed vegetables and rice. It also did a lot to grow my appreciation of Caribbean-influenced foods, in general, and before I knew it, Scotch bonnet peppers were in regular rotation in my kitchen and I was making griyo for friends.
Hot peanut butter remains one of Haiti’s most popular condiments, and it’s present in almost every household and food market. Called Mamba for short after the Creole word for peanut, it is most often made with ground peanuts blended with dried Scotch Bonnet, Ghost, and/or Habanero chilies and eaten with bread, thin cassava crackers, or plantain chips. Beloved by almost everyone, it’s known to be a favorite, nourishing part of children’s breakfasts before they head off to school.
An homage to this spicy peanut butter tradition, which extends beyond the borders of Haiti into other parts of the Caribbean, our mouthwateringly delicious Hot Peanut Butter blends freshly roasted and milled Runner peanuts, dried Guajillo, Ancho and Habanero chilies, raw organic cane sugar, and sea salt to create a fiery spread as intense as it is addictive (we warned you).
We especially love our Hot Peanut Butter paired with apricot jam or marmalade on crusty bread or toasted English muffins. Combine it with your favorite pepper jelly on slices of banana or plantain chips for an eye-opening appetizer or make it a base for a spicy dipping or noodle sauce; just add coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, and whatever else floats your peanut sauce boat.