Ugali is a Kenyan staple. Variations can be found in different cuisines throughout the African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. In my house, we eat ugali nearly every other day. Since there are so many stews and soups that you can eat with ugali, you won’t get bored if you eat it several days in a row. To make the perfect ugali, all you need is patience—so you know when to stop adding flour. Too much will make it crumbly or lumpy. Make sure that you add enough flour so that your ugali doesn’t end up with a porridge-like consistency. The only way you can perfect your ugali is to keep trying until you are flawless at it. The best way to eat the dish is to pinch off a small bit with your fingers, roll it into a ball, and then use your thumb to make a small pocket in the middle to help you scoop up your side dish.


Servings: 4–6


4 cups water
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (if needed) of maize, millet, or sorghum flour (can be mixed with cassava flour)


Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, then pour in some of the maize flour. Allow the water to keep boiling for a few minutes, and then begin to turn the mixture with a long wooden spoon. Sprinkle in more flour and continue mixing. The mixture should start to thicken as you keep stirring and adding more flour.  

Now the work starts. Hold the pot with mittens or a cloth to prevent burning your hands, and continue to fold the flour into itself. The ugali will become firmer and more difficult to turn. Press the ugali against the wall of the pot with the spoon, then mix it back into the middle of the pot. Repeat this process several times. Let the ugali stay in the middle of the pot, and turn down the heat to low. After a few minutes, press out and return the ugali to the middle of the pot again.

Remove it from the heat.

Scoop the ugali onto a plate, and cover the plate with the pot for a few minutes as you dip the spoon into some water. When taken out of the pot, the ugali will be shapeless. Use the wet spoon to press the ugali until it is rounded. Serve with meat, chicken, fish, or vegetables on the side.

This recipe was provided courtesy of Nairobi Kitchen and has been edited.