Ugali

June 2, 2021mayurisjikoni

What is Ugali?

Ugali is like a porridge but much more dense made from white maize meal or maize flour. It is the staple diet of the indigenous people of East Africa. Also known as Nsima it is generally enjoyed with a vegetable and/or meat stew. People at the coast and around Lake Victoria enjoy it with fish. Ugali is also served with nyama choma which is grilled meat and kachumbari, a tomato onion salad. One of the most easiest dish to prepare, it is not only rich in fiber but also is a good source of carbohydrates, minerals and Vitamin B. And it is gluten free and vegan friendly.

This post was first published on 25/10/2012 , renewed on 02/06/2021

Ugali Eating Etiquette

Generally the cooked ugali is placed on a platter in the middle and everyone takes a bit from it and enjoys it. Ugali is best enjoyed with your hand rather than a spoon or fork. A small lump of the mixture is rolled into a ball using one hand. A depression is made in the middle with the thumb and it is used to scoop the stew.

Nowadays in restaurants people rather use spoon and fork. However, on the roadside kibandas (small eateries), ugali is eaten with the fingers.

History

Not much is known about the food culture on the Eastern part of Africa. I say eastern and not only Kenya as back then East Africa was one huge land and not divided as it is today. Millet and sorghum ugali was prepared before the Portuguese introduced maize or corn. During the British Rule, the white landowners began to cultivate maize in abundance. The workers were sometimes paid in form of maize kernels.

Most people enjoy ugali made from maize meal but nowadays the more health conscious ones have gone back to using millet and sorghum.

Over time mills were set up to grind the maize or corn and ready made maize meal or corn meal flour was available to all. In the villages, ready made flours are available but the more traditional families still prefer to grind it at home using stones.

Ugali like preparation is common in many other African countries. It sometimes varies in consistency, may contain a mixture of flours and usually known by different names.

Important Facts

  • I remember when growing up there was a severe drought in Kenya and US decided to send ship load of maize meal but the yellow variety. No one was interested in using the yellow maize meal or cornflour as then ugali does not taste the same. So it paramount that the flour is made from white maize or corn. Also it should not be fine but should have the texture of coarse semolina.
  • Maize meal, corn meal or maize flour is NOT the same as cornflour or cornstarch.
  • While salt is not added when preparing Ugali, you can enjoy it with some salted butter.
  • The consistency of ugali is that which can be molded. When it is served on a platter it maintains its shape. However, for toddlers and the elderly, ugali is made in milk and cooked to a softer consistency.
  • Maize meal or corn flour is also used to prepare a drinkable porridge which is called Uji.
  • Left over ugali is enjoyed with stew. However, modern families like to cut leftover ugali into chips or French fries style and deep fry them. It is enjoyed as a snack with some ketchup.

 

Today’s Scenario

As more people both men and women take up jobs, most don’t have time to cook and the food scene is fast changing to fast food like burgers, pizza and chips (French Fries). If meals are cooked at home then ugali till features on the menu at least 2-3 times a week.

Memories

Growing up my grandmother frowned if we ever asked for Ugali. But my brother and I would sneak out to the room where our house help stayed to enjoy ugali with him. Can’t believe we use have it even after we’d had our normal Gujarati meal!

Now no more sneaking out to enjoy this healthy dish, I make it at least once a week. We love to have it with Maharage which is a kidney bean stew, with sukuma wiki (stir fried collard/ collard green). When fresh amaranth leaves (chicha) is available them I make a stew with that. I also love nsima or sima with Gujarati style Tuvar Dal. Sometimes I mix both amaranth leaves and kidney beans to make a stew which hubby loves to have with Ugali.

Ingredients Required To Prepare Ugali:

Maize meal or corn meal – white variety

Water – normal tap water

NB: The amount that I prepare is enough for two. However, for the common man that would be enough for one. Normally, they have one heavy meal only and ugali tends to keep away hunger pangs for a long period of time. Either lunch or dinner is a light meal.

