14 Most Popular Rwandan Dishes and Foods

Rwandan dishes are vibrant mixes of local ingredients, traditional practices, and agricultural heritage.

Lastest Updated April 19, 2024
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Basic Information

Rwandan Food: Basic Overview

Common Ingredients

Beans, corn, sweet potatoes, plantains/bananas, peas, cassava, and potatoes.

Common Cooking Methods

Boiling, grilling


Main course, desserts


Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Key Taste

Sweet, savory, neutral

Eating Etiquette

Meals are typically shared, highlighting the communal aspect of dining. Using fingers to eat dishes like ugali is common.

Meal Presentation

The presentation focuses on the natural appeal of the food, with an emphasis on freshness and simplicity.

Culinary Festivals

Harvest festivals

Influence and Fusion

Influenced by neighboring countries and historical occupations in Germany and Belgium. Mountainous terrain also impacts agricultural choices.
Origin and Region

Rwandan Food: Origin and Region



Cuisine’s Geographical Territory

East Africa

Country’s Region

Eastern, Northern, Southern, Western, and Kigali Provinces
Rwanda Map
Ingredients and Preparation

Popular Types of Rwandan Food

  • Grilled and Barbecued Dishes

    Akabenz, barbecued pork covered with lime, is a notable grilled dish in Rwanda, particularly popular in urban areas like the Remara neighborhood.

  • Porridge

    Ugali, a corn and cassava porridge, is a staple in Rwandan cuisine, often eaten with sauce or other dishes.

  • Stews

    Stews are enjoyed across the country.

    Some are made from exotic components, like cassava leaves in isombe stew.

In the heart of East Africa, Rwandan dishes showcase the richness of culture, history, and agricultural tradition.

Beyond the famed gorilla treks and the scenic beauty of its thousand hills, Rwandan cuisine relies heavily on local ingredients cultivated through subsistence-level farming.

The staple foods in this country are bananas, plantains, beans, corn, peas, millet, cassava (manioc), pulses, and sweet potatoes. In rural areas, dishes predominantly feature these plant-based ingredients, with animal protein being a rarer addition.

The proximity to lakes also introduces fish, particularly tilapia, into the diet of those living near such bodies of water.

The culinary landscape of Rwanda offers different kinds of dishes, ranging from traditional to exotic ones. Some examples are isombe, a dish made from cassava leaves, and ugali, a thick porridge.

With a mix of indigenous flavors with influences from neighboring countries and historical occupations in Germany and Belgium, Rwandan dishes are both diverse and surprising. Here, there are 14 famous dishes in Rwanda that are worth discovering.

Rwandan dishes mix indigenous flavors with influences from neighboring countries and historical occupations, which led to the integration of some Belgian dishes and cooking elements into local cuisine. Here, 14 famous dishes in Rwanda are worth discovering.

In case you wonder how different urban and rural food is in this East African nation, don’t miss this section below. Finally, I’ll also suggest some drinks to go with these dishes.

Here’s a general overview of the traditional food culture in Rwanda, with six key points.

  • Diet Staples: Rwandans enjoy a diverse diet, focusing on beans, corn, sweet potatoes, plantains/bananas, peas, and cassava as main ingredients. The influence of German colonization is seen in the prominent role of potatoes.
  • Meat Usage: Meat is more commonly consumed in urban areas, with beef and chicken being popular.
  • Cooking Techniques: Rwandan cooking methods are often simple but effective, allowing the natural flavors of the ingredients to shine. Boiling and grilling are common practices.
  • Meal Structure: Breakfast often features sweet potatoes and porridge for a hearty start, lunch comprises a mix of boiled beans, cassava, potatoes, and bananas, while dinner is the most substantial meal with various dishes and the main protein source.
  • Cultural Practices: Drinking and eating practices in Rwanda are influenced by cultural norms, with beer being a popular choice among men and tea among women.
  • Influence of History and Geography: The influence of countries that have occupied Rwanda, like Germany and Belgium, is evident in the cuisine. Plus, Rwanda’s mountainous terrain, known as “the land of a thousand hills,” impacts the country’s agricultural and culinary choices.

Next, let’s explore the global popularity of Rwandan cuisine.

