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Delicious Local Cuisines You Have to Try in Uganda

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Diane Du Plessis

Safari Travel Planner

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Called the ‘Pearl of Africa’ by Winston Churchill in 1908, Uganda is not only rich in wildlife and natural beauty but also offers visitors a diverse, flavourful and creative cuisine. Ugandan food consists of a delightful fusion of traditional African ingredients and Arab, Asian, and European influences, reflecting the country’s multicultural history.

Ugandan dishes are characterised by wholesome ingredients, earthy flavours, and convivial communal dining experiences. This article explores the local delicacies that every knowledgeable foodie should try on a safari in Uganda. Here are just a few of Uganda’s unique culinary delights:

Matoke, also called matooke, ibitoke, or iboshashi

This flavoursome banana stew is one of Uganda’s most traditional and beloved dishes. It’s deeply rooted in Ugandan culture, especially among the Baganda of central Uganda. Matoke refers specifically to the green, starchy bananas that are indigenous to the region.

To make the dish, matoke bananas are typically steamed or boiled until they become soft. This process gives matoke its unique, soft texture and mild flavour. Oil or ghee is used to sauté onions, tomatoes, bell peppers or other vegetables, after which the banana slices or chunks are added along with a bit of water. The pot is then covered and the matoke is allowed to steam on low heat, and stirred occasionally.

Some versions of the dish also add groundnut sauce, beef or chicken, and regional spices to enrich the flavour. When cooked, matoke has a mild flavour and a doughy consistency. It’s often served with sauces or stews made from beans, groundnuts, or meats. Eating this hearty dish in a traditional communal setting truly opens a window into the warm heart of Ugandan hospitality.

Luwombo, also known as oluwombo, or olubombo

Luwombo is often touted as Uganda’s national dish. It’s believed to have originated in the early 20th century in the Buganda Kingdom when it was first prepared for the Kabaka (king) of the Baganda. Luwombo is often reserved for special occasions, celebrations, and communal gatherings.

Luwombo is cooked in a special way. The stew can be made with chicken, beef, goat, or fish and often includes groundnut paste, vegetables, and traditional seasonings. Mushrooms are added to some versions. The meat or fish is first browned separately, then a sauce is prepared using the groundnut paste, tomatoes, onions, vegetables and spices.

The meat or fish is then combined with the sauce and generous amounts of the mixture are placed onto clean banana leaves. The banana leaves, which impart a unique flavour to the dish, are then folded into bundles to seal the contents and placed in a large pot. A little water is added, just enough to steam the food.

The pot is covered, and the dish is allowed to cook over a slow fire to let the flavours blend. Once cooked, luwombo is served with matoke, rice, or posho (a type of maize porridge that we’ll discuss below). It’s a deliciously rich, creamy and hearty dish and a must-try for anyone going on a tour in Uganda.

Rolex

This rolex has nothing to do with the famous watch brand! It’s a much loved and unique Ugandan street food item, and the name is believed to come from the phrase ‘rolled eggs’. Rolex consists of a chapati, a type of flatbread wrap or roti, that is rolled around a flavourful omelette.

The chapati is made with all-purpose flour, and the omelette consists of eggs, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. Sometimes cabbage or grated carrots are added, and it’s seasoned with salt, pepper and optional African bird’s eye chillies.

The chapatis are first cooked in a skillet with or without oil until slightly crispy. Then the beaten egg and finely chopped vegetable omelette is cooked on both sides in a heated frying pan until done, and then it’s placed on top of the chapati and rolled up. Some vendors add additional ingredients or sauces. This affordable, filling snack is the perfect meal on the go and is popular with both locals and tourists.

Posho, or Ugali

Plate of Posho or Ugali with some fish and greens
A plate of Posho or Ugali with some fish and greens

Posho is made from maize flour and it’s one of the primary sources of carbohydrates in the Ugandan diet, and forms an essential part of many meals. It can be white or yellow depending on the type of maize used.

It’s made by boiling water in a large pot and then gradually stirring in the maize flour with a wooden long-handled cooking stick known as a ‘mwiko’ or ‘ewuufu’. The mixture needs to be stirred continuously as it thickens to avoid lumps. Once cooked, it is traditionally eaten by hand.

