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Kenyan Food: 10 Dishes You Should Try in Kenya

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Kenya is not all about safaris, pristine beaches, and record-breaking athletes. There are also tasty culinary delights in the country. Kenyan food is as diverse as its people. There are over 42 tribes in the country, each with its own food. Also, Asians and Arabs who traded with the locals decades ago influenced how Kenyans prepare, eat, and serve food. For a special culinary experience, read on for details about our favorite dishes you should try in Kenya.

1. Ugali

Kenyan food: Ugali
A small piece of ugali and cabbage. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Ugali is also known as sima. It’s unflavoured and the most consumed Kenyan food. History has it that the meal was introduced to the country in the 19th century by Portuguese traders. It’s made from maize (corn), millet, or sorghum flour. Maize flour is white, thus producing Ugali of the same color. Brown ugali is prepared from millet or sorghum flour.

Flour is added to boiling water and stirred until it forms a dense block. Some people love Ugali tender, while others enjoy it hard. This meal is eaten with meat, eggs, vegetables, soup, and milk.

2. Nyama choma

Nyama choma - one of the most popular Kenyan delicacies today
Roasted meat on a wooden plate. Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

There’s roasted meat, and there’s Kenyan nyama choma. Nyama choma is Swahili for roasted meat. It’s slow-cooked over charcoal and comes in two forms — beef and goat. Goat nyama choma tends to be a little bit soft, compared to beef. 

This meal is best paired with ugali, fries, and kachumbari (a mix of diced tomatoes, lime, fresh coriander, and onions.

3. Mutura

Mutura, a protein-rich Kenyan snack
Home-cooked mutura. Photo by Boerewors from Pinterest.

Do you know there’s a Kenyan version of sausage? Yes, mutura. The protein-rich snack is made up of ground meat that’s stuffed into the animal’s intestines. First, the stuffed meat is boiled and later roasted on an open grill. 

Onions, leeks, salt, pepper, and chili are sometimes added to the ground meat for flavor. Mutura is a common roadside snack in Nairobi and towns such as Kiambu, Nyeri, and Thika. Low and middle-income streets are abuzz with vendors selling the snack in the evenings.

You have the option of eating the snack with kachumbari and bone soup.

4. Githeri

Githeri. traditional kenyan food
A plate of boiled githeri – a traditional Kenyan food. Image © Mwikali Scovia/Infood Specials.

Githeri is a mixture of maize and beans, either fresh or dry. First off, the two main ingredients are softened by boiling for about three to four hours. Thereafter, it’s made into a stew by adding vegetables, bananas, potatoes, or meat.

This meal is popular with the Kikuyu tribe, predominant in central Kenya. That aside, most schools and eateries in the country serve the meal. 

5. Chapati

chapati
Chapati on a plate. Image © Mwikali Scovia/Infood Specials.

Indian laborers brought to Kenya by the former colonial government introduced Chapati to Kenyans. At first, the unleavened flatbread was a special meal for occasions, say Christmas and weddings. Today, chapati is a common meal, cutting across the affluent and the less privileged. 

Its main ingredients include wheat flour, oil, salt, sugar, and water. After rolling the dough into small circular pieces, they’re fried on both sides in a non-stick pan until they turn golden brown. The kneading process is crucial, as it determines the softness of the chapatis.

Chapati is served with beef stew, beans, tea, milk, peas, and soda, among other foods and drinks. 

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6. Sukuma wiki

Sukuma wiki, a kenyan delicacy eaten with ugali or rice.
A slice of ugali and some fresh sukuma wiki. Image © Mwikali Scovia/Infood Specials.

Sukuma wiki is swahili for collard greens. After the meal was introduced in Kenya, it was associated with the poor. Its name signified that the meal helped them ‘push through the week’ — English for ‘sukuma wiki.’

The green collards are cut into small pieces and fried with onions and diced tomatoes. Kenyans prefer to eat sukuma wiki with ugali, mashed potatoes, rice, and meat.

7. Mandazi

Freshly cooked mandazi on a white plate. food enjoyed in Kenyan homes.
Freshly cooked mandazi on a white plate. Photo by from PxHere

Kenyan coffee and tea are perfectly paired with mandazi, a deep-fried bread with a fluffy texture. The snack is small, triangle-shaped, and served mostly during breakfast. It’s common across Kenya. The main ingredients of this snack include flour, milk, sugar, water, and baking powder.

8. Kenyan pilau

Kenyan pilau, a most sought-after meal in Kenyan coastal towns
Pilau with green beans and potatoes. Image by مانفی from Wikimedia Commons.

You can never go wrong with Kenyan pilau. Indian and Arab traders are believed to have introduced the meal to Kenya. A common dish during festive occasions, pilau is prepared with aromatic spices, meat, and rice (preferably long-grain).

Kenyan pilau is similar to jollof rice from West Africa. It’s a sought-after meal in homes and eateries in Kenyan coastal towns. Pair your pilau with kachumbari or a banana for more flavor. 

9. Roasted maize

Roasted maize or mahindi choma in Swahili. Kenyan food at its best.
Roasted maize. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Maize is cooked in several ways, and one of them is roasting. Roasted maize, locally known as mahindi choma, is an affordable snack in Kenya for all seasons. The snack is sold on the roadside in some parts of major towns. 

The vendors sell the roasted maize in whole or in small pieces. Salt, chili powder, and lime are sometimes rubbed on the maize for additional flavor. The snack helps reduce cholesterol levels and is a source of energy.

10. Kenyan samosas

Kenyan food
Samosas, lime, and some sauce on a plate. Photo © Mwikali Scovia/Infood Specials.

Kenyan samosas reveal Indian and Middle Eastern influences on the country’s food. The triangular-shaped snack is deep-fried in hot oil until it turns golden brown. Minced beef, spiced vegetables, fish, and mashed potatoes are some ingredients inside the triangular-shaped dough.

Samosas are sometimes enjoyed with chutney or lime. The snack is a popular breakfast snack among the coastal people of Kenya and is available in restaurants and street food vendors.  

A paradise of tasty food

Kenya, the heartbeat of East Africa, is not short of tasty cuisines. While in the country, try out any of the above Kenyan food, if not all, to get insights into the local way of life.

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