Do you want to try an authentic African dish? Ugali is arguably the most common food in Kenyan households and is one of the few dishes which can be found in various African countries. Since the Portuguese introduced maize in Kenya during the 18th century, Ugali has become a crucial component in the local cuisines of East Africa.

Ugali served with fried fish and vegetables on a white plate.

What Is Ugali?

Ugali is one of the traditional African meals which require basic ingredients and no cutlery – you eat it with your hands! You prepare it by simply adding flour to boiled water and then mixing it until it forms a white or yellow cake with a thick consistency. You can eat it with various meats, vegetables, or sauces.

Where Does Ugali Come From?

Initially introduced by Portuguese traders, Ugali is a true African classic! Ugali is one of the many African dishes which have their origins in the traditional cuisines of various ethnic groups across the continent. This is originally from the Luhya people, who live in western Kenya. However, people from all over Africa eat it and has even become popular in parts of Europe and America.

Why is it popular?

It has been around for generations and is a staple food in many African households. It is an important source of carbohydrates, as well as providing essential vitamins and minerals. Additionally, it is incredibly easy to make with just two ingredients – flour and water – making it a cheap and accessible option for many.

Love African recipes? Try my Chicken Mafé, Banku with Tilapia Fish, and Chapati with beef stew.

fish,ugali, and kachumbari.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Water: For 4 servings, you need 4 cups of water.

Maize Flour: This is made out of maize flour, so you’ll need to get your hands on some if you want to try this recipe. You can find them at most African grocery stores or online. You can substitute yellow cornmeal or other types of flour but you will need to adjust the cooking time and water amount accordingly.

Salt: If you want some extra taste, add a pinch of salt to the mixture for flavor.

Butter/Margarine: Optional – Adding butter or margarine will give this recipe a richer flavor and make it a bit more indulgent! You can use either one and it’s up to you how much you would like to add.

How to Make Ugali: 3 Easy Steps

1. Slowly add maize flour to boiling water and keep stirring constantly until the mixture is thicker than mashed potatoes and thickens into a cake-like consistency.

2. Add salt to taste, as well as butter or margarine if desired.

3. Serve with various meats, vegetables, or sauces.

Cooking Tips

  • To make it softer, add more water.
  • To avoid small lumps, stir the mixture constantly while adding the flour.
  • If the mixture becomes too thick, add more water until you reach the consistency you desire.
  • Add salt to taste for extra flavor.
  • If you’re having trouble getting the mixture to form into a cake, cook it a few minutes longer to absorb the extra water until you reach the consistency you desire.
  • Add butter or margarine to the mixture for a richer flavor before cooking.
  • Always serve it hot, for an amazing taste.

Recipe Variations

  • Try adding cooked green vegetables such as spinach or kale for a healthier version.
  • For a spicy variation, mix in cumin and chili powder while cooking.
  • Add diced tomatoes or bell peppers to the mixture for an extra crunch or texture.
  • You can also use different types of flour, such as sorghum flour or millet flour.
  • You can add different flavors by using other herbs and spices, such as onions, garlic, ginger, or chili peppers.

How to Serve

You can enjoy them with meat stew, vegetables, or sauces – get creative!

Here are a few side dishes which pair well with Ugali:

  • Sukuma Wiki: This is a traditional Kenyan side dish of collard greens, onions and tomatoes. It’s the perfect way to get your daily dose of vegetables!
  • Kachumbari: A simple tomato and onion salad that goes great with any African meal. 
  • Stew: A delicious beef, chicken, or fish stew is the perfect side dish for a hearty meal. A vegetable stew is also a great option. 
  • Spicy Peanut Sauce: If you’re in the mood for something spicy, a peanut sauce is sure to hit the spot! Enjoy it over your cooked Ugali or as a dip.
  • Soup: Try one of our delicious African soups like cassava leaf soup or ewedu soup for a hearty meal.

How To Store

Ugali should be stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dry place. It can also be wrapped tightly with cling film or foil to help retain moisture.

To keep them fresh for longer periods of time, it is recommended to store them in the refrigerator on a shallow baking tray.

You can also freeze them, as long as it is sealed properly in a freezer-safe container. Make sure to consume them within two months for the best quality and taste.

To reheat, simply place them in the oven at a low temperature (not more than 350F) or reheat them in the microwave. This will help to keep their texture and flavor intact.

ugali with rice and other side dishes.


Are Fufu And Ugali The Same?

No, fufu and ugali are two different dishes. Fufu is an African dish made from boiled cassava flour, while Ugali is made from maize meal flour. Some may also confuse fufu corn with fufu and ugali. Fufu corn is a type of maize that looks similar to Ugali, but it’s actually made with ground and boiled corn instead of maize meal flour.

Is Ugali Eaten In America?

Yes, people from America eat ugali, as well as in other parts of the world. It’s a popular dish among the African diaspora and has gained popularity in recent years.

Is Ugali Gluten-Free?

Yes, this Kenyan dish is gluten-free. It contains white maize meal which is a grain-free ingredient.

What Is The Difference Between Ugali And Polenta?

Polenta is a type of cornmeal cooked into a thick porridge-like consistency. Ugali is made from maize meal and doesn’t have the same creamy texture as polenta.

Where To Buy Ugali Flour?

You can find them at most African grocery stores or online.

How Many Calories Does The Ugali Have?

There are about 120 calories in a serving of ugali. So this is a healthy, low-calorie option for a filling meal.

How Do You Eat Ugali?

You eat ugali by scooping it up with your hands and eating it like a cake. It’s best to enjoy it hot, so make sure to cook it until it’s nice and soft.

More African Recipes That You’ll Love:

African Ugali served with grilled fish.


Ugali is an iconic African dish that people from all over the continent have enjoyed for centuries. Ugali is simple to prepare, hearty, and filling – not to mention delicious! If you're looking for an authentic African culinary experience, be sure to give Ugali a try.
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine African
Servings 4
Calories 423 kcal


  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups cornmeal flour or maize meal


  • Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  • Stir in the cornmeal slowly, reduce heat to medium-low and continue stirring regularly, smashing any lumps with a spoon until it becomes thick and smooth about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool. Turn the pan on a plate and leave it covered until you serve it. 
  • Slice it into pieces as if you would cut a cake. Or form round pieces with your hand and serve. You can enjoy ugali with vegetables like sukuma wiki or your favorite piece of meat or fish.


Ugali can also be prepared from millet flour or sorghum. You can also add some salt to it to add some taste.


Calories: 423kcalCarbohydrates: 88gProtein: 11gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 18mgPotassium: 305mgFiber: 7gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 6IUCalcium: 165mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!

Similar Posts

5 from 23 votes (23 ratings without comment)

Leave a Reply

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

Recipe Rating

One Comment

  1. Annie Welch says:

    Do you have a tv channel doing meals