While Rwandan cuisine may not yet be as globally recognized as other cuisines, its unique dishes, reliance on fresh, local ingredients, and the cultural stories behind its food are drawing increasing interest from food lovers worldwide.

As Rwanda continues to open up to the world through tourism and cultural exchanges, the global popularity of its cuisine is likely to grow.

Another aspect contributing to the rising popularity of these dishes is their health benefits. Read on!

Here are four factors that contribute to the healthiness of Rwandan cuisine:

  • Diversity of Fresh Ingredients: Rwandan cuisine includes various vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potatoes, plantains, and tomatoes, contributing to a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber​​​​​​.
  • Lean Proteins: The cuisine often features dishes with lean proteins like chicken (in dishes such as Igisafuriya) and fish, providing essential nutrients without excessive fat​​.
  • Use of Whole Grains: Dishes like ugali, made from maize or cassava, provide good energy and fiber​​ sources.
  • Moderation in Use of Fats and Oils: While Rwandan cuisine does use oil and butter, many traditional dishes are based on ingredients and cooking methods that do not rely heavily on added fats, contributing to a diet lower in unhealthy fats​​.

Alright! Let’s dig into a list of 14 popular yet distinctive delicacies in Rwanda, equipped with filtering options for easier exploration.

14 Popular Rwandan Dishes with Filters

There are many exciting things about Rwandan delicacies that are waiting for you to explore. Embark with me on a flavorful trip and explore 14 of the most common dishes that define Rwanda’s cuisine.

You can use the filters based on ingredients, taste preferences, types of cooking, categories of dishes, meal courses, etc., to search for your desired dish quicker.

Also, immerse yourself in the overview of the five categories below, including traditional, national, street food, and exotic delicacies.

  • In Rwanda, the most popular dishes reflect the country’s agricultural abundance and culinary traditions.
  • They are widely enjoyed nationwide, from Kigali’s bustling markets to the countryside’s tranquil villages.
  • They can be stews, grilled meats, and hearty porridge.

Rwanda’s national dishes offer the essence of the nation’s heritage and culture, deeply interwoven with Rwanda’s history and identity.

  • From the simplicity of beans cooked with sweet potatoes to communal delight, these recipes have traversed generations.
  • They present local staples like cassava, plantains, and many types of vegetables grown across its hillsides.

These dishes reflect locals’ preference for fresh, simple ingredients prepared in traditional ways.

  • They combine unique flavors and ingredients, making the cuisine a delightful experience for adventurous eaters.
  • These dishes often incorporate indigenous ingredients like cassava leaves in isombe, and tiny freshwater fish like sambaza.


  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Brochette is one of Rwanda’s national dishes. It is a common choice of people in the Francophone region. You can also find it in the cuisine of Gabon and other African countries.

French colonialists brought these excellent grilled skewers to Rwanda, but locals have created their own versions.

This is a very popular street food in Rwanda, often made from goat, but also chicken, beef, or fish. Onions and vegetables are also common. All ingredients are marinated with spices and grilled over charcoal.

When you order brochette, you will be served with peri peri sauce and fried potatoes.

Sambaza Rwandan


  • Street Food
  • Traditional

If you want to enjoy a dish with small fish, Sambaza is an excellent suggestion for you. It is a popular freshwater fish from Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

You will love the crispness of these silver-colored fish. In particular, when eating with peri peri sauces, it will bring an excellent taste.

These fishes are ideal appetizers. Plus, the Rwandans also use them to make a curry and enjoy it with rice.

Ugali Rwandan


  • National
  • Traditional

Ugali is a staple food in Rwanda and East Africa in general. This porridge is created by boiling corn (maize) and cassava powder with water or milk to make a soft and smooth texture. Rwandans often eat it with curry or sauce to enhance its flavor.

Ugali is usually served in ball shapes. To enjoy it, you use your fingers to tear them into small parts and eat them with other food on the plate.

Regarding its history, Americans brought maize to Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries. Before maize arrived in Africa, people in Sub-Saharan Africa only used sorghum and millet to process this porridge, and they were the staple foods here.

Ugali recipe appeared on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2017.



  • Traditional

Ibiharage is a traditional Rwandan stew that consists of beans cooked until tender, often simmered with onions, tomatoes, and sometimes garlic.

