Marinated tender boneless and skinless chicken thighs with sweet, salty and citrusy sauce is something universally accepted as delicious! We believe every chicken-lover should taste this Senegalese Chicken Yassa (a.k.a. Poulet Yassa) recipe for a chicken dinner with a bit of a difference! With a whole lot of caramelised onions, olives and peanut butter stock, this is certainly a new and exciting combination to try!
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What Is Chicken Yassa?
Chicken Yassa, also known as Poulet Yassa or Yassa Au Poulet, is one of the most popular traditional Western African chicken dishes. Typically made with bone-in chicken legs or mixed chicken parts, caramelized onions, lemon and mustard, this African chicken recipe is simply bursting with flavour. Especially popular in Senegal and Gambia, Yassa is sometimes made with lamb or fish, but Poulet (French for chicken) Yassa is by far the most common in the region.
What Does Poulet Yassa Taste Like?
If I was to describe the dish, I’d say it tastes almost… French. Made with Dijon mustard, lots of caramelised onions and parsley, it isn’t too surprising. Senegalese Yassa has elements of both Poulet Provencal and Poulet à la Moutarde. Lots of onions in this recipe add a lot of sweetness to the dish, whilst the olives give it a savoury salty feel. Mustard brings warmth and the peanut butter adds creaminess. This Poulet Yassa recipe truly has it all, so it is equally suitable for weeknight dinners and special occasions.
Poulet Yassa is a perfect dish for those who can’t handle too much heat. Don’t get me wrong, the dish is warming and comforting with all the mustard that goes in it, but its delicious flavour doesn’t depend on any chilli or any spices for that matter. It is all about mustard, parsley, lemon and sweet caramelized onions that are the key ingredients in this Senegalese classic. However, if you do fancy some more heat, feel free to add some chili pepper, like cayenne pepper.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- mustard: use Dijon mustard if you can, but replace it with stone-ground or yellow mustard if you must.
- parsley: fresh parsley is chopped finely including stalks.
- chicken thighs: we used boneless and skinless chicken thighs, but you are welcome to use bone-in chicken (more on that below). We do not recommend using chicken breast in this recipe, as it tends to dry out too much.
- brown onions: choose large onions, as Senegalese Chicken Yassa is all about those caramelised onions!
- lemon: we’ll use juice only, so choose a juicy fresh lemon.
- garlic cloves.
- bay leaf.
- chicken broth or chicken stock: choose gluten-free or dairy-free stock if needed.
- peanut butter: smooth peanut butter works best in this African chicken recipe.
- pitted green olives
- sea salt and black pepper: to season.
Start by getting all your ingredients ready and weighed out. Then thinly slice the onions, and finely chop the garlic. Finely chop parsley, including stalks and slice the olives into rounds.
Mix a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, parsley and some salt and pepper. Slather the mixture all over the chicken thighs and leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes.
Once marinated place the chicken thighs under a preheated grill for 12-15 minutes on medium-high heat until just cooked through and golden brown.
I like to line my baking tray with strong foil first to avoid having to scrub the baking tray. If you’re looking for a strong type of foil, I can definitely recommend Kirkland Signature one – it’s brilliant! Or you can cook your chicken thighs in a large Dutch oven.
In the meantime, place the sliced onions, remaining tablespoon of Dijon mustard, garlic and fresh lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix and set aside for 5 minutes.
Add 2 tablespoon of olive oil to a large frying pan on low-medium heat. Add the onion mixture and bay leaves, and cook for 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until softened and starting to brown lightly.
At this stage, start cooking your rice following packet instructions. When the chicken is cooked, add the browned chicken pieces to the onion pan. Mix 150ml of stock with the peanut butter. Pour it into the pan and leave to simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes allowing the sauce to thicken. Take off the heat and keep covered until your rice is cooked.
Just before serving, scatter the sliced green olives on top! Serve the finished dish with the rice and optional vegetables of your choice!
Storage and Reheating
For optimal storage, this Senegalese dish can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to six months. To maintain its flavour and freshness, ensure it is stored in an airtight container with a secure lid, or alternatively, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminium foil. When the time comes to reheat, effortlessly revive the flavours of the Senegalese Poulet Yassa by placing the leftovers in a skillet over medium heat. Heat until thoroughly warmed, and if needed, incorporate extra chicken broth or a splash of water to restore any lost moisture.
Can I Make This Poulet Yassa Recipe With Bone-In Chicken Thighs?
Yes! Brown the chicken under the grill (turning so it browns evenly) for approx 10-15 minutes or on the hob in the frying pan. Once fully browned, finish cooking the chicken in the caramelised onion and stock mixture. It will take longer though: for bone-in chicken thighs, allow 20-25 minutes. This means that you may need to add a bit more stock to keep enough moisture.
What To Serve Senegalese Yassa With?
We love to serve this delicious poulet yassa recipe with:
- Fluffy white rice or brown rice OR
- Couscous AND
- Some Tenderstem Broccoli
Or you may choose to serve this chicken dish from Western Africa with some crusty bread to mop up the yassa sauce leftover at the bottom of the pan.
Other Delicious Chicken Recipes
If you liked this recipe, please let us know in the comments below! For other chicken-based dishes, have a look at:
Other African Recipes
If you’re looking for a vegetarian West African cuisine-inspired recipe, here’s our West African Peanut & Butternut Squash Stew recipe. Other African recipes that we love include:
- South African Bobotie with Yellow Rice and Tomato Sambal
- Melktert | South African Milk Tart
- Egyptian Dukkah
Senegalese Chicken Yassa
- 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 5 g parsley finely chopped
- 600 g chicken thighs boneless, skinless
- 2 large brown onions thinly sliced
- 1 lemon juice only
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 150 ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
- 50 g pitted green olives sliced
- rice to serve
- Mix a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, parsley and some salt and pepper. Slather the mixture all over the chicken thighs and leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- Once marinated place the chicken thighs under a preheated grill for 12-15 minutes until just cooked through.
- In the meantime, place the sliced onions, remaining tablespoon of Dijon mustard, garlic and the juice of a lemon in a large bowl. Mix and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoon of olive oil to a large frying pan on low-medium heat. Add the onion mixture and a bay leaf, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened and starting to brown lightly.
- At this stage, start cooking your rice following packet instructions. When the chicken is cooked, add the thighs to the onion pan. Mix 150ml of stock with the peanut butter. Pour it into the pan and leave to simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes allowing the sauce to thicken. Take off the heat and keep covered until your rice is cooked.
- Just before serving, scatter the sliced green olives on top! Serve Yassa Chicken with rice and vegetables of your choice!