About the food of Kenya

Donkeys at Lamu, Kenya. Photo by Karl Ragnar Gjertsen.

The best way to get out of a rut is to let someone in. To let someone help you.

Just the other morning a very nice gentleman emailed me. In beautiful English he explains that he is from Kenya and – hurrah- he would like to help me with my Kenyan Global Table.

His email was complete with a four page document of recipes, photos, and details about the food of his beloved homeland.

Did he know that I was having a tough week? Did he know the wind had left my sails?


He was simply sharing his passion – his patriotism.

But, still, his beautiful email put a smile on my face just when I needed it most. How wonderful to receive first-hand accounts of food from far-away lands.

And what glories I learned about the food of Kenya – an East African country which boasts some of the earliest traces of our species in the form of a boy’s skeleton from more than 1.5 million years ago. This boy, known as Turkana boy, actually is not quite human (what struck me most was his lack of chin and low brow). Awesome.

Anyway, between the warm coastline, the grassy interior, and snow-capped mountains, Kenya certainly boasts a diverse landscape with an assortment of fascinating food.

Most meals are served with either ugali or chapati  [Recipe]. Ugali is a cornmeal paste, cooked into a stiff mound and chapati is an Indian flatbread. Both can be used to scoop up food as silverware is not traditionally used in rural areas. Instead food is scooped up with the right hand.

As for the meals themselves, you’ll find stewed meat [Recipe] – like goat, lamb, and beef – often very spicy and even with curry powder, thanks to India’s influence. Braised greens [Recipebalance the meal out – such as kale, collards, and more. To make the meal stretch further, cornmeal might be added to thicken it up. A group called the Maasai people used to live off of a mixture of cow’s blood and milk, saving the meat for special occasions, however even they now consume cornmeal (ugali) and milk for the main part of their diet.

Elephant crossing a river in Kenya. Photo by Dmitri Markine.

Fish is plentiful on the coastline and often served up smoked or dried. You might enjoy it with a fresh ginger beer – not unlike the one we made for The Gambia [Recipe] which has a bit of fresh lemon juice added. Slurp, yum. They might also have tea or coffee – two of the countries greatest agricultural assets.

If you’re still hungry, street vendors sell all sorts of grilled chicken and beef, as well as roasted corn with chilies and lime juice – spicy, spicy [Recipe].

To cool things off, most meals end with fresh fruit – anything from mango, to banana, coconut, or baobab fruit fit the bill.

What are your favorite foods from this region?

All maps, photos, and flag are courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.


  1. Jessica Bennett says

    That all sounds good (well, I think I could live without the cow’s blood). Specifically, I’d love to try the baobab.

    • Sasha Martin says

      I’m all about trying new fruits – I was just thinking yesterday how refreshed I feel after eating an entire meal made of nothing but fruit (we had giant plums for breakfast – Ava’s request).

  2. Amazing how modern Kenya is…not what I imagined. The news is full of negative things going on and pictures of poverty and suffering, depression and so on…
    Love the picture with BLUE ROOFS and the LAVENDAR picture with PINK SUNSET –
    Proud handsome people – good food…can’t imagine why anyone would want to leave and come to America – land of the “free”.

  3. charles says

    I agree with you Susan! The news agencies treat Africa the same way they treat airplanes: They only report about the ones that crush. On the contrary, most countries, like Kenya, have wonderful food, charitable people and a beautiful weather all year round. The city of Nairobi is actually a land of the eternal Spring!

  4. Wanjiru says

    Awesome. I came to your website via link and the first place I look is my homeland Kenya, and see this wonderful post. You’ve succeeded in making me hungry!

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