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Chicken Pilau

Chicken Pilau

Kenyan Chicken Pilau by Chef Lesiamon is a one-pot fragrant fluffy rice dish that packs in layers of flavor. The uniqueness of this dish comes from the pilau masala– a beautiful blend of cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. It reels you in at first whiff.

Tender meat and rice is the ultimate comfort food that is slightly different in each household. One thing is for sure, you’ll find the beloved pilau on Kenyan holiday tables and special occasions. Chef Lesiamon pairs it with kachumbari, a refreshing tomato, onion salad– a typical accompaniment you’d find on Kenyan dinner tables.

On Cooking the Diaspora episode 10, Chef Lesiamon shows us how to make his aromatic Chicken Pilau.

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Chicken Pilau

  • Author: Chef Lesiamon


A fragrant one-pot chicken and rice dish.




1 whole chicken cut into 8-10 pcs, pat dry with a paper towel


Black pepper, freshly ground

4 cups (1-1.5lt) cold water

2 sprigs rosemary

Vegetable oil or neutral oil

1 large garlic bulb finely minced, set aside 3 whole cloves

1 stalk of leek roughly chopped

2 large onions, 1 sliced & 1 roughly diced

1/4 cup (20ml) dark soy sauce

1 medium-sized knob of ginger finely minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 large tomatoes peeled, chopped/blended

2 1⁄2 tablespoons pilau masala

2 cups (400g) white basmati rice cleaned and drained


The Chicken

  1. Place a wide-based casserole dish/pot on high heat.

  2. Season chicken pieces generously with salt & crushed black pepper.

  3. Add about 30ml (3-4 Tbsp) of oil. The casserole dish/pot should be very hot at this point.

  4. Add the chicken, ensuring none of the pieces are on top of the other. Let the meat sear

    until a golden brown colour is achieved on both sides.

  5. Lower the heat to medium, add the roughly chopped onions, whole garlic cloves, leeks

    and rosemary. Cook the vegetables for 2 minutes until they sweat (slightly translucent,

    with moisture on them).

  6. Cover the meat with cold water, add soy sauce. Bring this to a boil then lower heat to

    medium-high to simmer for 10 minutes with a lid on.

  7. Pick out the chicken and strain the chicken stock into a different container. Discard the


The Rice

  1. In the same pot, add 5-6 Tbsp oil and place over medium-high heat.

  2. Add sliced onions and sauté for 4 minutes, stirring constantly to achieve an even brown


  3. Add minced garlic and ginger and lower the heat, occasionally stirring for 2-3 minutes.

  4. Add pilau masala and stir well. You may need to add a bit of oil as the spices tend to soak up all the moisture forming lumps. A bit of oil helps cook the spices well, fully extracting their flavour.

  1. Add tomato paste and cook for 3-4 minutes, then add tomatoes and continue cooking

    for 5 minutes. Season well with salt & pepper.

  2. Add rice and stir gently followed by the chicken pieces and 3 1⁄2 cups chicken stock.

    Bring to a boil, on high heat.

  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F.

  4. Lower the heat to medium once the water starts to evaporate. Cover the rice with a piece

    of parchment/ wax paper to trap in as much steam as possible, then cover the pot with

    its lid.

  5. Place the pot in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

  6. Loosen the rice with a fork or skewers and serve hot.


To make your own Pilau Masala, in a pestle and mortar or an electric spice ginger combine: 3 large Cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 3 tablespoon cardamom pods (deseeded), and ½ teaspoon black pepper corn

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