Beans are a staple food of Rwandan cuisine when planted in large quantities and sold in local markets.

Ibiharage is typically served as a main dish alongside staple carbohydrates such as ugali, boiled potatoes, or rice. It can go with other dishes like kachumbari (a fresh tomato and onion salad) to balance the meal with a refreshing element.

Kachumbari Rwandan


  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Kachumbari is a fresh salad commonly found in Easy Africa, including Rwanda. In fact, you can find many various variations of kachumbari in the cuisine of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and other South African nations.

It is a simple yet flavorful dish made primarily from fresh, raw ingredients, such as finely chopped tomatoes, onions, and green bell peppers.

The salad is seasoned with salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar, and occasionally fresh chili peppers. Overall, it is a favorite side dish in Rwanda.

FYI, the name “kachumbari” is derived from the word “cachumber” in Indians.

Isombe Rwandan


  • Traditional

Isombe is a unique dish in Rwanda, which is made from cassava leaves.

The leaves are finely pounded and then cooked to create a dense and nutritious stew. Therefore, its preparation is somewhat labor-intensive.

Meat or fish can be included in the dish. Locals normally serve it with rice, porridge, boiled plantains, or ugali in meals.

Grilled Tilapia

Grilled Tilapia

  • Traditional

Grilled tilapia is an indispensable dish in Rwandan recipes. Tilapia is a freshwater fish in Rwanda and many African countries, and it is also known as “ The Big Fish.” It lives a lot at the lakes in Rwanda.

This fish is famous for its mild, sweet flavor and firm texture. That’s why they are ideal for grilling over charcoal or wood, creating a smoky flavor.

Grilled tilapia is typically served as a whole fish, garnished with slices of lemon or lime, and accompanied by sides such as ugali, rice, or boiled potatoes. Rwandans often use their fingers to eat fish.

Matoke Rwandan


  • National
  • Traditional

Matoke is a common dish in East Africa, including Rwanda. This incredible food is made up of plantain, which is green and unripe. These plantains are closely related to bananas but are starchier and less sweet, making them ideal for cooking rather than eating raw.

The preparation of matoke involves peeling the plantains, then boiling, steaming, or sometimes stewing them until they become tender. Once cooked, the plantains can be mashed into a consistent paste or served in their whole form.

The texture of Matoke is soft and somewhat akin to mashed potatoes. Matoke is commonly served as a main dish alongside other Rwandan staples such as beans, rice, or sauce-based dishes.

Mandazi Rwandan


  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Mandazi is a sweet snack similar to doughnuts, popular for breakfast, street food, or tea time in Rwanda. This attractive food comes from Swahili Coast and is popular in many West African countries.

These snacks are sweet, fluffy, and slightly spiced. The basic ingredients include flour, sugar, coconut milk (or regular milk), and a leavening agent, with spices like cardamom or cinnamon.

Mandazi involves mixing the ingredients into a dough, which is then rolled out and cut into various shapes – typically triangles or circles. These pieces are then deep-fried in oil.



  • Traditional

Igisafuriya is a traditional Rwandan one-pot dish. Its ingredients normally are beans, potatoes, and vegetables (like carrots and green beans). Meat sometimes is added.

The word “Igisafuria” in Kinyarwanda means “pot,” referring to the pot in which the dish is cooked.



  • Traditional

Agatogo is a thick Rwandan stew created from green plantain, meat, and various spices.

The dish can be made with or without meat; when meat is included, it’s usually small pieces of fish or beef.

Rwandans often eat this food with rice or fried bread.



  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Akabenz is a Rwandan barbecued pork that is covered with lime. In fact, pork is a non-common element in Rwanda.

After marinating, the pork is either grilled over an open flame or fried in a pan until it reaches a golden-brown crispness on the outside while remaining juicy inside.

Interestingly, the name “Akabenz” literally translates to “small Benz,” a playful term that suggests this dish is highly valued, similar to the luxury of a Mercedes Benz.

It is popular as both a main dish in meals and as a snack, especially at gatherings.

Pili Pili Rwandan


  • Exotic
  • Traditional

Peri peri (or pili pili/piri piri) is a famous spicy sauce in many African countries, including Rwanda. This excellent sauce recipe is made of chilies, onions, and tomatoes. After going through the slow cook process, peri peri has a semi-solid texture.

