Zanzibar Recipes – Chicken Pilau

Chicken Pilau is a perennial favourite and served on special occasions. Pilau is a rice-based dish of Indian origin that has been adopted by Kenyans as their own. Many people serve Pilau at their weddings or prepare it when they have special guests coming to visit. It is traditionally served with a fresh and spicy salad called Kachumber or the Swahili Kachumbari.

Ingredients for Chicken Pilau

For the Chicken:

  • 1 chicken cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • I 1in piece of cinnamon
  • 4 peppercorns
  • a little salt
  • In a saucepan add the above ingredients and cook for about 10 mins.  Switch the cooker off and cover.

For the Pilau:

2 cups Basmati Rice washed and soaked for 20 mins
1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 3 2 inch cinnamon sticks

In a cup soak the above five ingredients in half a cup of water for 15 mins.

  • 2 medium onions sliced
  • 2 green chillies de seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 3-4 potatoes peeled and cut into quarters
  • 3 mugs of basmati rice washed and soaked for 20 mins
  • 5 mugs water
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a saucepan add the above ingredients for the chicken with 4 tbs of water and cook on a medium heat for about 10 mins.  Switch the cooker off and cover with a lid.
  2. In a pan heat the oil on medium heat.
  3. Drain and add the whole spices that have been soaked.
  4. Add the sliced onions and fry.
  5. Add the green chillies to the onions when they have softened slightly.
  6. Continue frying the onions until they start to lightly brown.
  7. Add the ginger, garlic and garam masala.
  8. Add the potatoes and let them cook for a few minutes.
  9. Add the chicken and any liquid that has collected in the pot.
  10. Add the water and bring to the boil.
  11. Add the drained rice.
  12. Check and adjust seasoning.
  13. Cover and cook on a medium heat for approx 10 minutes.
  14. When all the liquid is absorbed in the rice, reduce heat completely.
  15. Cover and let the pilau cook for half an hour more.
  16. Serve with a raita and Kachumber salad (details below)

Ingredients for the Kachumber:

  • 3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 small green chilli deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Chop all the ingredients into bite-size chunks
  2. Mix everything in a bowl, season, then cover and chill until needed.