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sliced ugali, sukuma and kachumbari on a plate.

Ugali Recipe

Learn how to make East African ugali with this tasty and easy Kenyan cornmeal recipe. Perfect to serve with sukuma or your favourite stews.
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine African, Kenyan, Tanzanian
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 5
Calories 488kcal


  • Wooden Spoon - to stir
  • Cooking Pot - to cook the ugali in
  • Cup - for adding the ingredients.
  • Plate - to transfer the cooked ugali to for serving.


  • 4 cups cornmeal
  • 2 cups water


  • First, switch on your stove to high. Using a medium-sized and deep pot, bring water to boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and set ½ a cup of water aside.
  • To the pot, add the cornmeal, a quarter of a cup at a time, and use a wooden spoon to stir, using circular motions. At this point, it should be slightly thick and resemble porridge.
  • Continue adding the cornmeal a little at a time, and stirring until all of it has been used up and the mixture is firm. This will take about 5 minutes.
  • Using the wooden spoon, poke small holes on the surface of the ugali and add the previously preserved hot water to the holes.
  • Next, cover and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes stirring halfway through, or until all the water has evaporated and the bottom of the pan is browned up but not burning.
  • Use the wooden spoon to transfer the ugali to the side of the pot. You will know the ugali is cooked when it easily pulls away from the bottom of the pot and starts to give a strong corn aroma. A small ball pinched between the thumbs will also feel slightly sticky and not grainy.
  • Finally, run the wooden spoon under tap water (this helps with the shaping). Continue to shape it in the pot until you have an almost round ball.
  • Take the pot from the stove and tip it upside down onto a plate, so the ugali now falls to the plate. You can shape it again using the wooden stick.
  • Serve ugali hot with your favorite stews or grilled dishes.


You will know the ugali is cooked when it easily pulls away from the bottom of the pot and starts to give a strong aroma of corn. A small ball pinched between the thumbs will not be too sticky or grainy. Also, an unproven theory is that a ball of ugali that has cooked through, will not stick when thrown against a wall and will instead fall down.
  • Creaminess - make your ugali creamy by stirring in a tablespoon of margarine or butter.
  • Salt - add ⅓ of a teaspoon of salt, for a salty flavor.
  • Milk - substitute half of the water with milk. Just make sure to keep an eye on the boiling liquid as unlike water, milk will spill over when boiled.



  • It will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days and you can freeze it for up to 6 months.
  • Cooled ugali normally forms a thick layer on the surface, especially when it has been out longer than a day. Before reheating, peel this layer so it can heat up properly.



USING A PAN - allow a pan to heat under medium heat then add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Once the oil has heated, slice ugali pieces and pan-fry each side for 3-5 minutes. You can test one by cutting through; it should be all warmed up.
IN THE MICROWAVE - slice into thick pieces (each similar to the size of a serving of cake), place in suitable microwave-friendly containers, and reheat at 600 watts for 2 minutes. It should be heated through to the middle. If not, simply pop it back in the microwave for another 1-2 minutes.
RE-COOKING - To give leftovers a new life, slice leftover ugali into small pieces and add to boiling water. Stir using a wooden spoon and once it bubbles, add new cornmeal and cook as usual.


Calories: 488kcal | Carbohydrates: 93g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 10mg | Potassium: 410mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 2g | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 4mg