Stews and sauces

Kuku wa kupaka (Chicken in Coconut Sauce) Kenya

Kuku wa kupaka shortened kukupaka is Swahili for chicken in coconut sauce. This is a specialty among the Mombasa people along the Kenya coast. It is a simple dish with mostly grilled chicken paired with a spicy coconut sauce. It is sweet from the coconut milk, hot from the green chillis and spicy from the combination of turmeric, coriander and cumin from the sauce. It doesn’t end there. The dish is mostly finished with lemon juice that leads to a slight sourness.

Taste: There’s a rich tone from the coconut and subdue notes of barbecue from the smokiness from grilling the chicken over charcoal. Not forgetting hot. If you like spicy foods, this will be worth the efforts put into making it.

If you want to have a truly Mombasa style of feast, pair it with Mandazi (fried dough) and rice, it is worth every bite.

If you in Ghana, you can get the spices ( cumin and coriander) in whole forms from the Hausa spice sellers between 50 pesewas to 1 cedi which is cheaper than the packaged grounded ones at the supermarkets. There are different brands of turmeric ranging from 5 cedis to 20 cedis. I am sure the price range is mostly due to packaging and brand.  The less priced ones comes in sachets.

Kuku wa kupaka (Chicken in Coconut Sauce) Kenya
Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
2 hr 50 mins
Servings: 2 - 4
Author: Juliet@biscuitsandladles
  • 1/2 kg chicken
  • 1-2 green chillis
  • 2 coves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tabespoon lemon juice
  • salt
Coconut sauce
  • 1cup/ 240ml thick coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon grounded cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon grounded coriander
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 medium size onion chopped
  • 1- 2 clove garlic grated
  • 1 green chilli thinly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • Lemon juice and coriander leaves/ cilantro leaves to serve
  1. Prepare the chicken by mixing all the ingredients under marinade and coat well onto the chicken. Marinate at least an hour or two, for an intense flavour overnight in the fridge.

  2. Light a charcoal grill or preheat an oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Lightly brush the chicken with oil, then place on  the grilling rack or the baking tray. Grill for 30 - 40 minutes, or until done.

  3. Meanwhile, put the 2 tablespoons of oil into a saucepan over medium heat. When its hot, add the onion, frying for about 5 minutes or until the barely caramelised. Add the garlic, ginger and green chilli, stirring till fragrant. Add the tomato and cook until soft. Add the ground cumin, coriander and the turmeric, and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt, stirring all the while. Add any remaining marinade(optional).

  4. Mix in the coconut milk, lower the heat and stir occasionally till sauce thickens a bit. Place the chicken in the sauce to heat through, spooning the sauce over it. If the sauce is very thick, splash in water.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the flavors have melded. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with salt and then garnish with coriander or cilantro. Just before serving, splash in lemon juice OR Serve with lemons, mandazi and rice.

Recipe Notes

You can substitute turmeric for curry powder, omit or cut down on the grounded cumin and add the coriander accordingly. For homemade Coconut milk


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