Swahili Food Recipe - Tanzanian Kisamvu (Cassava Leaves)

Swahili Food Recipe: Tanzanian Kisamvu (Cassava Leaves)

I knew I needed to try Kisamvu after my neighbour Mr Jonathan informed me he craved it for weeks following his trips to Tanzania. Kisamvu in English is simply another name for fresh cassava leaves, but Mr Jonathan claims that when he’s in the States, he substitutes spinach for Kisamvu, and the flavour and texture are quite close.

Jonathan provided me with a formula for Kisamvu, which was used at the JBFC [Janada Batchelor Foundation] for Kids, a Tanzanian orphanage to which he paid a visit. While there, he shoots a documentary video to promote the positive work that JBFC and his production business, RTC Pictures, are doing…

What a fantastic opportunity!

Kisamvu Recipe

Now, on to the Kisamvu recipe…

Although I had the privilege of observing the “Mamas” create a large batch of Kisamvu on his film tape, there are no specific measurements (Mamas are the women taking care of the children). They do everything, even building and stoking the kitchen fire sites (constructed beneath three enormous stones). The pot is held in place by the rocks). They also split wood and prepare meals.

And the foodstuff comes directly from their gardens, just a few moments before. There’s nothing fresher in the world than that.

Kisamvu has a faintly nutty flavour (much more so if you use the entire quantity of peanut butter), as well as a creamy softness from the coconut milk added at the very end (the coconut cream hints at the Indian effects that still exist in Tanzania till today). It would go well with rice and chicken as a side dish.

Course Sides and Slaw

Lifestyle Vegetarian, Vegan

Food Type Veggies

Servings:4+ people


  •  one sliced pepper
  • Three sliced carrots
  •  one sliced red onion
  • •1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  •  two of bunches spinach, washed and chopped very thinly
  •  1/4 – 1/2 cup of peanut butter (organic), to taste
  •  1/4 cup of coconut milk
  •  salt
  •  pepper
  • squashed peanuts for toppings (if needed)

Units: US Imperial


To prepare Kisamvu, you need to first cook the carrot, onion and pepper in vegetable oil till it softens. (Meanwhile, concentrate on cleanup and chopping up that spinach!). Before you go any further, ensure a handful of those carrots are soft. After that, add the peanut butter.

Mix until the vegetables are equally coated, then add the spinach. (If you’re using cassava leaves to make Kisamvu, keep in mind that they’re considerably more dense than spinach and will need to be boiled first.)

Cook the spinach until soft, then add the pepper, coconut milk, and salt. You can either continue to cook it to make it dry slightly (which is more customary) or serve the Kisamvu as moist as I did. With love, light, and… a feeling of adventure, serve hot.

For more articles related to Tanzania Food Recipes, click here!

Recommended Articles From Around the Web