Kachumbari (Tomato and Onion Salsa)

    Kachumbari takes the accolade of the most delicious salad in Kenya but is eaten in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and other countries in that region. It is made from thin slices of fresh ripe tomatoes, onions, green/red pepper, lemon juice, and coriander. Kachumbari is best served with nyama choma or pilau, another popular coastal Kenyan dish.

    You can’t go wrong with this recipe; it’s packed with flavor for such basic dish.

    What is Kachumbari?

    Kachumbari is a Swahili word that has its origin in the Indian word ”cachumber” which means cut into small pieces.

    It is a fresh, tart east African salad made with onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, salt, pepper, and lemon dressing – simple, light, and easy-to-make salad with little sting. 

    Kachumbari Recipe

    This recipe is a raw side dish made of diced tomatoes, onions, and chili peppers that’s similar to pico de gallo in Latin American cuisine but while pico de gallo is used primarily as a garnish or condiment, kachumbari is eaten as a side salad as well as being used as a condiment.

    The key ingredients to this recipe are chopped-up onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers combined with salt, pepper, and lemon dressing. However, you can find variations of this recipe in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and in Southern African countries of Malawi and Congo. In this case, you find the use of additional ingredients like avocado and some other spices as well.

    This slight diversity of flavors is mainly due to the use of locally available spices, herbs, and vegetables.

    Here are the Ingredients Used:

    • Vegetables: Tomatoes, red onions, and avocado. An authentic Kenyan kachumbari salad uses just 4 main ingredients – tomatoes, onions, and a little salt and lemon juice.
    • Spices: Cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. You only need salt and black pepper, but you can add cayenne pepper for a little spicy kick!
    • Lemon: Lemon not only provides a bit of tartness to this African salad, but it also helps to preserve the color of the avocado. You can also substitute with lime.
    • Cilantro: Cilantro is used as a garnish and is completely optional.

    How to Make Kachumbari

    kachumbari is so easy to make. The key thing to note when making Kachumbari is to let the chopped onion soak in salted water for about 15 minutes before you add it to the salad. This salad is heavy on the onion side and a lot of onions mean mouth odor after you eat and nobody wants that.

    So make sure you soak the chopped onion in salted water then drain and add it to the other vegetables. Here is how to make it in simple steps!

    • All you have to do is to chop up all the vegetables.
    • Mix the vegetables with salt and lemon juice in a bowl.
    • Toss gently to combine.

    Storing And Reheating

    This African salad is best consumed the same day and is not a great candidate for leftovers. I don’t make a whole bunch at a time because it is so quick and easy to make. And you can scale it up or down and make just 1-2 servings at a time.

    But if you still need to store it, I will advise only storing it overnight. First, divide the salad into portions and don’t mix the portion that will be stored in the fridge.

    Then drain as much of the liquid out and squeeze in some more lemon or lime juice and store it in an airtight container.

    So how is this served? Well, it is usually served with grilled meats, as a condiment, relish, or appetizer.


    Kachumbari (Kenyan Fresh Tomato and Onion Salad)

    Sarah Ozimek
    Kachumbari is a light and fresh tomato and onion salad that makes for a perfect summer side dish to pair with your grilled meats!
    Prep Time 20 minutes
    Course Side Dish
    Cuisine East Africa
    Servings 4


    • ½ medium red onion, diced
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 large tomatoes
    • ¾ avocado
    • 1 small chili (optional)
    • ½ lime, juiced (approx 1 Tbsp juice)
    • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped


    • Place the diced onion in a small bowl and massage the salt into the onion pieces. Cover the salted onions with water and let stand for 10 min.
    • Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes, avocado, and chili (if using). Place them in a medium bowl.
    • Drain the onions and add them to the vegetables. Finish by adding the lime juice and cilantro.
    • Mix well and taste the salad. Add salt or more lime juice if desired.
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

    Subscribe For Latest Updates

    Sign up now to receive updates on our latest recipes and articles, and take on our challenging quiz weekly.

    Invalid email address
    We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

    You'll also love