What to eat while in Uganda?
This article explores Uganda food, its traditional and local dishes consumed in most households, and served in restaurants, hotels, and eateries throughout the country.
While on a Uganda safari, you can dare to experiment with and relish any of the mouth-watering delicacies shared below:
Matooke (green bananas)
Matooke is a staple in the central region of Uganda and is especially consumed by the Ganda people.
Unlike plantain and yellow bananas, matooke is not sugary or sweet but has a starchy and yet strangely sating taste. It is traditionally prepared by peeling it and having it wrapped in banana leaves and then streaming it. When ready, the matooke is mushed and left to steam again before serving. Matooke can also be cooked whole after peeling and is usually used to make stews and potage.
Steamed matooke is best served with groundnut sauce, beans, peas, fish, chicken, and all meats.
Matooke is a famous Uganda food served almost in all eateries, restaurants, and high-end hotels in Kampala, and the entire central region.
Luwombo is a traditional-cultural dish originating from the Ganda tribe that occupies the central region of Uganda.
It is prepared by steaming a stew of chicken or beef or fish or groundnut paste with vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes, wrapped in green banana leaves.
In Kiganda traditional society, Luwombo was only served to the king, men in high authority, and to the groom and his family during a traditional wedding ceremony. Luwombo is one of the dominant Uganda foods served in all restaurants and hotels that prepare local dishes.
Kawunga (white posho)
Posho is made from white corn flour. It is prepared by thoroughly mingling the flour with boiling water until it forms into a smooth yet stiff doughy consistency. Posho is one of Uganda’s foods that cross borders. It’s widely consumed in all the regions of the country.
It is believed to be an energy-giving food. For this reason, posho is the main serving in boarding schools and prisons. ‘Eat posho if you want to grow strong and big’ is a common saying in most households.
Posho is mainly served as a side dish in almost all hotels and restaurants that have local dishes on their menus.
Malewa is a delectable dish made from crushed bamboo shoots. It is a staple in the Eastern region of Uganda and is especially consumed by the Gisu tribe. It is one of the specialties served by most restaurants and hotels in the East.
Kalo (Millet bread)
Made from a mixture of brown millet and cassava flour, Kalo is a traditional Uganda food, a major staple among most tribes in the Western, Eastern, and Northern regions. Kalo is served as both a main and side dish in almost all restaurants and hotels that prepare local dishes.
A meal of Kalo is prepared by mingling a mixture of millet and cassava flour with boiling water until it stiffens into a starchy consistency. Millet bread or Kalo has not eaten alone but is served with Enshabwe (a traditional western sauce), groundnut sauce, fish, and bean soup.
Irish and sweet potatoes
Irish potatoes are a Uganda food widely consumed in the Western and Central regions. Irish is served both as a main and side dish in many households, restaurants, and hotels. The potatoes are normally peeled and boiled or fried while whole. They can also be mashed or cooked with vegetables and meats to make stews. In most eateries especially in Kampala, they are served as fries/chips.
Sweet potatoes are on the other hand a major staple in the Eastern region, especially consumed by the Basoga people. A traditional meal called Omugoyo is made from mashing boiled sweet potatoes and mixing them with crushed beans and then roasting or steaming the whole. Potatoes are a dominant side-dish on Uganda food menus.
This is one of those Uganda foods served in almost every household; for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast in middle-income and richer families. To prepare Katogo, matooke is peeled and cooked whole in beans, beef, peas, offals, chicken or vegetable soup to make a stew.
Other foods besides matooke; Irish potatoes, cassava, yams, can be used to make the potage. In restaurants and hotels that prepare local dishes, Katogo is especially served for breakfast. Other foods Rice, yam, pumpkin, maize, and cassava are among the other foods widely consumed in Uganda. They are served as both main and side dishes.
Sauces or soups
The consumption of sauces/soups is widespread in Uganda. They are specially served as condiments to enhance the taste of whole and mashed foods.
- Groundnut or peanut sauce; Commonly referred to as groundnut sauce, this is a dominant Uganda food staple consumed in most households. Groundnut sauce can be cooked plain, or with an addition of Mukene (silverfish), smoked fish, mushrooms, or leafy greens.
