How to cook palm butter (In Grebo: Hainu)

Palm butter is a meal enjoyed by all Liberians, but particularly the Grebo people, from the coastal South East of the country. It is usually cooked on a Sunday, because it’s expensive as there are lots of ingredients. Invite your friends!

Palm Butter

 Ingredients: (All words like this – ‘Hainu‘ – are in the Grebo language.)

Sifting the palmnut pulp by hand
  • Palmnuts (wein) – LD$150 worth (About US$2.00)
  • Hot peppers (peah) – one plateful
  • Four to five crabs (ca)
  • Several fish (narpleh), inlcuding
    • Dried pipe fish (neh)


    • Boney fish (fain)
    • Dried black deer meat (mleh)
    • Bitter ball (jelen)
    • Bitter root (jea)
    • Palm butter leaf (hainu wiah)
    • Several chicken stock cubes (soo)
    • Salt (tah)

      Cutting bitter ball

    • Firecoal (coun)
    • Other ingredients can be added as appropriate to individual taste – such as chicken, kissmeat etc…


  1.  Put palmnuts in a pot and boil for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Drain nuts in sieve and put in mortar.

    Boiling, sifting and beating the palmnuts

  3. Beat the nuts in the mortar.
  4. Take palm nut pulp from the mortar and wash the juice out of it into a cooking pot, separating the fibres to be pulped and drained again.
  5. Replace the fibres in the mortar and beat/water them again to get the rest of the juice to thicken the palmnut liquid. The liquid must be thick but not too thick as it has to boil.
  6. Add more water to the pulp and squeeze again.
  7. Beat and squeeze the palm nuts for a final time.
  8. Put all palmnut juice in a pot to heat on a charcoal stove.
  9. Strip the bitter root with a knife. Add to the soup.
  10. Cut all the bitter ball in half; throw away the rotten ones. Add good ones to the soup.

    Sieving and adding pulp to the soup

  11. Add palm butter leaf to the soup.
  12. De-stalk and wash the peppers.

    Hot peppers

  13. Pound the peppers and add them to the soup.
  14. Boil meat and crabs and stock cubes and a sprinkle of salt for at least five minutes in small water.


  15. When crabs go red add it all to the soup.
  16. Add stock cubes and salt to taste.
  17. Boil the soup slowly, partially covered.
  18. Keep an eye on it as it boils. When the foam has gone from the surface, it is ready. Ours was ready in 32 minutes.
  19. Boil a pot of rice to go with the palm butter.

Huge thanks to members of the Pastry Class at the Don Bosco Homes Training Centre at Chocolate City for spending time teaching us the cooking skills and the language to go with it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s