Ready to take an epic culinary journey through the beautiful land of Rwanda and discover popular foods in Rwanda? Agriculture is one of Rwanda’s biggest exports, so it grows and eats its own bananas, beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Rwandans also love to experiment with bold flavours that you never would expect.
From national specialities like Ishango to traditional lunchtime favourites such as Ubugali, plenty of delicious treats are out there waiting for you. We’ve rounded up 10 of the most popular foods from Rwanda for you to explore in 2023. If you want to explore new cultures, Rwanda is rich with possibilities – especially when it comes to its cuisine.
What is Rwanda’s National Food?
Brochettes, or grilled skewers, are the national food of Rwanda. Rwandans make this popular street food with chunks of marinated beef, chicken, or pork skewered. The finished product is juicy and tender, with a hint of smokiness from the grill. They often serve them alongside traditional Rwandan side dishes such as Ugali, rice, or boiled maize meal.
What is the Most Popular Rwandan Dish?
Ubugali is popular foods in Rwanda. They make this traditional porridge-like dish with maize flour, water, vegetable oil, and salt, cooked until it’s thick and creamy. Ideally, the popular foods in Rwanda are meat and plant-based. We start with those that are meat-based.
The Kinyarwanda word Igisafuriya translates to ‘Pot.’ This dish comes from blending all ingredients into a single pot. Its complexity is attributed to the fantastic ingredients used.
Here, the main ingredient in this delightful dish is chicken. It’s slowly cooked over low heat and combined with plantains, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and onions to give it a unique flavour. As you savour it, you’ll experience the delightful blend of different spices that create this wonderful aroma.
Every bite of Igisafuriya will tantalize your taste buds like nothing else.
2. Grilled Tilapia
Grilled Tilapia is an essential course in Rwandan dinner tables. It’s not surprising that this remarkable fish, commonly referred to as “The Big Fish,” has gained recognition throughout African nations, including Rwanda, due to its abundance at the lakes there.
A single Tilapia is enough to feed two to three people, and you can select its size when visiting Rwandan restaurants. You will be entranced by the unique smoky taste of combining fish, onion, garlic, carrot, and spices. Plus a bonus – in Rwanda, it’s customary for diners to enjoy their dishes with their fingers. Its customary significance makes it one of the most popular foods in Rwanda.
3. Brochettes – Rwanda Meat Skewers
Brochette is one of the most popular dishes in Rwanda. When you’re craving something delicious in Rwanda, try the Brochette. This popular street food is an array of skewers featuring meats, fish, onions, and vegetables marinated with spices and grilled to perfection over charcoal.
To make it even better – every order comes served with Pili Pili sauce and fried potatoes for extra flavour. Take advantage of this tasty experience while you’re there.
4. Sambaza – Deep-Fried Fish
Craving something small yet succulent? Then Isambaza is the perfect dish for you. This popular freshwater fish, is plenty in Lake Kivu. So treat your taste buds to this delectable delicacy today and indulge in an unforgettable feast.
You will love the crispness of the fried fish combined with a flavorful concoction of spices. Sambaza is typically served along with other accompaniments, such as ugali, a polenta-like dish made from maize flour.
5. Akabenz – Barbecued Pork
Referring to Rwandan cuisine, one must remember Akabenz. This mouth-watering dish is prepared by marinating pork pieces in vinegar, white wine, and other spices. Afterwards, the pork is grilled on a charcoal fire, giving it an unforgettable smoky taste.
This delectable dish can be served with traditional accompaniments such as fried plantains or ugali. The succulent and juicy pork combined with the slight crunchiness of the plantains makes for a unique gastronomical experience unlike any other.
Are you a vegetarian? If so, this section is perfect for you. I will introduce an exclusive list of tantalizing plant-based Rwandan dishes ideal for any foodie. So come along and join me on this culinary journey to explore the most delicious Rwanda foods.
6. Agatogo – Vegetable Stew With Plantains
Agatogo is a great result created by c combining two key ingredients – plantains and vegetables. This vegan-friendly dish is a favourite among vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike due to its unique flavour. The stew relies on the freshness of the vegetables, making it truly special, as each ingredient lends its characteristic aroma and taste to create a magical mix.
To enrich the stew’s texture, you can add water to the boiling pot. Rwandans typically enjoy this food with either rice or fried bread; however, you can also find Agatogo variations made from fish.
7. Ugali – Corn/Cassava Porridge
Start your day off on the right note in Rwanda with a bowl of delicious Ugali. This delicious porridge is made by combining corn flour with either water or milk, making it smooth and lusciously creamy. Ugali is a treasured delicacy in Rwanda that has become increasingly popular with Kenyans, Ugandans, Nigerians, Ghanaians, and beyond. This staple dish of Rwanda can be served with various accompaniments such as spinach, onions, or tomatoes.
8. Isombe – Cassava Leaf Stew
If you go to Rwanda, remember to taste Isombe. This iconic vegetable stew is made with cassava leaves and other ingredients such as aubergine, peanuts, and palm oil. Combining these flavours creates a unique taste you won’t find anywhere else.
Isombe usually comes with boiled plantains or sweet potatoes on the side; however, you can also enjoy this dish with rice or Ugali. This dish is popular throughout Rwanda and quickly gaining popularity in other countries thanks to its savoury, earthy flavour.
To bring out the best of this dish and to achieve the right texture and consistency, chefs will add water to the boiling pot. Rwandans typically enjoy this food with either rice or fried bread; however, you can also find Agatogo variations made from fish. So don’t miss out on this Rwandan delicacy.
9. Ibiharage – Rwandan Fried Beans
You’ll regret not having tried the quintessential Rwandan dish – ibiharage. This savoury dish is made with beans that are first boiled and then fried in a skillet with palm oil, onions, garlic, and other spices.
The results of this process are truly delicious! Ibiharage is typically served as a side dish to accompany main courses such as fish, beef, and vegetables. It can also be served as a stand-alone snack which is why it takes a spot among the popular foods in Rwanda.
10. Umutsima – Cassava And Corn Cake
If you are looking for a unique and interesting dessert in Rwanda, then Umutsima is a perfect choice. They sweeten this cassava and corn cake with sugar and honey. They then top it with cream or yoghurt. However, you can also enjoy this cake plain.
The flavor of this dish is truly delicious! The corn’s sweetness complements the cassava’s earthy taste and creates a unique flavor that will satisfy your sweet tooth.