Kenya is famous for its hospitality, beautiful people and good coffee. It is also known for its breathtaking white-sand beaches. But one thing you might not have considered is the amazing Kenya food.
The country has some of the best traditional foods in Africa. The dishes in its cuisine are simple and exciting.
What’s Special About Kenya Food?
A few different nations, such as India and France, have influenced Kenyan cooking. Yet the country’s cuisine boasts a considerable number of traditional dishes as well.
Kenya foods are mostly locally sourced, as they farm most of their crops in-house. Rice, potatoes, corn, bananas, coconuts, yam and coffee are staples in Kenyan cuisine. Kenyans also love their meat, so you’ll find both vegetable-based options and meat-based dishes.
National Dish Of Kenya
Ugali (Cornmeal Dough)
Ugali is the most popular fare in the country and is considered the national dish of Kenya. It’s a simple recipe made with corn flour and water. The flour is added to boiling water and stirred until it becomes a thick paste that can be molded by hand.
It has a mild flavor that is better accompanied by any of the tasty stews in Kenyan cuisine. This is an everyday food that locals eat at least once per day.
Famous Traditional Kenya Foods
Nyama Choma (Grilled Meat)
When making a list of traditional Kenyan food, every local will have nyama choma at the top. It is considered the ultimate Kenyan street food. Nyama choma is typically grilled beef or goat, although chicken or fish may also be used.
These meats are marinated in local spices and grilled over an open flame. The meat is tender and melts in your mouth. You can enjoy it alone or paired with ugali or kachumbari.
Samaki Wa Kukaanga (Kenyan Fried Fish)
Samaki, which means fish, is one of the staple foods in Kenyan cuisine. Fun fact about Kenya: There are many beautiful lakes in Kenya, which provides access to an abundant supply of fish, making it a popular food option in these regions.
The fish is fileted and marinated in a flavorful seasoning blend before frying. Typically, samaki is enjoyed with ukwaju sauce (tamarind sauce). A good combination to try in Kenya is a bowl of rice with a side dish of samaki covered in ukwaju sauce.
Main Dishes In Kenyan Foods
Pilau (Kenyan Spiced Rice)
Pilau is the Kenyan version of the famed jollof rice popular in Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana. This aromatic food is a one-pot rice dish with a unique flavor enhanced by cumin, cardamon, cinnamon and cloves.
Pilau is made with rice, vegetables and chicken or beef as a base ingredient. It is a good main dish to enjoy with a side of kachumbari.
It is safe to say that this is one of the best Kenyan foods, so make sure you grab a bite on your next trip to the country.
Githeri (Boiled Corn And Beans)
Githeri, or mutheri as it is locally known, is a traditional Kenyan food that originated in the country. The Kikuyu community first brought this food to life in Kenya. Eventually, its fame found its way across the continent and has become a staple in many African cuisines as well.
The dish is made from beans and corn, boiled together and then fried. The blend of beans and corn gives the dish a unique flavor. Githeri goes well with chapati (unleavened flatbread) or avocado.
Traditional Kenya Sauce, Stews And Soups
Matoke (Plantain Banana Stew)
Matoke is a sumptuous Kenya food that originated in Uganda but has become a staple in many African countries. The dish is similar to boiled potatoes in sauce.
The plantain bananas used for this meal are cooked in porridge with oil, tomatoes, garlic, onion, lemon juice and chilies. It pairs well with white rice, ugali and chapati.
Maharagwe (Spiced Coconut Bean Soup)
Maharagwe is a popular Swahili dish available in many African countries with access to enough coconut, including Kenya. The country has the most stunning coconut tree-lined sand beaches in Africa. Due to this abundant access to coconut, many foods in Kenyan cuisine have a touch of this ingredient.
Many Kenyans cherish this spicy soup made of beans and coconut milk. It is a good accompaniment with rice, bread or ugali.
Different kinds of beans (red, white, yellow) can be used to prepare this dish, but the other ingredients (tomatoes, onions, coconut milk and local spices) remain the same. This is one of the best Kenyan foods to try at the beach.
Ingoho (Kenyan Stewed Chicken)
This is a delicious fare loved by many locals and travelers. This dish is native to the Luhya community in the western part of the country. It is one of the few Kenya food not influenced by foreign cuisines.
Ingoho is a braised chicken dish prepared with onion, tomatoes, soy sauce, coriander and local Kenyan spices. The simple fare is in almost every household in western Kenya and every restaurant nationwide.
Kuku Wa Kupaka (Chicken In Coconut Sauce)
Kuku wa kupaka is an Indian-Kenyan fusion food. It is a chicken and coconut stew that has a striking resemblance to the popular Indian chicken curry. This dish is prepared by cooking chicken pieces with coconut milk, peanuts, tomato paste and local herbs like turmeric and cumin.