Video: How To Prepare Ugali

UGALI RECIPE

mayurisjikoni
Ugali is like a porridge but much more dense made from white maize meal or maize flour. It is the staple diet of the indigenous people of East Africa. Ugali or Nsima as it is known in Kenya, is generally enjoyed with a vegetable and/or meat stew.
5 from 9 votes
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Main Meal
Cuisine Kenyan
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup maize meal / corn meal
  • 2 cups normal water

Instructions
 

  • Heat water over medium heat in a deep pan. Make sure you take a pan with a handle.
  • Sprinkle about 1 tbsp of the maize meal while the water comes to a boil.
  • Add the maize meal or cornmeal and keep on stirring with a strong wooden spoon.
  • Keep stirring and pressing the mixture against the sides of the pan to break up the lumps.
  • As the mixture becomes thicker, it becomes more difficult to mix but keep mixing and breaking up the lumps.
  • The mixture with begin to come away from the sides of the pan.
  • Allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • At this point either transfer the ugali to a platter from the pan. Place the plate over the pan and turn it upside down.
  • Or you can transfer to a small heatproof bowl. Pat it down into shape. Place a plate over the bowl and turn it over.
  • Enjoy piping hot ugali with your favourite stew or curry.

Notes

  • It is important to keep mixing the mixture and break up the lumps. Don't serve ugali with lumps.
  • For a softer consistency, add ½ - 1 cup extra water.
  • Best to prepare Ugali just before you are about to have your meal.
  • Cooking Time will vary according to the quantity of ingredients used.
Keyword how to prepare ugali, ugali recipe

Pin For Later:

A little request:

If you do try this recipe then please either

  • add a comment below,
  • send a picture to my email mayuri.ajay.patel62@gmail.com
  •  tag me as #mayuri_jikoni on Instagram
  • or tag me on Twitter as #Mayuri1962

 



 

30 Comments

  • Chef Mireille

    February 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    learning a lot about kenyan cuisine from you

  • Pari Vasisht

    July 10, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Are the red beans same as kidney beans? Learnt a recipe from a new cuisine here. Thanks for linking it to ONLY gluten free.

  • Bajan Cou Cou – Caribbean Polenta | The Schizo Chef

    August 29, 2020 at 4:51 am

    […] it is one part of the national dish of Flying Fish & Coo-Coo. Other African versions include ugali or […]

  • Arvinda

    June 2, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    Hello, in South Africa we call it pap.
    I have a recipe that includes bindi and potatoe to a topping of pap and cheese, if you are interested.
    Thank you for all the tips and delicious recipes

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 3, 2021 at 11:16 am

      That is an interesting combination. Would love to try that out.

    2. Lata Lala

      June 9, 2021 at 1:27 pm

      5 stars
      Made from maize meal this Ugali recipe, Kenyan staple food is what I have never heard of. As I always say, Mayuri your passion for food and the way you present lesser known cuisines is such a delightful read always.

      1. mayurisjikoni

        June 9, 2021 at 5:50 pm

        Thank you so much Lata. Am glad you learnt a bit about the Kenyan cuisine.

  • Azlin Bloor

    June 3, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    5 stars
    Such a wonderful post, Mayuri! I’m so glad that you are running a series on Kenyan food on Foodies+. I’m looking forward to learning all these dishes from you, especially so I can dip this ugali in them!

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 3, 2021 at 6:08 pm

      Thank you so much Azlin for the opportunity. Most of the dishes are very simple, at least the veggie ones. Even meat stew doesn’t require too many ingredients.

  • Seema Sriram

    June 6, 2021 at 11:00 am

    5 stars
    You bring food history to live. I love the way you explain the origins of these lesser known foods. As a food blogger these are valued, authentic information. Someday, will love to try my hand at Kenyan cuisine.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 6, 2021 at 2:50 pm

      Thank you so much Seema, in fact there are quite a large community of Kenyans living in Australia. So if ever you come across an African grocery store or Indian you may find white maize meal.

