Vibibi – Kiswahili Pancakes

August 2, 2013mayurisjikoni
Blog post



What are Vibibi?

In general, Vibibi is a gluten free rice and coconut pancake. A typical East Africa Coastal or Kiswahili dish. Moreover, these small coconut flavored pancakes are served piping hot on the streets for breakfast. A small cup of kahwa, the Kiswahili black coffee flavored with ginger and vibibi… that’s truly a breakfast to die for. Unfortunately, these days I see less and less women selling vibibi as street food. However, that does not stop me from making some at home especially for Sunday Brunch. In fact, one pancake is called Kibibi and several are Vibibi.

Guest Post

Huma who blogs at Gheza -E -Shiriin requested that I share a Ramadan recipe as she is hosting RAMADAN – AN EVENT TO SHARE. Her blog name Gheza -e-Shiriin is so unique. Interestingly, it means Sweet Food. In regards to her blog, Huma has recipes influenced by many places…. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Dubai. Certainly, would love to try out her Aish Al Saraya a Lebnani Bread Pudding. And her photography is simply amazing. Do check out her space.

What I planned to make

When she sent me the invitation, I knew I had to feature Mombasa and a recipe from this coastal town. Besides the criteria of a traditional recipe, it had to be new on my blog. Hence, the famous Mahamri and Kaimati were out as I’ve already got those on the blog. And that’s when Vibibi came to my mind. Therefore, got down to hunting for the recipe. A few phone calls to my hubby’s friends mothers and got a perfect recipe which works very well.

A bit about the Kiswahili Food

Since Mombasa is predominantly a Muslim town, it certainly has a lot to offer in the way of cuisine. In fact, Mombasa is a port town with a natural harbour. Therefore, this made it easy for it to get occupied over the centuries by the Portuguese, Arabs and British. The British brought Indians from India to work on the railway, in the government offices, etc. This opened the doors for traders too. During the Arab era, traders came from Middle East in dhows.

Thus, it is not really surprising that the whole coastline of East Africa has a strong Arabic, Indian and British influence. The coastal cuisine is spiced up with spices brought from India and Middle East. In fact many of the dishes are quite similar to the Indian or Middle Eastern ones. Eventually, the locals started adding coconut to these dishes, which sets it apart from the recipes from the original places.

Mombasa Style Ramadan Food

During the Holy month of Ramadan, streets become alive with a variety of food that is prepared to break fasts. From coconut water, dates to cooked food. In the evening the streets are full of aroma from mahamri, kaimati, kebabs, chicken tikka, naan, mishkaki, keema and egg chapatis, samosa. Many buy mahamris and vibibi to enjoy during Suhur (pre-dawn meal). Shops are open till late, fairy lights are strung everywhere. Non Muslims too look forward to this holy month as it allows us to enjoy the festive feel too.

More About Vibibi – Kiswahili Pancakes

Traditionally, the recipe is made with soaked rice. Rice is soaked overnight in enough water. Next day, it is blended into a smooth paste using coconut milk. Unlike nowadays, previously it was a common practice to make the coconut milk at home. However, I’ve used canned coconut milk. Sugar, yeast and fresh grated coconut along with cardamom is added. Thereafter, the batter is allowed to ferment. Then, pancakes are made using the batter. The size of pancakes entirely is your choice. I prefer to make small ones. Traditionally, Vibibi is served on its own with kahwa.

Serving Suggestions:

  • I prefer to serve Vibibi with fresh fruits and honey. Therefore, I don’t add too much sugar in the batter.
  • Serve it with chopped nuts and grated coconut. Tastes amazing.
  • Have you tried Vibibi with Mbaazi? Its different and filling too.
  • A dollop of ice cream and some fruit piled on a kibibi makes an excellent dessert. Yes you read right, dessert.
  • Add vanilla extract for a different flavour.


Can you use Rice Flour to make Vibibi?

Certainly yes, if I forget to soak the rice the previous day, I use rice flour.