This rich and flavorful fare is especially popular in communities along the coastline. It’s a good food to pair with rice and bread. Kuku wa kupaka offers a special experience, especially while sightseeing along the Indian Ocean.
Snacks, Light Dishes And Street Food in Kenya
Mahindi Choma (Roast Corn)
Here’s an interesting statistic about Kenya foods. By estimate, the country consumes at least 98 kilos of corn per capita. You can imagine how significant corn is to the nation’s cuisine and culture.
Mahindi choma is a street food popular in most African countries and is most famous in Kenya. The country’s version is unique, as the corn is peeled and garnished with chili and lime salt before roasting. As a result, the corn kernels have a nice aroma after roasting.
It’s a cheap street food option to explore in Kenya. You can have mahindi choma alone or enjoy it served with a portion of grilled steak.
Mutura (Kenyan Blood Sausage)
Mutura is another Kenya street food cherished by everyone in the country. It is a tasty dish well-seasoned with local spices. Usually, mutura is offered as a nighttime snack, as that’s when vendors operate.
One thing you should know about this food is that the taste might not suit every palate and might take some adjusting to. You see, mutura is made by stuffing animal (cow or goat) intestine with minced meat, garlic, local spices and fresh animal blood.
But make no mistake, this is an amazing delicacy. Mutura is best enjoyed when paired with soups, salads and a beer.
Kachumbari (Kenyan Tomato And Onion Salad)
This is a simple and common Kenyan food whose origin is still a mystery. However, it is a very popular dish in the country. Other African nations, such as Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also have this fare as a staple in their cuisine.
Kachumbari is more of a side dish than a main dish, and it’s a good option if you want to try something different in Kenya. This food is primarily made of tomato and onions, finely chopped and turned into a salad. However, there are varieties across the African continent that include other vegetables like cilantro, cucumber and avocado.
This fare is healthy and fat-free. It goes well with Kenya street food like nyama choma.
Kenyan Bajias (Potato Chips)
This is another Indo-Kenyan-inspired fare. It’s a dish of chips (French fries) that has become a staple food in many local communities.
For this dish, the potatoes are finely sliced and garnished with seasoning before deep frying. The chips are crispy and crunchy and often paired with tomato salsa.
If you are looking for a light and flavorful Kenyan food, this should be your go-to.
Samosas (Fried Pastry)
This is another Indian-inspired Kenya food. These delicious triangular snacks are a beauty to behold. They satisfy your taste buds and stomach with minimum fuss.
This dish covers vegetarians and meat lovers alike, as there are vegetable and meat samosas. This snack is made from all-purpose flour dough kneaded and formed into small triangular pockets stuffed with either meat or veggies, finely chopped and deep-fried in oil.
Samosas go well with syrup and a glass of fruit juice.
This is not exactly a traditional Kenyan food, but it is very popular in the country. There are different versions of this comfort food. Some are grilled, while others are deep-fried.
You can enjoy your burger with syrup, coffee, fruit juice or chai (Kenyan tea).
Sukuma Wiki (Sauteed Collard Greens)
Sukuma wiki is a food popular in East Africa, including Kenya. It’s a dish made from sauteed collard greens garnished with tomatoes and onions. It is tender and melts in the mouth.
This is a simple but very healthy Kenya food. You can enjoy sukuma wiki alone or pair it with a portion of ugali or pilau. Many Kenyans love this food, as it is cheap and affordable.
Desserts And Sweet Foods In Kenya
Mandazi (Kenyan Doughnuts)
This is a kid’s go-to snack in the country. You can find them sold on the streets, parks, and schools. This traditional Kenya food has an aroma that can lure you from kilometers away.
Made with all-purpose flour, this doughnut is a good option for breakfast. Mandazi goes well with juice, milk and chai.
Iconic Kenyan Drinks
It is safe to say that Kenyan coffee is a revered national treasure. The country has one of the best-roasted coffee beans in the world. They are known for having intense flavor and good aroma, almost like an espresso.
The coffee beans in Kenya are grown in the country’s fertile highlands. They are carefully handpicked before being processed into a final brew that soothes the body.
Kenya has special coffees, such as the smooth pour-over and espresso, which are a must-try on your trip.
Chai (Kenyan Spiced Beverage)
Chai is a popular beverage in Kenya and loved across the country. It’s a tea with a special fragrance and aroma from black tea leaves, aromatic spices and milk brewed to perfection.
This beverage is better enjoyed hot, as it uniquely warms the body. It has a beautiful amber color and can be made tastier by adding cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Foods In Kenya
With a decent agricultural sector, Kenya has many healthy dishes. With plenty of lakes in the country, there is an abundance of fish-based options in Kenya food too.
Enjoy visiting the beautiful landmarks in Kenya while also exploring one of Africa’s most vibrant culinary scenes.