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English Words For Common Kenyan Foods

It’s no secret that when it comes to some of our common foods, most of us don’t actually know the corresponding English terms for them. Still, when we think we know, it often turns out that we actually are using the wrong word.

Like most Kenyans, we’ve too made such errors in the past and so we thought it’s time we did some research and get the facts straight once and for all.


1. Sukumawiki – Collard Greens
Commonly called Kale, sukumwaki are actually collard greens. Kale however belong to the same plant group as collard greens called the Acephala group of cultivars, which is part of the larger group, the Brassica oleracea species.

So basically, collard greens and kale are just different varieties of the same plant, but what Kenyans typically eat are the former.

Collard Greens

2. Spinach – Swiss Chard
What we commonly refer to as Spinach is usually called Swiss Chard or just Chard. The variety commonly eaten in the country is what’s called Green Swiss Chard. 

The word spinach is also used in other countries like South Africa and parts of Australia when referring to Chard, however Spinach usually refers to a different leaf vegetable.

Green Swiss Chard

3. Terere – Amaranthus
Amaranthus, collectively called Amaranth, consists of several species of plants used for their leafy vegetable and also grain. They spot different leaf colours, but typically the species commonly eaten in the country have green or red to purple leaves.

Some of these plants are also commonly referred to as pigweed.

4. Managu – African Nightshade
This too consists of several species and are also referred to as Black Nightshade or Common Nightshade. Other local names include mnavu (Swahili), namasaka (Luhya) or osuga (Luo).

Other Vegetables

1. Sagaa/Saget – Spider Plant

2. Mrenda/Murere – Jews Mallow

3. Kunde Mboga – Cowpeas Leaves

4. Nduma – Taro
Commonly referred to as Arrowroots, the correct term for nduma is actually Taro or Taro Root.

5. Pilipili – Chilli
Also called chili pepper, chile pepper or chilli pepper.

6. Pilipili Hoho/Pilipili Mboga – Capsicum
Also called Bell Peppers or Sweet Pepper.

7. Mito/Mitoo – Crotolaria/Slender Leaf

8. Kahurura – Fig-leaf Gourd Leaves
In Swahili it’s known as Mboga la Kimasai

9. Minji – Green Peas

10. Miciri – French Beans


1. Dhania/Dania – Coriander
Also known as Cilantro or Chinese parsley.


1. Ndengu – Green Grams
Also called mung beans or moong beans. You can find out more on the health benefits of green grams here.

2. Njahi – Dolichos Bean
Also called Lablab Bean or Hyacinth Bean.

3. Kunde – Cowpeas

4. Mbaazi – Pigeon Peas

5. Kamande – Lentils

6. Kathika – Yellow Beans

7. Maharagwe Meusi – Black Beans


1. Wimbi – Finger Millet

2. Mtama – Sorghum

3. Mawele – Bullrush Millet

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