Kachumbari Salad

A wooden serving plate filled with sliced tomatoes, red onion, and chopped cilantro.

A classic Kenyan dish, kachumbari is one of my all-time favorite tomato salads. I first tried it during a trip to one of Free the Children’s communities in the Maasai Mara. The fresh, local ingredients make this a healthy side dish for grilled meats and chicken or fish, and they come together to create a tasty treat that would satisfy any Maasai warrior. Kachumbari is best served cold, either plain or with warm chapatti. I enjoy the tomato salad for its boost of nutrients and Kenyan flair.

If you prefer a milder onion flavor, rinse the onion slices in hot salty water before putting them in the salad. This ensures the onion is less harsh on the palate.–Women for Women International

LC Salsa Salad Note

Though this melding of summery ingredients is quite stunning as tomato salad, the author mentions that if you finely chop the tomato and onion, this very same recipe doubles as homemade salsa. A quick glance at the ingredients corroborates this. We love multitasking recipes such as this one.

Kachumbari |Tomato and Onion Salad

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 10 M
  • 10 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl with the onions. Stir in the cilantro.

Drizzle over the olive oil and stir in the chile, if using. Season the salad with salt and pepper and gradually add the lemon or lime juice to taste. (Squeeze the lemon or lime juice into the salad just before serving to avoid sogginess.)

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Simple recipe, simple directions, stellar taste. My pound of ripe tomatoes translated as 5 rather large plum tomatoes. I used a small red onion, which weighed about 100 grams (3 to 4 ounces). Though I don’t mind raw red onion, I wanted to temper the “bite” because I hoped the children would feast on it, too. I pickled the onion slices in some lime juice and salt, because I wanted a bit more crunch than the suggested hot salty water would give. The onions really worked well contrasting the soft, juicy tomato, which I cut into dice. I used a small green chile which brought some welcome heat to the salad, but it is the cilantro that holds it all together. I served this with chicken wings and we ate our way to bliss. Leftovers can easily be blitzed to create a gazpacho-type soup, or a simple sauce, similar to one Ghanaians eat with tilapia, fresh off the grill. Or you might heat it to form a barely-cooked Kenyan salsa. A great addition to my repertoire of “sides.”

This was simple to prepare with easy-to-find ingredients. I used a variety of hothouse heirloom tomatoes, as local tomatoes aren’t in season yet. I also opted not to use the chile in deference to a couple of my tasters. I diced the tomatoes and used a half lemon to get just the right amount of tang. The addition of the cilantro was very nice. (One taster dislikes cilantro, but even he liked it in this salad.) Everyone loved the simplicity of this salad and how refreshing it was. I know that this will be even better in the summer when tomato season finally arrives. There isn’t much I’d do to change this. I can’t wait to make this again for myself with lime juice and the chile. Simple, refreshing, and so good to eat. This is fabulous!


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  1. Interesting.The same salad is called the same thing in Pakistan, except without the “i” on the end. Delicious in any language!

    1. Ah, how lovely, beatrice. Love the way you see the world. And appreciate you taking the time to share your experience. Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site calls out to you next…

  2. Ladies, you do realize that this recipe is the same for Mexican hot salsa/sauce? The only difference is the amount of hot chili peppers you use.

    1. Hi Mavis, yep, the ingredients are the same. Different cuisines have different names for this simple tomato and onion salad.

  3. What a beautiful alternative to all the hundreds of other tomato recipes circulating right now. Initially I found it amazing that the recipe was Kenyan, since it looks like a twist on a Salsa, but I realized: A lot of countries on similar latitudes, map wise, have similar ingredients in their cuisines. Cilantro runs as Thai/Vietnamese as it does Mexican, for example.

    1. We were surprised when we first saw this recipe, too, Pacific Merchants. But yes, exactly as you said, there’s a sort of independent invention going on when certain ingredients surface. Many thanks for taking the time to leave your kind words.

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