Once ready, the sauce is best served with steamed matooke, Kalo (millet bread), rice, and sweet potatoes. You can order it in any restaurant or hotel in Kampala and other regions.
- Beans and peas; Beans, as well as peas (cowpeas), are a major Uganda food condiment relished in most households, boarding schools, and even prisons throughout the country.
Prepared by boiling, steaming and frying, beans and peas are best served with posho, steamed matooke, rice, sweet potatoes, cassava, and yams.
- Sesame seeds (sim-sim); A pasty sauce is made from ground/roasted sesame seeds and is served as a condiment especially among tribes in the Northern and Eastern regions of Uganda. Also used to make sweet candies, sim-sim is a dominant Uganda food.
- Meats; The consumption of red and white meat in Uganda is high. Meats such as beef, goat’s meat, pork, fish, chicken, and turkey are a major serving in most hotels, and at meals especially in middle-income and wealthy homes. They are boiled to make stews, fried, grilled, or roasted as one desires.
Low-income earners and poor families normally serve meats and chicken during festivals and special occasions like wedding ceremonies.
Though somewhat rare, mutton, bush meat/game, duck, camel, crocodile, and all other sorts of eatable meat, seafood, and poultry, are served especially in high-end and exotic eateries, restaurants and hotels throughout the country.
- Others; Offals, liver, kidneys, hooves, especially from slaughtered goats and cows, are used to make soups and sauces on Uganda food menus
Liver stew is specially served with fries and rice in most eateries.
Snacks are specially served with tea/milk for breakfast in the morning and in the late evenings as a light meal before supper, in most Ugandan households.
Uganda’s list of light meals and fast foods is inexhaustible:
- Rolex; This is a famous delicacy that finally made its ‘debut’ to restaurant and hotel menus after spending years on Uganda’s street food stalls as a ‘serve and go’.
Rolex is made by frying a chapati with eggs, onions, tomatoes, and veggies. Minced meat and all other sorts of ingredients and condiments can be added to the Rolex recipe.
- Chapati; In spite of its Indian origin, chapati has over the years become a dominant Uganda food. It’s prepared by mixing wheat flour, baking powders, salt, and lukewarm water. The made dough is rolled out and usually fried in small amounts of oil.
Chapati is a staple served at breakfast or as a side dish at lunch and supper. Chapati is also sliced and mixed with beans to make ‘Kikomando’ – the bachelor’s meal.
Mandazi is a typical breakfast snack that is made from mixing baking flour and sugar, to make a dough that is sliced into desired shapes before frying in heated oil.
- Grasshoppers (Nsenene); This is a seasonal delicacy widely consumed and enjoyed in Kampala and other districts in the central region. Swam of grasshoppers appears in the months of April and November every year. They are prepared by frying after de-winging them. Grasshoppers are sold both raw and fried in Uganda food markets across the country.
Other dominant snacks on Uganda’s food menu include:
- Roasted groundnuts; locally known as groundnuts are best served with black tea.
- Kabalagala; pancakes made from a mixture of cassava flour and sweet bananas.
- Samosa; triangular pastries stuffed with cowpeas, veggies, or minced meat.
- Egg roll; a delicious snack made by rolling mashed Irish potato into a ball and fixing a whole boiled egg into it before frying it in heated oil.
- Bread and fried eggs; best served for breakfast in middle-income and richer households.
Fruits and vegetables
Uganda has a high fruit and vegetable consumption rate. Vegetables include; cabbage and other leafy greens, as well as bitter herbs, are specially served as a side dish during lunch and supper servings.
A meal is incomplete without a serving of dodo, Jjobyo, Nsugga, Gobe, Ssunsa, Ntuula, and Katunkuma. These leafy greens are referred to as ‘Enva Endiirwa or side dish’ in Buganda region.
Fruits commonly grown and consumed in Uganda are; yellow bananas, watermelons, tangerine, oranges, passion fruits, papaya, blackberries, gooseberries, sugarcane, red and green apples, and pineapples. These are usually consumed as whole fruits for salad and dessert, or blended to make fresh juice.