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.

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

Kachumbari Salad

5 from 1 vote
This Kachumbari salad recipe, made from tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, chile, and lemon juice or lime juice is just like a salsa salad.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories163 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 1 pound ripe but firm tomatoes, sliced or diced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 chile, sliced (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice


  • 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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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 163 kcalCarbohydrates: 10 gProtein: 2 gFat: 14 gSaturated Fat: 2 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 10 gSodium: 12 mgPotassium: 407 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 5 gVitamin A: 1533 IUVitamin C: 38 mgCalcium: 28 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Women for Women International. Photo © 2013 Philip Webb. All rights reserved.

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 spicy sweet 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!

This is one of my favorite salads and a constant on my table. I have always made it with vinegar, however, what a delightful surprise it was to taste the difference when made with lemon juice. This will be my standard way of making it from here on. I made it twice—once as written but omitting the chile, and once using halved cherry tomatoes and adding crumbled feta cheese. Both were absolutely delicious. This salad should be in everyone’s repertoire.

I really enjoyed this and would recommend it as a great way to use up any summer tomatoes one may have from their garden. I ate it both with the chile and without. For me, I felt that with the chile it was best used as a salsa instead of a salad, but if you like a kick in your salad, definitely add it. This would also be fantastic served on some grilled bread and as a condiment for a burger.

This was delicious, and a great use for my first tomatoes of the summer. It is incredibly versatile, as the flavors are not specific to Africa, but are found in many parts of the world. If you dice rather than slice your vegetables, this salad is remarkably like a pico de gallo. I diced the vegetables, but more coarsely than I would for pico. So you have a nice salad/salsa/relish here that can go with almost anything, and couldn’t be easier to make.

What a wonderful salad to serve with almost any meal. It has easy-to-find ingredients and is quick to make. We chose to not add the optional chile. The addition of the chile and then chopping the ingredients into small pieces, with the omission of the oil, would have been a pico de gallo, (Another favorite of ours.) I made this in advance and let the flavors marry for a couple of hours. All at the table had more than one serving and not a bite was left at the end of the meal. I will make this again and add roasted peppers instead of the chile.

I was uncertain what made this recipe Kenyan, as I am unfamiliar with Kenyan cuisine. This salad was essentially a salsa. It was easy to prepare and the flavors were lively and distinct. I would make this recipe again and I would recommend it to others. I think that when I make the recipe again I will try to add a little less olive oil to keep the calorie count down on an otherwise healthy recipe.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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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…