Recipe: Beef Suqaar

Sometimes we need a meal that can fill every corner of our heart, one that can bump out those rough and tumble emotions that bog us down… the ones that keep us from being happy.


Enter Suqaar, from Somalia.

Suqaar (pronounced sooh-car)┬áis one of Somalia’s most beloved dishes and can be made with any meat, from lamb, to chicken, to beef. Generally the meat is cut into very small pieces, about 1/2″ cube or smaller. The meal is then rounded out with an assortment of veggies – usually carrots, bell pepper, onion, and -sometimes – potato.

There are no complex spices.

There are no convoluted cooking techniques.

Just good food, hot and happy.

While some like to add cumin, most recipes omit any spice but salt.

The flavors are simple and reflect the Italian influence on Somali food (hello, garlic and onion!). The meat and vegetable juices reduce to form a luscious gravy … and a delicate, controlled flurry of cilantro adds the finishing touch.

Suqaar can be scooped up with flatbreads, but it is most commonly served with rice.

And, speaking of rice, have you heard this beautiful Somali proverb?


Little by little, we heal.

May it be so.

Serves 4 (with rice)


1 small onion, sliced in half moons
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green bell pepper, chopped
vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs cubed beef
1 cup beef broth, moreas needed
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 yellow potatoes, cubed
chili pepper, for heat (optional)

handful cilantro, chopped or torn


Find a lovely corner of Somalia to cook in.

Perhaps with a little sunshine. And a tower.

Photo of the ancient mosque of Zeila in Somali. -Walter Callens

Photo of the ancient mosque of Zeila in Somali. -Walter Callens

Once you find such a spot, fry the onion, garlic, and bell pepper in vegetable oil until soft and the house smells like glory.

Then (and only then!) add the beef, broth, carrots, and potatoes. Finally, splash in the broth.

Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. The mixture will start out thin and soupy, but gradually thicken into more of a gravy.

Stir frequently, especially as the mixture begins to dry out.

Here’s what you’re looking for:

If the meat is tough, add some more liquid and keep cooking until it’s completely tender.

Garnish with a handful of chopped cilantro and a smile.

The double carbs with potatoes and rice is just perfect.

Yum, yum.


Recipe adapted from My Somali Kitchen and The World Cookbook for Students.

Opt In Image
Hungry for more?
Be notified when National Geographic releases my memoir.

Simply fill in your details below.


  1. Please – How does one pronounce Sugaar? shugar or sujr or what?…phonetics…hard to do on a computer

  2. Yum!

  3. Brian S. says:

    Do you think it would be a good idea to brown the beef before adding it to the vegetable mixture?

    • aunty eileen says:

      Yes, it is a best way… to brown the meat first.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I love browning the meat and when I’m cooking for my family, I almost always do. None of the recipes I looked at (and there were many) called for this step… though I’m sure there are some out there that will prove me wrong. I wonder if it’s something about keeping the flavors delicate… Another possibility is that many recipes use leftover (precooked) meats, so this step wouldn’t be as helpful as with uncooked meat. Great question.

      • aunty eileen says:

        a good way to quickly brown or lightly brown is under the broiler… especially for leftover (precooked) meats.

  4. Samantha says:

    I’m really looking forward to trying out this recipe one day! :D I just have a small question… does the recipe call for 3 baby carrots, as opposed to regular ones? It might be easy for others to make the mistake of putting too much carrot in ^^;

    • Sasha Martin says:

      They are on the small side (see picture), . .. I think of “baby carrots” as just the 2 inch long peeled ones, like the kind kids take to school in their lunch boxes – that wouldn’t be enough. Enjoy, when you get to it… ha… :)

  5. Inaya Shujaat says:

    Garlic and onions are NOT the result of any Italian influence on Somali cuisine. This is a Euro-centric error. Garlic comes from Central Asia, not Europe, and has been used in Eastern cuisine for a much longer time than in European or Western cuisine.

    The two strongest influences on Somali food come from Indians and Arabs.

  6. Somalis do not browned meat beforehand the reason being meat grave will flavor the Veggie.

Speak Your Mind