Kaluhi's Kitchen

Life. Love. Food

Beef Pilau

Pilau is one of the meals that define Kenyan cuisine. Just like chapati, pilau is  one of those meals that is ever present at any major ceremony in this country. Pilau is a rice dish that is cooked in a seasoned broth, with some pieces of beef, chicken and sometimes peas, nuts and raisins, and whose brown color is obtained from being fried in caramelized onions and a blend of spices. Global variations of pilau are pilaf/pilav of Turkey, Pulao of south-central Asia and Palaw of Iraq.

Pilau is associated with the people of the Kenyan coast, and I must admit, they make the meanest pilau but we are slowly catching up :). There are many variations to the recipe but today I will give you my take. You cannot have a Kenyan food blog without the most cherished Kenyan recipe!

beef pilau with coleslaw.1


pilau ingredients

Cubed beef

Pishori rice

2 garlic bulbs, minced

4 large onions, finely chopped

Whole pilau spice

Tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable oil for frying


Cut your beef into bite size cubes and boil them then set them aside. As this is happening, toast your spices, just like we did here, for about 2 minutes. After wards, crush them with a mortar and pestle and set them aside for cooking.

pilau masala whole spice

The whole spices are a blend of black pepper, cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. I do not know the exact ratio, but I believe using them whole brings out the authentic pilau flavor, like that of the Kenyan coast as opposed to using already ground pilau masala. However, you can use ready ground pilau masala if it is your preference.

In a sufuria, heat some vegetable oil and add your onions and the crushed garlic. I love the smell of these two together. Let them stay on the heat until the onions are soft.

pound garlic

Then add your, beef and let this saute for about a minute. Follow this with the crushed pilau spices and mix. Allow this to saute for about 3 minutes, add your tomato paste, mix and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

frying beef for the pilau

I used tomato paste instead of tomatoes because I wanted to avoid the red tomato skins that  show up if in the rice if I had used tomatoes. However if you feel it is important for you to have tomatoes, ensure they are grated, and add them at this stage.

After that, add your washed uncooked rice together with water in the ratio of 1:2. This means, if your pilau has 2 cups of rice, you should use 4 cups to cook that rice. This way, you will always have singular, perfect rice. Let this stay on medium heat, with your lid on, and once the water has been totally absorbed, your rice is ready.

beef pilau in a sufuria

One of the most welcoming aromas when entering someones house is that of pilau. Warm, spicy and very inviting, it is almost impossible to turn this down.

beef pilau with coleslaw

You can try this with chicken (breast or thigh) with fish, or whichever accompaniment you see fit. This goes really well with kachumbari, coleslaw, beef stew or just on its own.

hot beef pilau with coleslaw



Ready for a spice blast? Give this a try 🙂

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  1. kaluhiskitchen

    November 20, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Thank you for that notification Rae. I have made the correction now it is A-ok! 🙂

  2. I found the whole pilau spices and thanks to them, I made the most Fabulous pilau evvveeerrrr! My hubby loved it too. Thanks 🙂

    • kaluhiskitchen

      May 25, 2015 at 9:30 am

      If the hubby loved it, then the whole world shall love it too :). Glad this made your day!

  3. Hi! I have just discovered your blog!?. My question is, what quantity of the whole pilau spices should I use?

  4. Love your simple and the ingredients easy to find but I would love if you offered classes.

    • kaluhiskitchen

      December 2, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Thankyou! Than is exactly what I am going for. I unfortunately do not offer classes at the moment but when I do, I shall let everyone know.

  5. This is Awesome can’t wait to try it… how many spoons should I use for the pilau mix and tomato paste? And can I use tomatoe sauce? Looks like am out of paste for today

    • kaluhiskitchen

      January 27, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      Hey Sheila,

      For this quantity of pilau (5 cups), I used the entire packet. Do not substitute tomato paste with tomato sauce. These two have very very different composition and will give equally different outcome. I would advice you to just wait until you get some tomato paste.

  6. This fantastic recipe has really helped me. I was abit stranded gladly this came in handy.

    • kaluhiskitchen

      March 16, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      I hope many many more recipes come to your aid in time of need :)) Glad to be of service

  7. Am just trying it now…..will come back with the results

  8. Hi Kaluhi, thank you for this recipe. I loved it. I’m not a good cook but I’m improving greatly because of your recipes…

    • kaluhiskitchen

      August 9, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      Slowly but surely.We all strat form somewhere. I am aslo learning each day. Dont worry. We will be pros soon :))

  9. Nice I love this.. I’m trying it out tonight!!! Preparing it has been a headache to me…but with this I hope I finally succeed. Thanks.

    • kaluhiskitchen

      August 12, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      You will def succeed. We all start from somewhere and with time it will become the easiest thing you will ever make :))

  10. Hi Kaluhi,
    Where exactly do you get the whole pilau spices?

    • kaluhiskitchen

      August 29, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      Super market my friend. Everything I use I buy in the kawaida supermarket.I think i pointed out that in the blog post too.

  11. Hello Kaluhi, I love pilau too and yes yesterday i cooked it. I love cooking and i love your recipe. NB: Please am not trying to look a hero am just sharing bcoz i believe sharing is caring.I would love to share the ratios for those interested; If u use 1kg of meat then you can have 6-8 pepper cons or add if you love hot pepper, 6Cloves, 2-4 Cinnamon sticks and 4 Cardamom pods 2teaspoons of Cumin seeds(Jeera). My mum originates from coast and this is a meal we often cook and its sweet + pilipili. I don’t use tomatoes but please don’t judge me am just giving you a tip. If you don’t have tomato paste to remove your tomato skin put your whole tomatoes in some warm water for 5 minutes or so and after you peel off the skin. Another Tip; If you want you pilau to be dark brown its easy just fry you onions till dark completely the dark your onions the dark brown your pilau will be. Rice You can cook by wash then soak for 30 Minutes. When cooking if put 2Glasses or cups of rice then put 3glasses or 3cups of water. Just sharing so you can try if you want.

    • kaluhiskitchen

      April 9, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Thank you for your feedback. The whole pilau spic combination I used are Whole black pepper, cinnamon sticks, cunin seeds, cloves, and iliki in the ratio of 5: 5: 3: 1: 3. I took them and crushed them in a spice crusher and that is what I used and always use in my pilau. My spice blend also gives a mild sweet kick. I do not use chili since my youngest sister does not like it in pilau.

      I appreciate your way of making pilau, I also never claim to be a professional. I just shared how we make it in our home not to mean mine is the ultimate that the whole world must stick to, keeping in mind everyone makes theirs differently, which is totally ok. Every recipe i get from the coast is different, every recipe I get from my friends and relatives is different. Kila mtu na njia yake!

      What I am saying is, there is no “ONE WAY”; to each their own. If you love your mum’s way of making pilau, it is totally OK to stick to that recipe :)), you can dismiss mine and its very ok <3 Hakuna ubaya. Thank you for your suggestion though.

  12. Oh my! I’m in love with your recipes. I did try it yesterday and it was heavenly. Thank you for this simple yet awesome recipe. 😄

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