Recipe with Rice Flour:

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 200 -250 ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp instant active dry yeast
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ cup grated fresh coconut
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder

Because I use instant active dry yeast, there is no need to pre ferment it. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Allow the batter to ferment for at least 1-2 hours before making vibibi or pancakes.

Some more Pancake Recipes you may want to check out


Ingredients Required for Vibibi – Kiswahili Pancakes

I want to show how Vibibi is traditionally made using soaked rice.

Rice – any type of white rice. I’ve used thick rice that we get in the market.

Coconut Milk – I have used canned coconut milk

Fresh Coconut, grated – best to use fresh coconut as desiccated does not give the same taste.

Cardamom Powder – elachi,kadiamu

Sugar – I have used normal refined sugar

Yeast – I have used instant active dry yeast which I add directly to the batter. However, if you’re using active dry yeast which is not instant, you will need to ferment it first. Take ¼ cup warm water, add 1 tsp sugar and yeast. Mix and allow the mixture to ferment for 10 minutes or until it becomes bubbly.

Oil/ Butter – for vegan pancakes use oil of your choice. Tastes really good with coconut oil too.

Dietary Tips:

  • Gluten Free
  • Vegan



Vibibi are gluten free rice pancakes with coconut flavour from the Kiswahili Cuisine. Enjoy it for breakfast with the traditional kahwa.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 hrs 20 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine East Africa Coastal, Kiswahili
Servings 12


  • cups rice white
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar
  • cup thick coconut milk
  • ¼ cup fresh coconut grated
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder elachi
  • 1 tsp instant dry active yeast
  • oil/ butter for cooking the pancakes



  • Soak the rice overnight or for at least 6 hours in lukewarm water.
  • Put the rice in a sieve or strainer to drain out the water. Wash the rice under running water and let the water drain out completely.
  • Put the rice and coconut milk in the blender jug and process it to a smooth batter.
  • Pour the batter into a big bowl.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except the oil and mix it well.
  • Cover the bowl and allow the batter to ferment for 1-2 hours.
  • The batter should appear frothy.


  • Heat a frying pan with a tsp of oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, drop a ladleful (about ¼ cup) of the batter into the pan.
  • As it cooks tiny holes will appear on top. When the edges are light brown, flip the pancake over.
  • Add a little oil around it and cook till it is golden brown.
  • After each pancake is cooked, let the oil get a bit hot before adding the batter.
  • Repeat with the remaining batter.
  • Serve hot Vibibi on its own or with chopped fresh fruit and honey.½


  • Traditionally, water is added to the grated coconut and squeezed using a strainer or a strong cloth to get the thick milk. I used ready made canned coconut milk, as it gives a much better coconut taste.
  • If you’re in a cold place, place the bowl with batter in hot water. This will help the batter to ferment faster.
  • Adjust the amount of sugar according to your taste. Traditionally, about ½ cup is added to the batter. 
  • If you're not following a vegan diet, you can add an egg to the batter. If using an egg then add less coconut milk.
Keyword Rice and Coconut Pancake, Vibibi Recipe

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A little request:

If you do try this recipe then please either

  • add a comment below,
  • send a picture to my email
  •  tag me as #mayuri_jikoni on Instagram
  • or tag me on Twitter as #Mayuri1962





  • Gheza e shiriin

    August 3, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Thanks Mayuri Aunty ,for being a part of this celebration & sharing with us about mombassa culture. Loved having you. And received a very positive feedback from people regarding your post.

  • Mayuri's jikoni

    August 3, 2013 at 8:15 am

    You are welcome and I did read the lovely comments. Hope you keep in touch.

  • Jagruti Dhanecha

    November 8, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    First time I've seen this recipe, sounds delicious as I love coconut in my cooking.

  • Mayuri Patel

    November 9, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Jagruti, please try them, they are delicious. My old photo doesn't do much justice to the pancakes.

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