Sukuma Wiki (Kenyan Braised Collard Greens and Ground Beef)

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

I love collard greens. They may be my favorite green food – well, second to mint chocolate chip ice cream, at least. They’ve been in use for at least 2,000 years; the ancient Greeks cultivated them along with kale.

I typically simmer my collard greens with some sort of smoked pork (usually bacon or smoked ham hocks), chicken broth, and apple cider vinegar, and it’s always delicious, although it can get a little boring. So a while back I consulted my buddy, the internet, to find another use for collard greens. During my search, I kept coming across the word Sukuma Wiki, the Swahili name for collard greens. Sukuma Wiki literally translates to “push/stretch the week” – collard greens are available year-round in East Africa, and are used to stretch meals out to last all week.

In the culinary world, Sukuma Wiki is a common name for a Kenyan dish of braised collard greens, usually prepared with ground meat, tomatoes, and onions. Turns out that this dish is dead easy to make, both in terms of time/preparation and ingredients. I was able to whip it up using stuff already in my pantry, and it’s always nice to find another use for ground beef. But the best part about this dish is its taste: it’s absolutely delicious, and has just a hint of exoticness to make it remarkable. One thing that sets this dish apart is that the collard greens are simply wilted down, and so they retain a slightly crunchy texture that really complements the ground beef.

Serves four

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp each sea salt, cumin, coriander
1/2 tsp each black pepper, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground fennel seeds, turmeric
1 lb ground beef
1 bunch collard greens (about 8 leaves), stems removed, sliced or chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp lemon juice

Be sure to prep everything before starting to cook; this is a relatively quick dish, so you want to have everything on hand when you need it.

Warm the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat for a minute, then add the onion. Sauté the onion until softened, about four minutes. Add the chopped garlic and jalapeño and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.

Add the ground beef and seasonings, and cook until mostly done, about six minutes, stirring frequently so the ground beef doesn’t clump.

This is the color you’re looking for – most of the pink has been cooked out.

Add the collard greens and tomatoes, and sauté until the collard greens are wilted, about four minutes. Stir everything around carefully as it cooks – be sure to do this step gently so you don’t mush up the tomatoes.

Add the lemon juice and season to taste by adding salt and pepper as needed, and serve immediately. This dish is typically served with a flatbread called Chapati, but we just enjoyed it on its own. Truth be told though, I bet these cauliflower tortillas from my buddy Joshua at Slim Palate would work perfectly.

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66 thoughts on “Sukuma Wiki (Kenyan Braised Collard Greens and Ground Beef)

  1. I eat something similar to this for breakfast since I can’t do eggs, but instead of the tomatoes I add roasted butternut squash. I have also added spaghetti squash and fresh basil for lunch.


  2. I’m so thrilled to find this recipe! We ate sukuma wiki in Kenya all the time, and it was usually pretty bitter and under-flavored (at least at the hospital cafeteria where my husband and I were working). This looks really good though and will make me miss Kenya a little less.


  3. Hi, What are collared greens? I don’t think we have them in Great Britain. What can I use instead? Thanks for some great ideas Elle


    1. Hi Helena, collard greens are similar to a flat-leaf kale, very hearty. They’re not very common in Europe, basically the closest thing to them you might be able to find is what the Portuguese call couve (the cabbage commonly used in caldo verde). Otherwise kale should be okay.


  4. Hi Russ. I had a question about spices/seasonings. Can you recommend a brand that doesn’t have wheat, milk and soy in them, or that are processed on equipment that is. Any suggestions?


  5. Hi Russ,

    This looks simply and tasty – and a perfect meal for summer (it’s been close to 35º celsius around here and a couple of days ago I made the mistake of cooking risotto – I was sweating 5 minutes in).

    Any “carby” side dish suggestions for this one? And have you tried tapioca tortillas? I’m yet to try it, but I’ve seen some recipes on the web that swear it has a nice, non-eggy texture – would probably be great with this.


      1. Well, I made this again tonight – this time with the tapioca/cassava tortillas! It was great :) It’s pretty similar to your pizza recipe: I used 1/2 cup tapioca flour (the “sour” kind), 1/4 cup parmesan, 2 beaten eggs, salt, pepper and enough coconut milk to get a batter with a cream-like consistency. Pour half a ladle on a small, lighty grease pan and fry on both sides (I got 5 tortillas). Super bread-like an no eggy texture. They even looked pretty :)


  6. This looks like a rather tasty dish, one I will have to try myself. Too bad my girl doesn’t eat meat, guess I will be making this for myself. Also, this seems like a dish that would go great with a traditional American Pale Ale. Enjoy!


