Tanzanian Style Sautéed Kale

Rural Tanzanian cooking is not something that frequently appears on cooking blogs, food TV, or even in restaurants for that matter. It is simple, hearty fare designed to nourish. It uses only local affordable ingredients, follows informal recipes, and is eaten communally. I grew up on this stuff, and I love it for its rustic simplicity and hearty flavors. Stripped of spice and other culinary crutches like butter, the art of this cooking lies in pulling rich complex flavors from simple and often bland ingredients.  Seeing mounds of gorgeous greens in our CSA farmbox this week inspired me to make this dish from my childhood. Tanzanian Style Sautéed Kale is unembellished, relying on high-heat cooking and caramelization to bring out the rich complementary flavors of kale, tomato, and onion.  I use baking soda in this recipe to mimic the taste of the locally harvested alkaline salts I grew up with.  Baking soda can be a handy ingredient to use with greens as it helps to preserve their color and flavor while speeding up the cooking process. Traditionally, this type of greens dish would be served with a thick bready porridge called ugali...but it is equally delicious on pasta, grits, or as a stand alone side dish. 


Yield: Serves 4


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 small tomatoes, cored, thinly sliced 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/16 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pound kale, washed, large ribs/stems removed, leaves cut into thin 1/4 inch ribbons


  1. Heat a medium pan over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add oil, and continue heating until oil just begins to smoke. This is the hottest temperature you can safely take oil to, but it is critical to quickly removing the liquid from your vegetables while getting good browning. A cooler pan will result in boiled and mushy vegetables. 
  2. Add the onions to the pan and cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions begin to turn golden and brown slightly around the edges.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. You will cook the tomato and onion mixture until the liquid is evaporated. The picture to the right is just ready for the next step. 
  4. Add salt, oregano, baking soda and kale to the tomato mixture. Stir quickly to combine.
  5. Cook 2 minutes more, you are looking for the kale to just start to wilt.
  6. Remove from heat and serve immediately. We served ours over a spelt pasta from our CSA, but it pairs well with any starch. We might try it next time over grits. The traditional Tanzanian accompaniment would be ugali: a thick corn and millet porridge.