How to make Coastal Pilau with Kachumbari

How to make Coastal Pilau with Kachumbari

Forget Pilau Njeri or any fake other Pilau you have eaten. My Pilau recipe is the original pilau recipe. Having been raised in Mombasa, Pilau was always the go-to meal for visitors and our every Sunday dinner.

You can try out this recipe out to wow your family and friends.

The first time I came to Nairobi, I ordered Pilau and shock on me, it came with soup on the side. Real Pilau comes with Kachumbari and a banana or a glass of fresh juice.

Ingredients for Pilau

  1. 1KG Rice
  2. Beef 1kg
  3. Garlic paste
  4. Ginger paste
  5. Tomato paste
  6. Pilau Masala (ground cumin, cardamon, cinnamon stick and cloves)
  7. Salt
  8. 2 large onions
  9. 4 large potatoes cut into halves (Optional)


  1. Boil your beef till tender and set aside.
  2. In a sufuria, sauté the garlic and ginger paste.
  3. Fry your onions till golden brown. The golden brown color is important as it contributes to the final Pilau color.
  4. Add Pilau masala and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Measurements for the masala is one teaspoon for every glass of rice or 200gms of rice. So for our 1kg of rice we will do 5 teaspoons.
  5. Add your meat and mix so that the spices soak well into the beef. Let it cook for about 4 minutes.
  6. Add about 3 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste. I prefer tomato paste because it adds to the color and taste. However, you can use fresh tomatoes or no tomato altogether. Mix them well and let it cook for about 5minutes. Keep stirring so that it does not stick to the bottom of the sufuria because of the tomato paste.
  7. Add water and let it boil. Measurements are 2 glasses of water for every 1 glass of rice. I use the 250grams Blueband tin for my measurements. So for 1kg of rice I will add 2kg of water. Reduce your water by about half a glass if you will put your Pilau in the oven to dry up or if you will put hot charcoal on the lid for the rice to dry up. This method makes the rice dry up so well.
  8. Once the water has boiled, add your rice. Stir, add salt and let it cook till water is dry. Turn the heat to low so that it cooks slowly.
  9. Once the water has dried up your rice is ready to be served.
  10. Now let’s learn how to make kachumbari as well.

Ingredients for Kachumbari

  1. 3 large ripe but hard tomatoes
  2. 1 large onion
  3. 1 lemon
  4. Green chilies (Optional)


  1. Cut your onions into thin round slices and soak in slightly salted water. You can also use warm water. This is to cut down on the bitterness of onion and make it soft.
  2. Cut your tomatoes the same way as the onions. You want them all to be uniform.
  3. Mix the onions and tomatoes and squeeze lemon juice all over the mixture. Add salt to taste and serve.
  4. I like my kachumbai chilled for about half an hour before serving.
  5. You can add lettuce, cucumber , or avocado to your Kachumbari.


To avoid your kachumbari being soggy or having lots of water,  prepare your kachumbari when you are almost serving. The more it stays the more it produces water. If you have to prepare in advance, do not mix them up.

For tasty Pilau, the type of rice matters a lot so go for very good quality rice. I personally use CIL pishori rice, or Sunrice Orange pack.

To achieve the brown Pilau color, ensure that your onions are golden brown. Also, measure the right amount of Pilau masala and ensure the masala cooks well before adding the meat

For strong aromatic Pilau masala, buy whole spices and grind them at home. You can partially roast them on a pan on low heat before grinding. For best results use them whole, that is what Coastarians use.

For Chicken Pilau, substitute the 1kg beef with a whole chicken and for Lamb Pilau, substitute with a kg of lamb.

Recipe by Daisy Chepkoech

Daisy Chepkoech is a Freelance Blog Writer, Social Media Manager and Trainer. She is also the Marketing Director at Dake Business Solutions.  Daisy holds a Bachelors degree in Communication and Media Technology from Maseno University.