  7. Just made this last night for my hubby… He’s lived in Kenya and was pleasantly surprised when he saw the recipe.. we both loved it!


  8. I’ve been making something similar to this for months and had no idea it had a name. We call it greens soup. With my wife pregnant, I wanted to include more greens into our diet, and less meat. We make it with Kale, Mustard Greens, or Collards, whichever is around at the time. For meat, I buy in bulk, so I freeze portion sized bags of meat as 1/2 lb of ground chuck, and 1 spicy sausage. 1 quart of stock. A generous splash of vinegar, and a shot or two of worcesteshire, along with what Veg is laying around. That will make one pot of soup, which makes 4 bowls. For something a little different, try adding Hominy! The flavor is subtle, but the texture adds interest.


  9. Wow! This is delicious. I didn’t have any tomatoes or the red pepper, so I substituted a can of fired roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles and it’s fabulous. And so quick and easy to cook! This is my first time on your site. If this is representative, I’m definitely going to explore it in depth.


  10. This looks similar to a south asian dish called Keema (literally meaning minced meat). And it’s one of my favorites especially with chapati. I’ll definately try the recipe you have suggested, as it looks like a nice and tasty variation. I’d add a bit more green chilli to mine though :)


  11. This dish was delish! Interesting flavor, great texture, and we didn’t think it need anything to accompany it. Also, super fast and easy to make, but still exotic. Winner winner chicken dinner. Thank you!


  12. This is absolutely delicious. I’m making it again this week. It will become part of my staples. A little too much burger fat though. I will drain some excess off. I don’t like grease to overpower. Spices are wonderful. A little less cardomom. I use whole seeds. i look to your recipes every week now.


  13. I had some collards, tomatoes and grass fed beef from my CSA that I needed to use. I came across this recipe and it was love at first bite. I used to cringe when I got collards in my bag…after this recipe I say…”bring them on”! Thanks so much for an amazing recipe!


  14. Tried this tonight and it was amazing. I’m used to making keema (similar Indian dish) so basically ran through the motions with this but the greens really up it a notch and change the flavour. I used Swiss chard instead of collards and it came out great. Didn’t have jalapeños so threw in some spicy chilli powder as well. In then we wrapped it all up in a tortilla with some fresh arugula and enjoyed having the flavours come together! Kick ass.


  15. Just started my third Whole 30, and I was looking for new recipes to get me in the groove. I just made this and it’s remarkably good. Like, facedown in the bowl good. I know you posted it in the summertime, but it’s nice and warming looking out at the snowy, 20 degree day. (By the way, I didn’t have any coriander, and your recipe didn’t specify leaf or seed, so I assumed seed and subbed some caraway.)


  16. I am just wondering if substituting the ground beef for ground turkey would make a difference? My husband was recently diagnosed with MS so is on a very strict diet (no red meat along with all the same rules as paleo) so am always looking for new recipes. Thanks!


  17. UK people – I bought a bag of spring greens in Sainsbury’s and they seem to be the same as what’s called for in this recipe. I think sweetheart cabbage or kale would work too.

    Loved this, will be making it a regular addition to the menu!


  18. So, we make this all the time and I’ve already posted how much we love it. Russ, we just bought some palm oil per PHD recommendation. I’m assuming the oil would work well in this recipe? Also,we just bought your book and silly me, i didn’t even know that you were the author. Made the shepherds pie and it was great.


  19. I love trying different cuisines and this one didn’t disappoint. Made it with ground kangaroo and kale because that was all I had (I’m from Australia btw haha). Usually the flavours of kangaroo are pretty gamey but the spices in this masked it, absolutely delicious!


  20. Actually it seems that at least one other green – kale – is often used to prepare sukuma wiki, which is also a common dish in Tanzania. In Tanzania it’s not usually prepared with meat, but sometimes as a side dish when meat is present. It is almost always eaten with ugali, the stiff maize porridge / cake which is eaten all over East Africa.


  21. Hey Russ! Just wanted to give you a quick “thank you” for an outstanding recipe. We had it for dinner last night and both my wife and I loved it.

    If anyone wants to see a full nutritional breakdown of Sukuma Wiki, check it out:

    Mine worked out as follows:

    Calories: 329
    Protein: 25g (32%)
    Net Carbs: 9g (11%)
    Fat: 20g (57%)

    Delicious stuff, but the grass fed ground beef I have is a bit fatty.


  22. In all honesty… Skums (how Kenyan’s Sakuma Wiki) more often than not will not have meat in them. Typically meat is served as a stew on the side or choma (grilled) alongside some Ugali. Nice adaptation, but you also need to substitute the fresh spices for Royco… which is the standard soup mix/spice.


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