Wednesday, 21 September 2016 22:29

Tastes of Africa: Ugali

How to make and enjoy the renown African staple food

Ugali (pronounced oo-ga-ly) is a starchy dish and a component of many meals in Kenya. In fact, it is a staple food in many different sub-Saharan African countries and also goes by different names. Known as ‘Ugali’ in Kenya, in Rwanda and Burundi as ‘Ubugali’, in Uganda as ‘Posho’, in South Africa as ‘phuthu’, in Ghana as ‘Fufu’ and ‘nshima’ in Zambia.

It is usually served as an accompaniment to meat or vegetable stews, or greens commonly known as Sukuma Wiki. Traditionally, eating ugali involved pulling off a small ball of mush with your fingers. Form an indentation with your thumb, and use it to scoop up accompanying stews and other dishes. Or you can form larger balls with your hands or an ice cream scoop, place them in individual serving bowls and spoon stew around them.

Here is a shared recipe of Ugali; 4 to 6 Servings

- 2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of white finely ground corn flour. (Goya is one common brand in the US). This can be bought from most African groceries.


Heat 2 cups of water to boiling in a saucepan. Add a tablespoon of butter to the boiling water (for more flavor) and let it melt. Stir in the corn flour slowly, letting it fall through the fingers of your hand. Avoid forming lumps.

Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to mingle (stir) continuously with a wooden spoon and mash any lumps that keep forming. Add more corn flour until it is thicker than mashed potatoes.

Cook for three or four minutes, continuing to stir as the ugali thickens. This is the secret to a successful lump-free ugali. Place the ugali into a large serving bowl.

So what does it taste like to the newbie?

I prepared some Ugali for my friend Anne - she was tasting it for the first time. While I was preparing it, she thought it was a Polenta-like dish - an Italian dough made from cornmeal. Then she also realized that it had some resemblance of Grits, which is of Native American origin.

After tasting it, this is what she had to say: “Ugali is more like Grits but with the consistency of Polenta”. I was relieved that she at least liked it more than she had thought she would!

How do you make your Ugali? Tweet me: @mtibba. Don’t forget to subscribe for more African recipes!


Tibba Murungi Kabugu

“I’m a child of Uganda from the kingdom of Ankole, living in Aurora, CO. Engineering Coordinator for a Starwood Hotel. I love film and fashion, aspects of which have influenced a bigger part of my life. Wisdom does not come overnight. So I am still learning.”


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