The sports category has moved to a new website.

Proper Swahili Pilau should not have tomatoes - Chef Ali's recipe

So you think you can make the proper Swahili Pilau dish?

Celebrity chef Ali Mandhry, popularly known as Chef L'artiste

For a majority of Kenyans, Pilau means rice that has a brownish, reddish color achieved using tomato paste and Pilau masala. Apparently, that's not how to make proper Pilau.

According to celebrity chef, Ali Mandhry, Kenyans have been making Pilau the wrong way.

The chef who grew up in Mombasa was inspired by his grandfather and he made his first meal when he was only nine years old.

The father of two enjoys working with local ingredients while developing new recipes and his cooking style leans towards African fusion, inspired by the Swahili Culture.


Chef Ali has bagged many awards, including the prestigious Hall of Fame Award from the U.S. So when he tells us we are making Pilau the wrong way, we best believe it...

Chef Ali says that he has always received a lot of questions on how to make the proper Swahili Pilau and he goes on to add that proper Pilau should have a 'khaki-ish' colour and not red or brown.

"I have always received requests of how to make a proper pilau I mean the Swahili pilau. Let me tell you one thing, a proper Swahili pilau should have a pale khakish colour and not brown or red. We do not infuse any tomatoes in the pilau, nor do we use tomato paste at all in the pilau.


"We usually serve the pilau with a side Kachumbari that has fresh tomatoes and some chutney or pilipili masala. The ghee [samli safi] gives the pilau a very delicious flavor but you don’t want to add a lot of ghee because it usually has a very strong flavor. My pilau recipe is the simplest and very easy to cook. If you have a big pot with a super tight lid then this recipe will turn out perfect," Chef Ali advises.

Lucky for us, the Chef was also kind enough to share his recipe on the same:


3 cups Basmati rice


6 medium potatoes (peeled)

2 onions sliced

3 cardamom pods

1/2 a teaspoon whole black pepper

3 sticks cinnamon


2 whole cloves

1 teaspoon whole cumin

1 kg whole chicken cut into 8 pieces

Juice of 2 limes

1 green pepper diced


1 tablespoon garlic ginger paste

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon ghee

6 cups water

Salt to taste



  1. Marinate the chicken with lime juice and salt then set aside.
  2. In a separate pot or ‘sufuria’ over medium heat add the oil with the teaspoon of ghee and then go in with the onions, sauté for a minute, then go in with the whole spices sauté until fragrant, add the sweet peppers, add the garlic ginger paste and potatoes cook for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and continue to stir well until partly cooked then add in the rice mix well then go in with the 6 cups of water and bring it to a boil.
  4. Add salt to taste and adjust seasoning. Cook until its almost dry and the water has evaporated.
  5. Reduce heat to low and cover with a tight lid, so that it continues to steam for about 15 more minutes or until all the liquid has completely dried up and rice looks fluffy
  6. Once cooked fluff up the rice and serve with kachumbari and pilipili masala.


Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: