Rwandan Food: 18 Traditional Rwandan Foods To Try

by Fay

If you’re looking for an amazing culinary experience, you need to try Rwandan food. The tiny, landlocked East African country is home to some of unique dishes and foods. From savory stews to sweet desserts, there’s something for everyone in Rwanda. The Rwandan cuisine is known for simple and healthy food made of locally grown ingredients.

Also, the Rwandan diet is known for its rich use of vegetables and it rarely includes meat. So, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, Rwanda is heaven for you. But if you love meat like me, don’t worry there are dishes you can try.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the best Rwandan foods that everyone should try at least once in their life. Are you ready?

Food-related content:

RWANDAN TRADITIONAL FOODS TO TRY

Goat Brochettes (Rwandan goat meat skewers) 

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Rwandans use charcoal to grill their brochettes

Rwandan cuisine wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their famous goat brochettes. Goat Brochettes is the national Rwandan food, consisting of grilled goat meat skewers. Maybe Brochettes are a worldwide famous dish but the Rwandan version offers a unique taste. Rwandans grill their meat skewer the traditional way, on charcoal stoves, and that is what keeps the authentic barbecue taste. A typical side dish is roasted bananas (Mizuzu) or crispy potatoes (Ibirayi).

Ibiraya (Rwandan sweet potato fries)

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Ibiraya are crispy and delicious

Who doesn’t love fries? Ibiraya is Rwandan-style fries, often served as a side dish with many main Rwandan foods. They are made by frying sweet potato slices in oil until they are golden brown and crispy. The traditional way they Serve them is Rwandan chili sauce for an extra kick and they also go so well with the Rwandan goat Brochettes.

Bugali (Cassava flour porridge)

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Ugali is made of cassava flour or millet or sorghum flour

Bugali is a famous staple food in Africa. It’s also called ugali, papnsimanshima, and many other names across Africa. The Rwandan Ugali is a staple food made from cassava flour but sometimes it can be made with millet or sorghum flour mixed with Cassava flour. The way they make Ugali in Rwanda is by cooking the flour in hot boiling water while mixing until it reaches a stiff consistency dough. It is a very simple dish but it is very filling and satisfying. In Rwanda, Ugali is usually served with vegetables or stew and is a great source of carbohydrates.

Umunyinjye (Rwandan Matoke)

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Rwadan Matoke served with a fresh salad

For some reason, I like the sound of this Rwandan famous dish, Matoke. Matoke or Umunyinjye is apparently a complex Rwandan delicacy. Many Rwandans admit that it’s not an easy food to make. So, this dish is not for the average cook I guess. In Rwanda, to make Matoke (Umunyinjye), the unripe bananas are cut, steamed, wrapped in banana leaves then mashed. Matoke is often served with Rwandan beef stew or vegetable stews.

Kachumbari (Rwandan Fresh veggie Salad)

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Kachumbari is usually served with meat dishes in Rwanda

Kachumbari is native to Kenyan cuisine but it’s also famous in Rwanda, Tanzania, and many other African cuisines as well. In Rwanda, the Kachumbari salad is usually made with fresh-cut tomatoes, onions, and green chili peppers. Other variations of Kachumbari may include cucumber and parsley but that’s not popular in Rwanda. The salad is a refreshing condiment that is often served with many Rwandan food dishes.

Rwandan mixed cabbage

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Rwandan mixed cabbage is filling and nutritious – and of course tasty too.

This Rwandan dish is a delicious and healthy mix of cabbage, and other vegetables like chopped onions, grated tomatoes, and carrots. It is a great vegan condiment that is usually served with Bugali. The mixed cabbage is a great dish for people looking for a vegan dish but filling and tasty.

Rwandan stewed Beans

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Rwandan bean stew is often served with bugali or matooke 

Stewed beans are another Rwandan staple. Rwandans consume a lot of beans in their traditional diet. You can go to a Rwandan shopping market without noticing the huge piles of beans being sold in the open air.

The beans used in the Rwandan cuisine are kidney beans. To prepare the stewed beans dish, the raw beans but soap an overnight to soften up then drained and cooked with onions and lots of grated tomatoes. The result is a very tasty and filling dish.

