Margarita's International Recipes


Kuku Paka

Chicken in Coconut Milk

Kuku Paka

Kuku paka, also known as kuku na nazi is a popular dish in Kenya's coastal region. It's basically chicken in a simple coconut milk curry. It was most likely brought into Kenya by the large immigrant population that came to the country at the end of the 19th century.

There are some variations on how kuku paka is prepared. Some recipes have the chicken marinate in the spices for the curry and then grilled or cooked in another manner. Others have it cook in the curry instead. I decided to combine the recipes into what made the most sense for me - I figured a lemon juice marinade was likely to penetrate the chicken better and quicker than a spice one, and the chicken could incorporate the flavors from the spices while it cooked. As I used skinless chicken, I'm not sure that browning the chicken was a necessary step, but it's definitely required if you use skin-in chicken (though most recipes call for skinless chicken).

The results were quite good. This was a perfectly acceptable week day meal.

This dish is best served with rice, but I served it with naan which I prefer myself.


Kuku Paka


    For the chicken

  • 2 - 3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp Kashmiri or garam masala
  • 1/3 cup ghee (optional)

    For the spice mix

  • 2" ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 green Thai jalapeños or serrano chilies, seeded and cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp rosemary or thyme
  • 1 tsp salt

    For the curry

  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup coconut cream (optional)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped.


Prepare the chicken. Pat dry chicken thighs and place in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, garlic, salt and Kashmir or garam masala and rub all over. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the spice mix

Using an electric food processor or blender, or a mortal and pestle, puree together the ginger, garlic, chilies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, curry powder, rosemary and salt.

Brown the chicken

Melt ghee in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and brown chicken on both sides. Remove or set aside. Alternatively, brown both sides of the chicken thighs on a grill, a broiler or a 400°F oven. Set aside

Prepare the curry

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until lightly brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the spice mix and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk.

Add the chicken, bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer until the chicken thighs are cooked through, about 8 minutes. Stir in the coconut cream if using and chopped cilantro. Cook for another minute and serve.

Adapted from several recipes.

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