In my guide to the top traditional Kenyan foods, I introduced you to one of the most popular dishes in Kenya, Ugali. I also gave you the top 10 places to eat traditional Kenyan dishes in Nairobi, and I assure you that Ugali will be on the menu.

The word “Ugali” is a Bantu language term that is derived from the Swahili language. You cannot come to Kenya and fail to eat Ugali. That is like visiting Paris for the first time and not taking a photo at the Eiffel Tower (I love Paris if you cannot already tell).

Ugali is so popular in Kenya, that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, ate it on his very first trip to Kenya. He enjoyed some Ugali and fish (“Samaki”). Barrack Obama, former US president, has also talked of how he used to eat Ugali with his sister.

Some tribes in Kenya like the Luhya tribe even believe that if you have not eaten Ugali for dinner, then you are sleeping on an empty stomach, regardless of whatever else you have eaten. So what is this “Ugali”?

Ugali is an African meal made by mixing maize flour (or corn meal) with hot water consistently until it reaches a stiff or dough-like consistency, over a fire. Ugali goes by different names in Kenya and the sub-Saharan Africa including “nsima” or “nshima” in Malawi and Zambia, “pap” or “mealie pap” in South Africa, and “sadza” in Zimbambwe.

Different tribes in Kenya also have different names for this meal. They include “ngima” by the Kikuyus, and “obhusuma” by the Luhyas. Maize flour is the common ingredient for making Ugali, but you can also use sorghum or millet flour.


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