  • Archana

    June 8, 2021 at 10:43 am

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious and delighted to see this yum traditional Kenyan dish! Thanks for sharing it with us! Ugali sounds so easy to make, but I suspect it can be tricky, especially if you mess with the proportions.
    Can I use the makai ka atta to make Ugali? I will love to try it out!

    Hee sneaking out to eat Ugali after a meal sounds just like what I would have done! 😀

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 9, 2021 at 5:55 pm

      Thank you Archana as easy as it looks, the proportion of water to flour is important otherwise you land up with a lumpy mass with raw flour in the lumps. Yellow maize meal one taste different, more sweetish and also the texture will be sticky. But go ahead and try it.

  • Jayashree T.Rao

    June 9, 2021 at 10:17 am

    5 stars
    Ugali is an interesting dish. Good to know about the Kenyan cuisine through your blogs Mayuri. I hope to try it sometime, I must find the maize meal here. It reminds of the mudde we do, something similar with millets.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 9, 2021 at 5:52 pm

      Thank you so much Jayashree. Here they also make ugali with ragi which actually is a bit like mudde. It is more digestible for toddlers and the elderly.

  • Lathiya

    June 9, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    5 stars
    This is a new recipe for me but it’s interesting that it required just 2 ingredients. I see there is so much tradition behind this recipe as to how to eat and so. Thanks for giving those detail about this new recipe.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 9, 2021 at 5:49 pm

      Thank you so much Lathiya, am glad you found the recipe interesting.

  • Jagruti’s Cooking Odyssey

    June 9, 2021 at 11:55 pm

    I love east African cuisine, most of the recipes are prepared with a few and very basic ingredients, also so easy to prepare. My in-laws often talk about Ugali recipes, yet to try in my kitchen.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 10, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      Nice to hear you love East African cuisine. Try out ugali.

  • Padma Veeranki

    June 10, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Ugali recipe made from maize meal sounds interesting! A new recipe to me…never heard of! Thanks for the the detailed information about this new recipe!

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 10, 2021 at 2:17 pm

      Thank you so much Padma, where you are there is a large Kenyan community so perhaps you’d be able to source the maize meal that specializes in African food.

      1. Poonam bachhav

        June 12, 2021 at 6:28 am

        5 stars
        Enjoy reading your informative posts and I am so glad to have learnt a bit about Kenyan Cuisine. Ugali, a staple Kenyan food made from maize meal sounds healthy and I would love to pair it with creamy and spicy poppy seeds curry.

      2. mayurisjikoni

        June 12, 2021 at 10:22 am

        Would have never thought of pairing ugali with a creamy curry, but there is always a first time.

  • Preethicuisine

    June 10, 2021 at 3:29 pm

    5 stars
    Ugali with just two ingredients sounds so interesting. Kenyan cuisine has many simple and amazing recipes. Would love to try this traditional recipe sometime. Loved reading every bit of the write up.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 11, 2021 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you so much Preethi and hoping you will get an opportunity to try out Ugali.

  • Sapana

    June 11, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    5 stars
    I have never used white maize flour in my cooking but this porridge sounds so interesting and I am sure it must be so satisfying to enjoy with any curry. Thank you for posting Kenyan heritage recipes and letting us know about them.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 12, 2021 at 10:24 am

      Thank you Sapana and you’re welcome. It was till I went to India that I got to know about the yellow corn meal.

  • Sasmita Sahoo

    June 12, 2021 at 7:41 am

    Ugali !!!! It has an interesting name and sounds like porridge we make.
    Preparing from maize flour must be making the dish a little dense. LOvely write-up about this dish from Kenya…

    1. mayurisjikoni

      June 12, 2021 at 10:21 am

      Thanks Sasmita, yes it is dense and the reason that when one consumes it, they don’t feel hungry for a long time.

  • The Surprisingly Simple Training of the World’s Fastest Marathoner – Wealth Creation Investing

    November 6, 2021 at 8:34 am

    […] and vegetables, lots of Kenyan tea, some meat, and a generous daily helping of favorite food—ugali, a dense maize-flour porridge. When it comes to supplements, Kipchoge told me he takes […]

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Post Next Post

Example Colors

%d bloggers like this: