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A picture of a plate of East African Kuku Paka.

East African Kuku Paka Recipe

The Best East African Kuku Paka recipe! Chicken pieces are tenderly marinated in spices, grilled, then served in a flavorful coconut sauce.
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine African, swahili recipes
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Marination 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 709kcal


  • mixing bowl - I prefer to use a large bowl. That way, one has enough space to combine the Kuku Paka marinade ingredients, as well as incorporate them into the chicken.
  • chopping board - to assist with the cutting.
  • sharp knife - to cut the chicken.
  • two medium-sized cooking pots OR pans- use one pot (or a bowl if you prefer) to clean the chicken AND the other one to cook the coconut sauce.
  • wooden spoon or spatula to combine
  • an oven, charcoal, or an electric grill.



  • 1 full medium-sized chicken (skinless and bone-in or, your preferred cut, such as the breast).
  • 1 ½ tablespoon tablespoon olive oil (or favourite cooking oil).
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • juice of half a lemon to clean the chicken
  • 1 tablespoon ginger finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder optional
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder (ground cilantro)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder (ground cumin)


  • 2 tablespoon suitable cooking oil (olive oil, coconut oil or your preferred choice of cooking oil)
  • 1 medium-sized onion (finely diced or julienne sliced)
  • 1 large bell pepper (chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • cup tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon ginger (finely minced or crushed)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic (finely minced or crushed)
  • 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups coconut cream canned
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder (ground cumin)



  • Clean the chicken by filling a large pot or bowl with water and squeezing in the juice of half a lemon. Alternatively, you can clean the chicken by patting it dry using a paper towel.
    Next, cut the chicken to servable pieces, trim off excess fat from the chicken, and make diagonal slits on the surface to allow the marinade to penetrate through. Transfer the prepared chicken pieces to a bowl.
    juice of half a lemon
  • To the bowl with the chicken pieces, add lemon juice, minced garlic, ginger, black pepper, red chili powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric and salt. Stir in the olive oil then give it a good mix to combine.
    Cover, place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight for best results.
    1 ½ tablespoon tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon garlic, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon red chili powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 full medium-sized chicken


  • Preheat the grill to between medium and medium-high. If using a coal grill or jiko, make sure that the flames are not too hot.
    Remove the chicken from the fridge while the grill is heating and allow it to come to room temperature. This will allow the chicken to get the right internal temperature, and not to overcook on the outside while the inside is still too cold.
    1 full medium-sized chicken
  • Once the grill is hot enough, brush the chicken pieces with some cooking oil on both sides and lay them on the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes then flip and grill on the other side for another 5 minutes.
  • Continue to alternate sides for a total MINIMUM time of at least 25 minutes or until the chicken pieces have attained an internal temperature of 180 degrees F (82 degrees F). The FDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
  • Once cooked through, set the chicken pieces aside and proceed on to prepare the sauce. You can cover them with foil paper so they do not cool too much.


  • Place a non-stick pot or pan on the stove and allow it to heat under medium heat. Next, add cooking oil and the sliced onions. Fry until the onions are translucent and fragrant.
    2 tablespoon suitable cooking oil, 1 medium-sized onion
  • Add the tomato paste, salt, minced garlic and ginger, turmeric and ground cumin then stir to combine. Add the coconut cream and lemon juice then give it a good mix.
    ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, ⅓ cup tomato paste, ½ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 ½ cups coconut cream, ½ teaspoon cumin powder, 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and allow the sauce to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Next, stir in the bell pepper and coriander and allow to cook for a further 2-5 minutes.
    1 large bell pepper
  • Lay the grilled chicken pieces on a serving plate and spoon the hot coconut sauce on top. Garnish with chopped coriander or sliced chilli, and serve.



  • This recipe uses a whole, skinless, bone-in chicken but other cuts such as chicken breast will also do fine so feel free to use them if you prefer.
  • The FDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F (74 degrees C) but I would say keep an eye on it and make sure the juices are running clear. It is in this case, ok to cook the chicken longer to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F (82 degrees C), as we are using bone-in chicken.
  • Kuku Paka is traditionally grilled on charcoal grills but you can also use an electric grill. Do not set your grill too high. This will only overcook the chicken on the outside, while the inside is still undercooked.


Calories: 709kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 52g | Saturated Fat: 32g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 126mg | Sodium: 1169mg | Potassium: 625mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 419IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 4mg