How to Cook Swahili Pilau – Kenyan Pilau Recipe and Delicacies

how to prepare pilau

Let’s look at how to cook Swahili pilau. One of the most common swahili delicacies in the kenyan recipes is the Swahili pilau. Pilau is among the popular swahili dishes in the east African coastline. Pilau is normally a mixture of spices; garlic, ginger, cumin, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, fried onions, broth and meat. However one can make this dish without meat.

Read: How to Make Bhajia at Home – Bhajia Recipe Kenya

How to cook Swahili Pilau
How to cook Swahili Pilau

History of Swahili Pilau

pilau comes from the Persian word pilav or pilaw, which is also the origin of pilaf, as in “rice pilaf”. The pilav rice cooking technique is found throughout the Middle East and West Asia (i.e., Turkey, India, Pakistan). It has been spread across Africa by the Arabs, and was brought by enslaved Africans to the Americas. It is especially common in the Caribbean and Southern United States.

Read: Kaimati Recipe – How to Make Kaimati (swahili dishes)

how to cook pilau rice with meat

How to cook Swahili Pilau

Kenyan Pilau Recipe

Read: How to Cook Chapati – Soft Kenyan Chapati Recipe


  • one-half teaspoon cumin seeds
  • one-half teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • several whole cloves (“cloves” not “cloves of garlic”)
  • one cinnamon stick (or a few pinches ground cinnamon)
  • a few cardamom pods (or a few pinches ground cardamom)
  • oil for frying
  • several cloves of garlic
  • two teaspoons fresh ginger
  • three cups of rice (uncooked)
  • two to four onions, chopped
  • one to two pounds of meat (beef, chicken, mutton, fish, shrimp, or prawns), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • two to four tomatoes, chopped (or canned tomatoes)
  • two to four potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • one apple, peeled and cut into slices (optional)
  • one cup raisins or sultanas (optional)

Read: Mandazi Recipe – How to Make Mandazi at Home (kenyan dishes)

pilau recipe swahili
pilau recipe swahili

How to cook Swahili Pilau

  • Combine cumin, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom in a teacup, cover with warm water, stir, and set aside. (Cooking tip: The spices can be tied up in a small sack, like a tea bag, or can be put into a tea infuser before being placed in the warm water. This avoids having whole spices in the dish when it is served.)
  • Pound the garlic and ginger together and set aside. Wash the rice, drain, and set aside.
  • Heat oil in deep pot. Fry onions until clear. Stir. Add garlic and ginger. Continue stirring and frying until the flavors have mixed — it should develop a nice aroma.
  • Add the meat, stir and cook over high heat until meat is browned on the outside. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Remove the meat and most of the onions, and set them aside. Add the rice and stir it thoroughly to coat each grain of rice with the oil. Add the spices and water. Stir. Wait five minutes. Add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer for a few minutes. Stir occasionally.

Read: How to Cook Mahamri – Swahili Delicacies Mahamri Recipe

  • Check every few minutes to see if more water is needed and add water (or broth) as necessary. Stir as liquid is added. After ten minutes add the potatoes (and/or the optional apples or raisins) and the meat and onions. Keep covered, keep checking, add water if bottom of pot is dry. Continue cooking over low heat for ten more minutes.
  • Remove pot from stove, keep covered. Place entire pot in warm oven for an additional ten to twenty minutes. All moisture should be absorbed by rice and potatoes should be tender. Serve hot.

Read: How to Cook Omena Fish the Right Way – Omena Recipe

pilau recipe kenya

How to cook Swahili Pilau

Now that you know how to cook Swahili Pilau using this simple Kenyan Pilau Recipe it’s time to learn more about Swahili dishes recipes, Swahili food, Swahili delicacies, Swahili dishes.

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