Balls of it are shaped and dipped into accompanying sauces, vegetable stews, bean soups, fish or meat dishes, or pickled vegetables. Its neutral flavour makes it the perfect accompaniment to the rich flavours of Ugandan cuisine. Posho is an indispensable part of Ugandan culture.

Groundnut Sauce or Binyebwa

Ugandan groundnut sauce is a creamy, rich sauce made primarily from groundnuts (peanuts). It’s a much-loved ingredient in Ugandan cuisine and pairs well with many traditional dishes. It’s made by roasting the shelled groundnuts in a pan until golden brown after which they’re ground into a smooth paste.

The sauce is made by cooking chopped tomatoes, onions and salt in some cooking oil in a pot. Once these ingredients are cooked, the peanut sauce is added and cooked slowly to thicken it. Minced garlic, vegetables, greens, chillies, paprika, or other local spices can also be added to different versions of the sauce.

This highly nutritious sauce is a versatile accompaniment and often an added ingredient to many Ugandan dishes. It’s often served at gatherings, celebrations, and regular family meals with matoke, rice, yams or posho.

Nsenene, or Crispy Fried Grasshoppers

Nsenene is a protein-rich and celebrated seasonal Ugandan speciality that all culinary adventurers visiting the country simply must try! Nsenene is a testament to Uganda’s biodiversity and its ability to transform simple ingredients into highly nutritious delicacies.

Nsenene is made from Ruspolia differens, a species of edible bush crickets, frequently misnamed as ‘long-horned grasshoppers’. These eagerly awaited creatures emerge in large numbers during the rainy seasons, mainly in November and April. This is how Ugandans prepare this sought-after delicacy:

The crickets’ wings, legs, and heads are removed manually, after which they’re washed thoroughly. They’re blanched briefly in salted water, drained, and then fried in their own fat until they become crispy and golden brown. Optional ingredients like onions or chillies can be added during the frying process.

Nsenene is typically consumed as a snack and is praised widely for its delicious crunchy texture and unique, nutty taste. Their abundance is associated with celebration and feasting in Uganda. Nsenene is a source of both nutrition and income for Ugandans as it’s widely traded in local markets. Interest in edible insects is growing globally due to their low environmental footprint and impressive nutritional value.

Malakwang, or Malakwan

Malakwang is made from the leaves of the malakwang plant. It’s combined with groundnut or sesame (simsim) paste to create a rich, flavorful sauce. The tanginess of the malakwang leaves paired with the nutty flavour of the groundnuts or sesame seeds combine to make this flavoursome dish.

To make it, the malakwang leaves are thoroughly washed, boiled in water for a few minutes, then drained and set aside. Then onions are sautéed, and tomatoes are added and cooked, after which the groundnut or sesame paste is stirred in. It’s seasoned with salt, and chillies can be added if preferred.

Once the sauce is smooth and well mixed, the pre-boiled malakwang leaves are added and simmered until well cooked. The rich, nutty sauce is typically served with staples like posho, millet bread, or rice. The dish can be accompanied by meat or fish, but it’s also delicious on its own.

Katogo

Derived from the Luganda word ‘kutogola’ meaning ‘to mix’, akatogo is a popular breakfast dish in Uganda, especially in and around Kampala. This hearty, energy-rich and filling dish is a flavourful combination of fried plantains and a variety of vegetables and/or either red or white beans (pre-soaked and boiled). Salt, chilli, pepper, paprika, curry powder or spices can be used to flavour it. Groundnut sauce, meat, or fish can be added if preferred.

Katoga is made by peeling and cutting up the plantains and first frying some onions in oil. Then the plantain pieces are added and fried until they’re golden brown and slightly caramelised. The rest of the ingredients are added and the mixture is allowed to simmer until well-cooked.

Finally, the boiled beans and the seasonings are stirred in and the dish is allowed to simmer until done. Akatogo is typically served hot in a bowl or on a plate as a standalone dish. A cup of tea or freshly brewed Ugandan coffee completes this delicious and energy-dense breakfast.

Are you a keen and adventurous traveller who loves Africa as much as we do at Discover Africa? Have you long had your heart set on discovering Uganda’s many regions and its treasure trove of activities, adventures, and attractions from gorilla trekking to its amazing cuisine? Let us tailor an unforgettable Ugandan adventure for you that will leave you with precious memories and a new appreciation of this magical country and all it has to offer!


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