This East-African kuku choma recipe will have you asking for more. The chicken is juicy, perfectly seasoned, and perfect as a side dish!
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reasons why this kuku choma recipe works
We East Africans are known to love our chomas (grilled meats)! And by meats I mean fish, goat meat (mbuzi choma), chicken, okay, you get it. Here are a few reasons why you will love this kuku choma recipe:-
- it is absolutely delicious and perfect to serve with your ugali, kachumbari, sukuma wiki and more!
- you can make this kuku choma recipe using the oven, or your electric or charcoal grill (jiko).
- this recipe is gluten-free, low-carb, and even keto-friendly, if you substitute the brown sugar!
- it is nutritious and protein-packed.
what is kuku choma
Kuku choma is an East African delicacy comprising marinated chicken pieces, which are then grilled using an oven, electric, or charcoal grill. Just like nyama choma, kuku choma is one of those dishes you can expect to find whenever there is a special gathering of some sort; a football match, engagement parties, weddings, or a simple meetup with friends over the weekend.
This is a summary of the ingredients needed to make kuku choma, as well as possible options for substitution, if any. The full ingredient measurements have been provided in the recipe card provided below.
- Whole chicken
- Juice and grated rind of one lemon.
- brown sugar - this adds a touch of sweetness and helps to caramelize the outside of the chicken, which makes it especially delicious and juicy. Keto brown-sugar alternatives are also okay to use!
- butter, margarine, olive oil or your favorite cooking oil.
- Paprika powder – you can use smoked, sweet or spicy paprika.
- Minced garlic cloves – use more or less of these, depending on how garlicky you like your food.
- Salt and Black pepper to taste.
- African bird eye chili peppers (optional) – for some heat but this is totally optional so feel free to leave it out if you do not like your kuku choma spicy.
- Dried rosemary (or your favorite dried herbs such as thyme, parsley, or oregano).
how to make kuku choma
This is a summary of how to make kuku choma. You will find the detailed recipe instructions in the recipe card below.
- Remove the backbone of the chicken (do not throw it away, rather, save it for use in other recipes).
- Make the marinade by mixing all the ingredients. Apply the marinade on the chicken and allow it to marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.
- Heat your grill then grill you kuku choma, turning it from time to time so it cooks evenly on each side. Alternatively, cook it in the oven.
- Check and make sure it is cooked through, then serve.
what to serve with kuku choma
If you ask any East African, me included, kuku choma goes best served with Ugali, Sukuma wiki, and Kachumbari! But don't let me limit you, here are a few other dishes you can serve your kuku choma with:-
- It goes very well with potato dishes so try out my Air Fryer Roast Potatoes or Air Fryer Potato Wedges if you own an air fryer!
- Kenyan Pilau (which is essentially an Eastern African dish as opposed to being only Kenyan), also pairs up well with kuku choma.
- Kenyan Chapati
- Chips Masala
- Or serve it with some Zimbabwean Sadza!
- Make this recipe your own and use your favorite herbs and spices! Love keeping it simple? Then simply use salt and pepper!
- If possible, allow the chicken to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes, once you remove it from the fridge. This helps it cook more evenly.
- Using indirect heat, it will take about 15-20 minutes per ½ kilo (approximately 1 pound) for the chicken to be fully cooked. Cooking time varies based on the size of the chicken and the temperature of the grill. Always use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is fully cooked. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the chicken and read at least 165°F (74 degrees C) when fully cooked.
Refrigerating and Freezing
Store your leftover kuku choma in suitable airtight containers in the fridge for 4-5 days and in the freezer for 6-7 months.
more delicious recipes
Try out my tasty African dishes and more! You will love these other simple meals from We Eat At Last!
- Blue Spirulina Smoothie Bowl
- Instant Pot Applesauce no sugar
- Vegetarian collard greens with apple cider vinegar
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- 1 whole chicken (about 2 kgs/ 4.4 lb)
- grated rind of one lemon
- juice from one lemon
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or a keto brown sugar alternative)
- 1-2 tablespoon margarine (butter or olive oil)
- 2 tablespoon smoked or sweet paprika powder
- 1 tsp dried rosemary (or your favourite herbs)
- 4-6 cloves minced garlic
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (or more, to taste)
- 2-4 sliced African bird-eye chillis (optional)
- Use a kitchen towel to pat the chicken dry (see notes). Remove the backbone of the chicken, a process known as spatchcocking (see notes). Make small gushes on the surface of the chicken.
- In a small bowl, make the marinade by combining grated lemon rind, lemon juice, brown sugar, margarine or butter, paprika powder, rosemary, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and chillis.grated rind of one lemon, juice from one lemon, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1-2 tablespoon margarine, 2 tablespoon smoked or sweet paprika powder, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 4-6 cloves minced garlic, 1½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 2-4 sliced African bird-eye chillis
- Coat the chicken on all sides with the marinade, transfer it to a bowl, cover it, and allow it to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hrs, or overnight, for best results.1 whole chicken
- Heat your grill to medium-high heat. If using a charcoal grill, wait until the charcoal goes white (you will know it is ready if you can hold your hands 3 inches on top of the grilling surface for 2 seconds without having to pull away. Once the grill is hot enough, brush the grates with some cooking oil.
- Place the chicken with the skin side up on the center of the grill, making sure the burner above the grill is turned off so that you are using indirect heat. If using a charcoal grill, you can either cover the hot coals with a bit of ash so it is not too hot or push the hot coals to one side and cook the chicken over the side where there are no coals.
- Depending on the size of your chicken, and how high your heat is, grill the kuku choma for 60-90 minutes, rotating 4-6 times so it cooks evenly on both sides.
- Alternatively, roast the chicken in the oven uncovered, at 425°F (218°C) for 40-50 minutes, making sure to flip sides so it cooks evenly.
- Grill until an instant-read read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat shows at least 165°F (74 degrees C). The juices will also run clear once it is cooked.
- Remove the chicken from the grill or oven, cover it loosely with aluminum foil or a kitchen cloth, and allow it to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before carving (cutting) it.
- Serve kuku choma with kachumbari, ugali, Sukuma wiki, pilau, and more!
- Washing chicken is not recommended because it increases the spread of bacteria. However, you can still do it if it makes you feel more comfortable.
- Always make sure that the grates of your grill are clean before grilling.
- To spatchcock chicken, place the whole bird on a cutting board with the tailbone upwards facing you, and the breasts facing down. Cut upwards alongside the tailbone from the tail to the neck on both sides of the tailbone. Get rid of the tailbone or freeze it for making soups or stock. Flip the chicken breast side up and press it down. Follow the link to read more about how to spatchcock a chicken.
- Don't throw away the backbone, use it in recipes such as soups and stews.
- For food safety purposes, use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the chicken is fully cooked. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the chicken and read 165°F (74 degrees C) or more.