Kenya is one of Africa’s most popular destinations thanks to its stunning nature and colorful culture. Kenya is also known for its world-class cuisine and visitors will have the chance to taste delicious traditional dishes that cannot be found in Kenyan restaurants abroad.
The Kenyan gastronomy is as varied as its culture. Tourists will be able to appreciate outstanding meat, barbecues, and freshwater fish inland, while the coast will offer them spicy coconut milk curries and rice.
In this article, foreign visitors will learn about Kenyan gastronomy and eating habits, including:
- Typical Kenyan food and drinks
- Places to eat in Kenya
- Food safety advice for Kenya
What Do People Eat in Kenya?
The typical food of Kenya includes a great variety of flavors, there is something for every palate here. The Kenyan society is multicultural and travelers will find a blend of Swahili, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisines, especially on the coast and in places like Mombasa.
Here are some of the main ingredients that can be found in restaurants and food markets in Kenya:
- Freshwater fish
- Green vegetables
Typical food in Kenya, Africa
Kenyan restaurants are rich with traditional and re-imagined recipes. No matter what part of the country one is exploring, it is easy to discover new dishes and flavors.
What kind of food do they eat in Kenya for breakfast?
Breakfast tends to be light compared to Western standards. Kenyans drink sweet chai tea accompanied by fresh fruit and/or bread. Coffee can be also found everywhere and is often grown locally.
Those who prefer to take in more calories in the morning opt for mendazi, sweets that can be compared to donuts, and vibibi, delicious rice and coconut pancakes.
Traditional Kenyan dishes for lunch and dinner
There are plenty of choices when it comes to Kenyan main dishes. Some of the most famous ones are:
- Ugali, a starchy staple food made of maize flour often accompanying beef and stews
- Sukuma wiki, sautéed collard greens
- Githeri, a one-pot casserole of maize and beans often accompanied by avocado
- Chapati, a soft and layered fried bread
- Mukimo, a mashed vegetable meal made with potatoes, peas, maize, and pumpkin or spinach leaves
- Maharagwe, a red kidney bean stew cooked in coconut milk
- Mishkaki, smoky barbecued meat skewers
- Karanaga, a beef and potato stew served with ugali
- Pilau, flavorful rice with meat and vegetables
Where to Eat in Kenya
Tourists have several options available for dining out in Kenya, some of which will make for memorable experiences.
In general, food in Kenya is inexpensive, especially outside of the greatest urban centers and when choosing traditional food. Meals are also considered a communal time in Kenya for friends and family to come together.
Foreign visitors may be surprised to learn Kenyans eat with their hands (in particular, they use the right hand for food.) That is why it is particularly important to wash one’s hands before starting the meal.
It is common for tourists to ask for a spoon or fork. Make sure to hold cutlery and touch bowls and silverware with the right hand.
Tipping is optional. High-end restaurants and hotels may add a 10% service charge to the final bill.
Dining options in Kenya
Both street food enthusiasts and lovers of fine dining will find establishments to their taste in Kenya. Here are some examples:
- Restaurants high-end establishments can be found in cities like Nairobi (perfect for carnivorous) and Mombasa (a more seafood-oriented place.) Most hotels offer restaurant service.
- Lodges and Camps make for a truly unforgettable meal surrounded by nature and the Kenyan bush.
- Hotelis (also called simply ‘hotels’) are affordable roadside diners that cater to locals mostly.
- Nyama Choma is the Kenyan name for barbecue restaurants. Patrons choose their cut and wait for it to be cooked.
- Street vendors and fast-food carts can be found easily, especially in a Kenyan food market. They sell, among others, roasted corn cobs, depp-ried yams, and sambusas (stuffed deep-fried savory pastry similar to Indian samosas.)
Kenyan Food and Water Safety Advice
Most of Kenyan dishes are thoroughly cooked, making them safer to eat than raw foods. However, diners should make sure that the meal is piping hot when served.
For that reason, for example, it is best to avoid buffets where food has potentially been sitting on the counter for hours. It is also advisable to prefer fruit and vegetables that can be peeled. Choose dairy products that have been pasteurized. Bush and game meat should be avoided unless served in a high-end restaurant.
Although it is part of the Kenyan experience to enjoy a meal in the company of others, it is best to avoid sharing food, drink, and utensils to ensure a healthy and safe holiday in Kenya.
Can you drink tap water in Kenya?
It is preferable to drink bottled water in Kenya, especially if one is not sure of the quality of the local tap water and pipes. Thirsty patrons should ask for no ice in their drinks and visitors should choose treated or bottled water to brush their teeth.
Water from pools, tubs, and freshwater sources such as streams and ponds must not be ingested.