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Almost every African country has its version of ugali. For example, Nigerians have Fufu or Garri and South Africans call it Pap.
Ugali is Kenya’s national dish, and it’s normally served with sukuma wiki (finely sliced kale leaves fried with tomatoes and onions).

Ugali brings back fond memories of my childhood. A time when my friend and I would play detective – with aspirations of becoming Kenya’s version of Nancy Drew – and contemplate forming our own Famous Five group. I can tell you from experience that a detective’s work is no walk in the park!

It involves following all sorts of suspicious-looking people, sometimes for up to 2 hours. In hindsight, probably not the safest situation for two 11 year olds. However, after a day (2 hours) of espionage and examining evidence, I would always return home famished and without fail there would be a plate of hot ugali waiting for me. Those were the days!

Today, I share with you how I make my favorite meal – Kenyan Ugali with Fried Tilapia Fish. Ugali is very simple to make. The only preparation you need is to set aside your ingredients and bring the water to a boil. Easy!


Kitchen Equipment needed to make Ugali

  • A medium-sized pot – Ugali is normally made using aluminium pots known as sufurias. A good quality non-stick pot is ok and will not compromise on the results.
  • A wooden spoon – to mix up the ugali.

What can be eaten with Ugali?

Ugali is the perfect side dish. It can be served with stewed/grilled meats or vegetables. Green leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach go well with ugali. Braised cabbage is another good option.

Where to buy Ugali Flour?

In Africa, ugali flour is readily available in most local supermarkets. In Europe and the United States, you can easily find ugali flour in the African and Asian markets under the name white corn flour or white maize flour.

  • Recipe by: Kate Hahnel
  • Course: Side dish
  • Cuisine: Kenyan
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Servings: 4
  • Prep time: 5-10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 15 minutes
  • Calories: 405 kcal per serving


  • 2 cups of white maize or cornflour
  • 4 cups of water


  1. Set the stove on medium heat. Add 750ml water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Add the maize flour to the pot with the boiling water and use the wooden spoon to mix. Make sure to add the flour a little at a time.
  2. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes, using circular motions, until you obtain a firm mixture.
  3. Use your wooden spoon to make small holes on the surface of the ugali mixture. Add the rest of the water to these holes, reduce the heat to a low then cover.
  4. Check every 5 minutes and mix every time. You want to do this until all the water has evaporated and the bottom of the pot is browning – it shouldn’t burn. Set the pot aside.
  5. Using a small bowl, scoop small balls of ugali and roll around the bowl to form small balls. Serve with the main dish of your choice, such as the fried tilapia (recipe below).


It is advisable to add the maize flour a little at a time as you stir. The ugali tends to get stiff as it cooks. Do not let this intimidate you. Just add more strength when stirring.


This recipe is very simple. I would advise you to buy fish that has already been de-scaled as this will save you a lot of time. The whole tilapia fish you buy from Afro-shops in Europe and the States is normally de-scaled and frozen. To prepare the fish, make sure you de-freeze it first. In case you are buying your tilapia fish from the local farmers market, you can ask them to do it for you. Most vendors will willingly do it for you, sometimes at a small extra cost.


  • 2 medium-sized whole and fresh Tilapia fish
  • ½ litre vegetable oil (such as sunflower oil) for frying – I would not advise you to use olive oil as the smoking point of olive oil is considerably higher than the temperature for frying foods.
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 50ml sunflower oil for the marinade
  • Grated rind of half a lemon
  • Some paper towel
  • Corriander to garnish – optional
  • Course: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: Kenyan
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Servings: 2
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Resting time: at least 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 15-20 minutes


  1. Clean the fish properly under running water. Set the fish aside on a chopping board. Using the paper towels, dry each cavity properly. 2.
  2. Using the tip of a sharp chef’s knife, make diagonal slits on the surface of the fish (slits should be about ½ cm apart from each other).
  3. Proceed to prepare the marinade. In a small bowl, mix salt, garlic powder, lemon juice, grated lemon rind, turmeric and oil.
  4. Add the marinade to the fish. I prefer to use my hands to massage the marinade in the middle of the slits and on both surfaces of the fish. Transfer the fish to a large plate, cover with clingfilm or saran wrap and place in the fridge to marinate. Let the fish marinate for at least 15 minutes. The fish will taste even better if allowed to marinate overnight.
  5. Set the stove on medium heat. Add the oil to a medium-sized non-stick pot and let it heat. The oil should be very hot (you can use a deep-frying thermometer to check for a temperature of about 375 degrees).
  6. Carefully place the fish in the hot oil and allow it to fry for about 7-10 minutes until it obtains a nice brown color.
  7. Turn the fish carefully and let the other side also fry for about 7-10minutes or until it obtains a nice deep brown color.
  8. Transfer the fish to a paper towel covered plate. Your kitchen towel will also be ok. This will allow the fish to soak-off excess oil. You can serve the fish as it is with some green vegetables, or drizzle with a tomato-based sauce. I recommend the African red sauce (African Marinara sauce).


 Hi there, I am Kate, wife to a wonderful man and mother to two beautiful angels. I enjoy experimenting on new recipes during my free time. read more about me @


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