African bird’s eye chili is a kind of chili that natives in East Africa are also famous for in many countries on this continent. The chefs often use this sauce to marinate meat and fish or dip in sambaza and brochettes.



  • Traditional

Umutsima is a traditional Rwandan dish that consists of a simple yet staple combination of two primary ingredients: cornmeal and cassava flour.

This mixture is then cooked over low heat while being continuously stirred until it becomes dense and firm. This delicacy usually appears at weddings, events, and special occasions.

Umutsima is often served as a side dish, accompanying a variety of main dishes such as stews, vegetables, and meats.

What Is Rwanda’s Food History and Culture?

Below are some brief insights regarding the food history and culture in Rwanda.

  • Rwandan cuisine varies by region, reflecting local agriculture and colonial influences.
  • The diet also varied across regions, with the Twa and Hutus’ diets being rich in vegetables and low in animal protein.
  • Tutsis traditionally consume more milk and dairy.
  • Germans and Belgians introduced potatoes to this East African country.
  • Meat and tilapia are popular today among Rwandans.

Moreover, culinary culture also impacts dining experiences across urban and rural regions within the country. Keep reading, and you will see!

What Are the Differences Between Urban And Rural Dining In Rwanda?

For a closer look, please refer to the table below to examine the contrast in dining in urban and rural areas in Rwanda.

Urban Dining

  • Diversity of Cuisine: Greater diversity, including international cuisines and modern interpretations of traditional Rwandan dishes.
  • Meat Usage: Higher consumption of meat and fish, reflecting the changing dynamics and accessibility.
  • Ambiance and Setting: Modern and diverse settings ranging from street food stalls to restaurants.

Rural Dining

  • Diversity of Cuisine: Focus on traditional Rwandan dishes, with less influence from outside cuisines.
  • Meat Usage: Less frequently consumed as cattle often symbolize wealth and status.
  • Ambiance and Setting: More homely and communal dining experiences, often outdoors or in simple settings.

Next, make sure you don’t miss any insight about pairing beverages and dishes in this East African country.

What Are Beverages To Go with Rwandan Dishes?

When enjoying dishes, pairing them with the right drinks in Rwanda can enhance the dining experience. Here are some beverages that go well with Rwandan cuisine:

  • African Tea: African tea often includes spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. It pairs wonderfully with breakfast dishes like Mandazi.
  • Ikivuguto: A traditional Rwandan fermented milk drink similar to kefir. It’s refreshing and can balance the flavors of spicy dishes.
  • Banana Beer (Urwagwa): Made from fermented bananas, this traditional Rwandan alcoholic beverage complements the savory and spicy flavors of dishes like brochettes and akabenz.
  • Fruit Juices: Fresh fruit juices, such as passion fruit, mango, and orange, are abundant in Rwanda and offer a sweet counterpoint to spicy or savory dishes.
  • Rwandan Beers: For those who prefer beer, Rwanda’s beer, like Primus, Mützig, and Amstel, is ideal for social gatherings.

So what dishes do you like best on this list? If you are an enthusiast of discovering cuisines worldwide, the information in this article is valuable to you.

If you are ready to travel to Rwanda, do not forget to save this post. Or you can share it on your social page. If there are other concerns about this cuisine, leave your question in the comment part, and I’ll get back to you soon!

Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott

Editor in Chief, Senior Content Writer


Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Western Food Evaluation Expert


Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts
  • Focus: Gained foundational knowledge in French and European culinary techniques. Participated in workshops and hands-on training sessions under the guidance of seasoned chefs.

Local Community College, New York, NY

  • Program: Associate’s Degree in Nutrition
  • Focus: Acquired basic understanding of nutrition principles, dietary needs, and the importance of balanced diets in daily life.

Jamie Scott is a skilled culinary expert and content creator specializing in Western cuisine. With over 15 years in the culinary field and formal training from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, Jamie deeply understands how to blend nutrition with delicious flavors. His passion for cooking matches his commitment to making healthy eating accessible and enjoyable.

On Fifteen.net, Jamie brings a fresh perspective to classic dishes and beverages, offering readers insightful recipes, cooking tips, and a fresh view on meal planning that emphasizes taste, health, and simplicity.

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