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Swahili food made easy: Pilipili ya kukaang’wa (Red chilli chutney)


Pilipili ya kukaan’gwa or red chilli chutney is a staple in every Swahili home. The Pilipili ya kukaan’gwa is an accompaniment for almost all meals. But it is most famous with rice dishes such as pilau. There are various ways of preparing it and every home does is differently, well, depending on how their mums taught them, but this is a simplified version that will still give you an amazing result:


1 large onion (diced)

3 large tomatoes (grated)

1 teaspoon of garlic and ginger paste

¼ teaspoon cumin powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 fresh red chillies (diced)

¼ cup of cooking oil

2 lemons

Salt to taste


1. Add the cooking oil to a sauce pan and heat. Once at a good temperature, add the onions and sauté until lightly brown

2. Once the onions turn lightly brown, add the garlic-ginger paste, cumin and cayenne pepper. Fry these for 1 minute (they cook very quickly)

3. Add the grated tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer, 5 minutes into cooking add the tomato paste and stir thoroughly.

4. Once the mixture is thick, add the diced chillies and continue cooking until the mixture reduces and the oil separates from the mixture. This should take about 6 minutes

5. Turn off the heat, add the salt and lemon juice, mix thoroughly.

6. The chutney is now ready.

I prefer this recipe as it allows me to build flavours at every step. All together, there is another popular alternative: blending all the ingredients together (except tomato paste and lemon juice), fry up the tomato paste in the sauce pan then add the blended mixture. Add the lemon juice at the end. Both procedures will result in a saucy yet fiery chutney.

One can change up the recipe to their liking depending on how hot they like their chilly.

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