Summer Sides: Kachumbari (East African Salsa)

Leah Recipes, Travel Tagged Tags: , , , , 0

Kachumbari (East African Salsa)

Kachumbari, or East African salsa as I like to call it, is one of my favorite recipes that I brought back from my 14 month stay in Dodoma Tanzania. This salad is used as a condiment on anything from humble rice and beans to grilled goat to chipsi mayai (a tasty omelette with french fries in it). I found Tanzanian food to be simple yet flavorful. They did not overthink their food like we tend to here. The goal was always to fill your belly as cheaply as possible, but to also have tasty meals that fostered good conversation and fellowship with family, friends and neighbors.

Cooking was a social event there. I remember helping cook dinner with smiling and laughing women in backyards over charcoal stoves. I always resented that the men were never expected to help with this hot, dirty work. Yet, I never heard one of the women complain at least in my presence. They seemed to welcome the time alone with their girlfriends to chat freely and work their magic on the food they were able to cobble together.

I loved the communal hand washing that took place before every meal. The head female of the house would take around a pitcher of water with an empty basin, soap and towel and pour water over each guests hands. Of course the main object of this ritual was good hygiene. However, it always felt very sacred and ceremonial in nature to me. That however different the people present may be, food was the common denominator that brought us all together.

So every time I make kachumbari, it reminds me of my beautiful, messy year in East Africa and how much I miss the people I grew to know and love there. While this recipe may not stir up any such emotion in you, you’ll certainly be able to enjoy it as another tasty condiment to add to your weekly dinners! This recipe is the closest I’ve gotten to how I remember authentic kachumbari tasted in Tanzania.

Kachumbari (East African salsa)

Kachumbari (East African Salsa)


2 medium tomatoes

1 large cucumber

1/2 large onion

2 jalapenos (remove seeds for less spice if desired)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2-3 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt to taste (I use a good amount as the tomatoes soak up quite a bit)

Kachumbari (East African Salsa)


  1. Finely dice tomatoes, cucumber, onion and jalapenos and place in bowl.
  2. Add garlic powder, lemon juice and salt. Stir all ingredients together.
  3. Refrigerate at least one hour to allow flavors to meld.
  4. Put on top your favorite grilled meats, rice or use as a chip dip!

Lately I have been adding kachumbari to this delicious Tandoori chicken recipe from The Big Man’s World and this surprisingly tasty gluten free/paleo naan recipe from My Heart Beets. You just add your chicken, kachumbari and a little fresh spinach to the naan bread, roll it up and you have a delicious Indian burrito.

Or use it the East African way and add it to your rice and beans. Use my recipe from this post.

Kachumbari (East African Salsa)

Comment below with your creative uses of kachumbari!

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