Rwandan Tilapia

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Tilapia is one of the most popular foods in Rwanda

When it comes to seafood, Rwandan Tilapia fish is what you need to go for. Tilapia is one of the most popular foods in Rwanda and can be found in many lakes across the country. It is usually served fried or grilled and is often accompanied by a side of beans or rice. The best way of trying the Tilapia in Rwanda is grilled on firing charcoal until it’s tender from the inside with a crispy skin. I like to eat the salty skin as well but feel free to remove it and just enjoy the tasty tender meat.

Rwandan Smabaza sardines

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The salty sardine-like Sambaza is best sampled on the shores of the lake

Tilapia is not the only seafood dish you can have in Rwanda, Smabaza sardines are also very popular and I highly recommend you try them if you visit. Smabaza sardines are very tiny and fine-boned fish that you can find on the shores of Rift Valley lake. These small sardine-like creatures populate the deep waters of Lake Kivu in Rwanda where fishermen must sail late at night hoping for a lucky catch.

If you want to try Smabaza sardines head to one of the restaurants lined up near the lake in the capital Kigali. They served it as a crispy starter with the famous Pili Pili sauce.

Pili Pili sauce

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If you like spicy foods, your dishes will never be the same again!

Pili Pili sauce, also known as Piri Piri or Peri Peri is a Rwandan staple sauce and can be used as a condiment for just about any food. It is made with chili peppers, tomatoes, and onions and has a bit of a kick to it. If you like your food spicy, then you will definitely want to try this sauce but if you are not a spicy food fan I would say stay away. I like spicy food and Pili Pili sauce is one of my favorite and go-to sauces when I feel like adding heat to my dishes.

Mizuzu (Rwandan deep- fried plantains)

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Mizuzu is a sweet yet savory, snack and side dish in Rwanda

Rwanda has plenty of plantains if there is ıne thing that Rwandans know how to cook is Plantains. From savory to sweet and spicy meals, they make everything with plantains. One popular Rwandan food that is made with this staple ingredient is Mizuzu. To make Mizuzu, the plantain is sliced into thick pieces and then deep-fried until it is golden brown. It’s usually served sweet with sugar or honey sprinkled on top.

Isombe (Rwandan cassava leaves stew)

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The flavorful green dish Isombe is made out of cassava leaves

In Rwanda, one of the most popular dishes is called isombe. It is made with mashed cassava leaves and typically served with boiled eggs and rice. This dish is usually eaten for breakfast, but can also be enjoyed for lunch or dinner. To make Isombe, Rwandans usually use bone stock which gives it a meaty flavor even though there is no meat in it.

Igisafuria (Plantains with chicken and vegetables)

Also called Igisafuliya or Igisafrya, Igisafuria means “Pot” in the local language of Rwanda. This hearty dish is made with plantains, chicken mostly tighs, and vegetables (onions, tomatoes, green plantains, leeks, peppers). As the name suggests, the ingredients are all cooked in one pot like the Moroccan Tagine, making it a great Rwandan dish for a family meal.

Ibihaza (Rwandan pumpkins and beans)

If you are a vegan visiting Rwanda, I highly recommend you try this dish. Ibihaza is Rwandan-style cooked kidney beans with sliced local pumpkins. Pumpkins are a very popular ingredient in Rwandan cuisine and they add a unique flavor to this dish. To make Ibihaza, both beans and pumpkins are boiled and then stewed together until creamy and tender.

Agatogo (Plantains with meat and spices)

Plantains and meat are a classic Rwandan combination, and Agatogo is a delicious way to enjoy them. Agatogo is a traditional dish in Rwanda made with fried plantains, meat, and spices. It is usually served with rice or bread.

Umutsima (Rwandan corn and cassava)

Umutsima is a Rwandan dish made with corn and cassava. In Rwanda, it is usually served with rice or potatoes, and it can be made with chicken, beef, or vegetables.

Tropical fruits

Rwandans love to have fruit snacks between their meals which is something that I really enjoy too. Tropical fruits are abundant in Rwanda including avocados, bananas, mangos, pineapples, and papayas.

Rwandan Coffee (Urwarwa Rwandese)

Rwandan coffee is a very popular drink, and it is often served with milk. Rwandan coffee is made with a variety of Rwandan spices, including chili peppers, ginger, and garlic.

Where to eat the best Rwandan food

Most Rwandan dishes can be found in the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali. There are many local restaurants, markets, and farms where you can try the authentic Rwandan food as they prepare it. As for fish dishes, you need to head to the Lake Kivu shores, there you will find many restaurants selling fresh tasty fish.

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