Kuku Paka

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Kuku Paka is an aromatic East African chicken curry that is similar to Indian curry in flavor. It demonstrates the impact of Indian cuisine on East African cuisine.
This dish is a perfect illustration of how African, Arab and Indian influences meld in the coastal region.

What Exactly is Kuku Paka?

It is a creamy chicken dish made with coconut milk and spices. It’s popular in East Africa’s coastal regions, particularly Kenya and Tanzania. It is also known as Kenyan chicken curry and is a shorter version of “kuku wa paka” or “kuku ya paka.”

The chicken for Kuku paka is traditionally cooked slowly over a smoke fire or on a grill. This one-pot version is simple and quick to prepare, allowing you to enjoy this wonderful and warm supper in no time. The coconut milk’s smoothness and little sweetness combine with the spicy marinated chicken to create a flavorful East African curry.

Where Does Kuku Paka Come From?

This wonderfully flavorful curry comes from Kenya, along the East African coast. The word ‘kuku’ means ‘chicken’ in Swahili and many believe that ‘paka’ refers to a dish made with coconut milk. However, ‘paka’ is also the Punjabi word for ‘delicious.

How To Make Kuku Paka?

It’s no surprise that Kenyan cooks add their own personal touches to this recipe. The chicken can first be grilled before it’s added to the sauce or sautéed in butter before being simmered in the marinade.

Some enjoy it with turmeric, while some omit the herbs entirely. Personally, we prefer it with a 50/50 combo of lime and tamarind. The joy of this recipe is how easy to personalize it is.

The thick sauce, made with coconut milk, is lightly sour, kicked up by the unique heat of its ginger-pepper-Chile trio.

Kuku Paka is best served with rice and root vegetables like sweet potatoes.

Variations For Kuku Paka

  1. For authentic flavor, grill the chicken pieces before stirring them into the simmering sauce. If you like, you can also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs.
  2. Some recipes add potatoes or hard-boiled eggs to the curry.
  3. The potatoes can be cooked ahead, cut into chunks and stirred into the curry toward the end.
  4. Eliminate the hot chilies for a milder dish. Or substitute a chopped sweet bell pepper.
  5. Reserve some of the coconut cream that gathers at the top of the can and stir it into the sauce at the very end for extra silky results.

Kuku Paka Recipe

Delicious, one pot coconut chicken curry which originated from coastal regions of East Africa.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine African, East Africa



  • Chicken, cut into pieces -- 3 pounds
  • Onion, chopped -- 1
  • Hot chile peppers, chopped -- 2 or 3
  • Ginger, peeled and chopped -- 2 tablespoons 
  • Garlic, chopped -- 2 tablespoons
  • Oil or ghee -- 1/4 cup
  • Curry powder -- 1 tablespoon
  • Cumin seeds -- 2 teaspoons
  • Chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce -- 2 cups
  • Coconut milk -- 2 cups, or 1 (15-ounce) can
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Cilantro, chopped -- 1/2 cup



  • Add the onion, chiles, ginger and garlic to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add a little water if necessary.
  • Heat the oil or ghee in a large pot or wok over medium flame.
  • Add the onion puree, curry powder and cumin and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until cooked down.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add the chicken, coconut milk, salt and pepper.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Add more water as needed.
  • Stir in the cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve with with rice or chapatti.
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