Kenyan Cuisine Facts and History

In 1496 when the Portuguese arrived on the coast of Kenya they came along with maize, bananas. Pineapple, chilies, peppers, sweet potatoes and cassava from the newly discovered Brazil.

They also brought oranges, lemons, and lime which came from India and China. They also introduced animal like, pigs to Kenya. Hilma, which is a small clan from North Africa, introduced cattle herding, which is known as pastoralism. Cattle are used to give meat, milk, butter and blood. Europeans who later colonized Kenya brought with them white potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

Kenyan Cuisine Food Recipe

Kenyan Cuisine Menu


The menu purely uses native spices and local ingredients making the cuisine have unique personalities. The cooking gives you a taste of different flavors cooked in healthy dishes. Different cultures offer these dishes. Everywhere you visit, you will discover the ethnic heritage of Kenya in their local food. Let’s have a look at the menu of most popular dishes.



A cup of Hot Tea (Chai)

Everybody loves breakfast. It gives you the energy to start the day. In Kenya, we know how to go about it. A cup of tea (chai) is a Kenyan classic for breakfast. It is a mixture of processed tea leaves with plenty of fresh milk and sweetened with sugar to taste. It is served hot with Chapati or Mahamri. Also, a full meal like sweet potatoes, yams, arrow roots or bread can be a great accompaniment to hot tea.



Spiced Cooked Rice
It is also known as pilau. It is a combination of carefully cooked rice with a mixture of different spices. For example, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, garlic and Ginger. You are free to add anything to the rice including meat to satisfy your expectations. It is served hot with beef stew or vegetable salad. Its sweet aromatic smell makes you hungrier.




It is a typical Kenya snack though its origin is India. It is a triangular shaped pocket made up of pastry wrapper which has spiced minced meat or vegetables in it. It is usually deep fried in super hot oil until it turns golden brown. These sweet samosas are available everywhere from the streets to the restaurants.

Kenyan Doughnut, which is commonly known as Mandazi
It is a deep frying dough, which smells delicious when it is ready. It is soft when it is hot, and you can comfortably take it with a cup of hot tea (chai).


 Ugali (cornmeal staple)

A stiff, starchy porridge known as ugali is the staple food for most ordinary Kenyans. It is a product of corn flour. To prepare it you add corn flour to boiling water. Heat the mixture while turning the paste with a wooden spoon until it turns into a dense block of cornmeal dough. When it is ready, most Kenyans present it in a ball shape. It is served hot with different types of stews like meat stew, fish, and vegetables. Sukuma Wiki (Kales) and beef are the ordinary stew that mostly accompanies it.

Christmas Holiday Menu


Nyama Choma (Roasted Meat) which is a Pride of Kenyan Food.

Nyama Choma includes different types of animal roasted meat. The most common are goat and beef meat. But chicken (Kuku Choma) and fish (Samaki Choma) are also varied choices. It is referred as the pride of Kenyan food because it can bring different groups together, especially during Christmas to share while having fun. You can choose to spice the meat before you roast it and have a kachumbari with you. Christmas in Kenya is never complete without Nyama Choma.


It is a flat round dough made of flour which is fried in a pan using a lot of oil. It is usually soft and moist. It is unique because it is a treat to eat. It can be served hot with beef stew or cabbage. Chapatis are considered as Christmas holiday menu because Kenyans cook them occasionally.

Most Popular Dishes in Kenyan Cuisine


Collard Greens or Kales are popularly known as Sukuma Wiki
Sukuma Wiki is one of the Kenyan popular vegetable dishes. It is a green leafy vegetable which is so nutritious with vitamins. To prepare it you just have to cook it with oil and mix it with diced tomatoes and onion. Add a pinch of salt to taste. It is so sweet when it is served hot. You can combine it with ugali or rice.

Kenyan Hot Stew

Kenyan hot stew can include different types of meat. Chicken stew, beef stew or any other edible animal stew like fish is some of the examples. The meat stew most of the time is mixed with various base vegetables ingredients like carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and cucumbers. With Kenyan Stew, you are free to add any spice of your choice.

Kenyan Kachumbari

It is a mixture of raw diced tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, coriander, cucumber and salt to taste. It has its natural flavor and aroma when combined. Mostly it is used as a side salad that accompanies almost every dish from Nyama Choma (roasted meat) to cooked rice.

Most Used Ingredients


Kenyan cuisine mainly uses fresh foods rather than processed ones. They come from a wide range of resources including countryside, lakes and the remarkable Indian Ocean. The resources provide the readily available vegetables, fruits, and meats. Some of the common fresh vegetables are kale, cabbage, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, avocados and other leafy greens. Typical meat used is beef and goat meat.

Fish, chicken, and mutton are also available, but they are a little bit expensive compared to beef and goat meat. Mangoes, oranges, pineapples, bananas, pawpaws, and pears are some of the tropical fruits that are cheap, plentiful and shared on most of Kenyan tables though it depends on with the season of the available fruits. Other ingredients in almost every typical Kenyan dish and recipe include rice, corn meal, wheat and millet flour. Not forgetting Kenyans are avid tea drinkers, so hot beverages such as Kenyan tea and coffee are not left behind when serving the meals. Cool beverages like soda, juice, domestic and international beers are mostly available in hotels, pubs, and entertainment spots.

Travelling Foodie


For travelers do not make a point to miss Nyama Choma in Kenya. Mostly the local people eat goat and beef barbecue, but there is also the availability of chicken and fish. You will readily find this grill at any major festival place or popular dining spots like restaurants.

Tilapia, a freshwater fish which is found in the inland lakes in Kenya it is so popular and tasty. When you visit the coast sides of Kenya, you will be welcomed with the sweet aroma rice, which is known as Biryani, seafood mixture, and fresh coconut milk.

There is a broad range of international and national restaurants in Kenya. Especially in Nairobi and Mombasa town. They readily provide buffet meals which are cooked exceptionally. Sometimes game meat such as zebra and antelope meat are served to the travelers. If you have not visited Kenya, know that you are missing out!


Are you from Kenya ? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Kenyan ethnic food.

Susan Kaptich