Nearly seven years ago, I developed my recipe for Sukuma Wiki, a Kenyan braised collard greens and ground beef recipe, and it’s been a favorite ever since. I put it in my first book, The Ancestral Table, and it’s often the dish I point to in the book when someone asks where they should start cooking. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and uses very affordable ingredients — and tastes great, too.
When writing The Heritage Cookbook, I knew that I wanted to include this dish to represent Eastern African cookery, but wanted to go back to the drawing board in terms of honoring the traditional preparation of this dish. What I came up with is a flavor provide very similar to my original recipe, but meat-free, and with nice meaty hunks of tomatoes to replicate those missing chunks of ground beef. Red onion also mellowed out the dish some compared to a white or yellow onion, which helped to balance everything just right.
Sukuma Wiki (Sautéed Seasoned Greens) - Meat free version (Gluten-free, Primal, Paleo, Keto, Vegan)
2 tbsp coconut oil or red palm oil
½ red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 hot chili pepper (habanero, serrano, jalapeno, or other), minced
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ tsp salt, more to taste
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground fennel seeds
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 lb collard greens, stems removed, sliced into 1” thick ribbons
¼ cup water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock
lemon wedges to serve
1. Warm the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion; saute until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and chile pepper and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and spices; saute until the tomatoes are softened, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in the collards and water; bring to a simmer and saute until the greens are bright green, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt, then serve with lemon wedges.
*** The most time-consuming aspect of this dish is to make the spice blend. To save time, you can do what we do: make a big batch of the spice blend (say, 16x the amount listed above), then store it in a mason jar for easy access.