Ugali: Africa’s Favourite Mealtime Staple

Most people know Kenya as a country in Africa that is made up of many different cultures and languages. Kenya also shares its borders with Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and the world's longest beach which is one of their iconic landmarks. One food item specific to Kenya is ugali which many people may know as the dish Ugol or Ugali Porridge.

Ugali is a type of porridge made from stiff dough or fermented batter from maize. It is central to many East African cultures and Kenya’s most popular side dish. There are different consistency standards of ugali based on cooking time, region and according to individual preference - also thick like porridge, thin for crepes, poring for thin crêpe-like pancakes and others). It is mainly eaten with a stew or a curry but can also be eaten as a “dry” meal with a soup. In Uganda and Tanzania, it is eaten morning, noon and night; in Kenya it's most popular at lunchtime to accompany red meat stews like nyama choma), and chicken dishes (such as fried chicken). Ugali holds the sauce in a bowl for up to three hours. It has elements of both savoury and sweet since the maize flour has been lightly fermented with soda or yeast. The dish is almost always brownish-yellow, with rare white colour from vegetable addition sometimes seen. This artificial colouration is derived from Amadumbe flowers (Lantana camara) used by the older generation

It is one of Africa's oldest traditional foods. It is made from ground maize which comes from the same family as corn, or what North Americans and Europeans call maize or even in some places cornbread.


  • 500 gm (1 lb, or 2 heaped cups) corn meal/powder, cassava meal/powder (gari), or
  • polenta powder
  • ½ cup ghee or butter at room temperature
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 cups water


  • In a large double-based (or heavy-based) saucepan, put 4 cups of water, ghee and salt, and bring it to a boil.
  • In a bowl, add the meal and mix well with 2 cups of water to form a thick paste,
  • mashing all the lumps.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and pour the paste into the boiling water and with a
  • wooden spoon mix well.
  • Return to the heat and stir vigorously and continually until it forms a thick dough and
  • comes away from the sides of the pan.
  • Serve hot along with stews and curries.

Alternate Serving Method:

  • Pour the cooked Ugali out into a square tin, to a depth of about 1 –2 cm, allow to cool slightly, cut into squares or rectangles, and shallow fry in groundnut oil until golden brown on both sides. Remove onto kitchen paper to drain and serve hot with the above dishes.