Maharagwe (Kenyan Red Beans)

As we enter the depths of winter in the UK, I want to spread a little bit of African colour and warmth.  So, yes, we made it to East Africa (after months of plotting as mentioned here). And yes, we brought back some culinary tales and treats (and obligatory photos of lions: see below!)… O, what a trip!

My first African inspired offering is this Swahili dish of red beans, spinach and coconut: Maharagwe.

Maharagwe (Kenyan Red Beans)

We sampled this dish in Malindi, a town on the Kenyan coast known for it’s Italian and Arab influences (a few pics below). This blend of cultures meant that we enjoyed an array of culinary delights including lovely home-made ravioli, lots of ice-cream (if you remember, A-L developed an ice-cream obsession in the summer), chapatis, amazing fruit (never has a banana tasted so good) and Swahili dishes like these red beans.

Maharagwe (Malindi)


Maharagwe (Malindi)

This recipe is my attempt to recreate a dish that was very loosely described to me by the waiter! As I understood it, the recipe uses coconut water/ juice (not the coconut cream or milk that we buy in tins but coconut water that is currently marketed as a drink) which gives the dish a light coconut hint rather than a strong coconut flavour. As with many Kenyan dishes, this recipe is quite substantial and has lots of nutrition packed into it. I have to admit that I feel a bit smug when my daughter happily eats this type of dish because it is full of so many good things. Although, as you’ll see below, she was initially put off by the ‘green bits’!


  • Glug of sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1cm fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
  • 100g leaf spinach (I used frozen)
  • 300g fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped (about 3 tomatoes)
  • 1 can of kidney beans (or equivalent cooked from dried)
  • pinch of vegetable stock powder
  • 150ml coconut water/ juice (not coconut milk or cream)
  • Mild fresh chilli, seeds removed and chopped finely (optional)


  1. Using a large saucepan, fry the onion in the sunflower oil for a few minutes. You are looking to soften but not brown the onion.
  2. Add the ginger to the pan and fry for  a couple more minutes.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients (spinach, fresh tomatoes, kidney beans, vegetable stock powder, coconut water and chilli, if using). Give the mixture a good stir, cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes, giving it an occasional stir. In this time, the tomatoes should break down, the spinach cook and a rich sauce will begin to form.
  4. If necessary, remove the lid and simmer the maharagwe for a further 5 minutes or so. You are aiming for a rich bean stew, mingling with the spinach and coated in a thick sauce (see photos). Serve by itself or with rice.
  • Nutritional Highlights: Ooo this is a wholesome and nutritional dish! Spinach and kidney beans are both a very good source of protein and iron. The spinach also brings calcium and a variety of vitamins.
  • First served at: 2 and half years old.
  • A-L rating: The first time that I presented this dish to A-L, she saw the green spinach and proclaimed that she ‘didn’t like it’. Luckily, she was willing to give it a try and then happily ate it with some rice. On the second occasion that I made it, I reduced the amount of spinach (as per the recipe above) and chopped up any larger bits so that the dish didn’t look dominated by spinach. This worked better and she simply ate the dish without being distracted by green bits!
  • Freezer friendly? I haven’t tried to freeze this but I imagine that it could work well (so long as the ingredients that you have used in the dish e.g. the spinach weren’t originally frozen).
  • Adult adaption: Perhaps a hotter chilli?

Maharagwe (Kenyan Red Beans)

Maharagwe (Kenyan Red Beans)

Maharagwe (Malindi)


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