Ebinyebwa; a tale of the Ugandan groundnut stew

Sunday April 8 2012

Ebinyebwa is popularly served at traditional wedding ceremonies in central Uganda. Photo by Ismail Kezaala

Ebinyebwa is popularly served at traditional wedding ceremonies in central Uganda. Photo by Ismail Kezaala 

By Ian Ortega

Beans can be left out on a party menu serving traditional food, but never can the adored groundnut stew popularly refered to as ebinyebwa among most Bantu speaking tribes and binyewa by the Luo. Indeed even a wedding buffet is not a buffet enough if that savoured section of groundnut stew is missing for many Ugandans today. Those who have lived aboard or have relations and friends in the diaspora will know pretty well that this delicacy is a great reminder of home. They never tire of requesting for a kilo or two of the groundnut flour.

According to Daniel Okello whose thesis focused on groundnuts in Uganda, the groundnut is thought to have been introduced in Uganda by early traders and travellers around 1862 and localised growth can be traced back to Serere in 1930.

The groundnut stew is more popularised and integrated in the central region despite the fact that as a crop, it is mainly grown in the eastern and northern regions of the country where it has become part of the people’s culture. If groundnut stew is prepared well, one is bound to fall in love with it given its thick gravy and smoky aroma.

Talk of its versatility, the ability to be served with lots of different types of foods. In fact, it can be mixed with different kinds of sauce and vegetables which makes it a great cuisine. Nalongo Jane Namakula, the owner of a makeshift restaurant in St Balikuddembe (Owino) market is widely known in her circles for her profound mastery in cooking Ebinyebwa. Perhaps the reason why her serving stand out is because it is pounded with the traditional Kiganda mortar and pestle-ekinnu and omusekuzzo. However, today most people buy machine grinded groundnuts for preparing ebinyebwa.

One cannot exhaust the different variations of cooking the stew. Whatever the preferences, some prepare it with dried fish, others mukene, smoked meat, greens, vegetables of all kinds, egg plants, mushrooms. Prepared stew can be readily served with sweet and Irish potatoes, matooke, cassava and yams just to mention but a few. Another group of people subscribe to the food potpourri famously known as katogo and this is mainly matooke fingers with groundnut stew. Then there is the ebinyebwa prepared in the luwombo form, anyone who has had a chance to being a muko at a kwanjula knows how amiable it is to eat this stew.

A quick guide to preparing ebinyebwa
According to Nalongo Namakula, it is preferable that one goes the traditional way in order to prepare the groundnut stew of a life time. “Pound the groundnut seeds in the traditional mortar and pestle since this bring out the oils compared to the milling machines which simply crush them,” explains Namakula. In case you have bought machine crushed groundnuts, then it is advisable for you to roast or fry them, so as to give them a pleasant aroma.


The crushed/pounded groundnuts in flour-powder are properly mixed with water taking care to sieve out particules. The mixture is then boiled till ready, however at pre-ready stage; one may prefer to add cabbages, mushrooms, dried fish and meat or any other vegetables.

In order to have a thick stew or stout, it is advisable to eliminate tomatoes. But whatever way one prefers to prepare the groundnut stew, and for whatever reason one loves to have it as a sauce, fact remains that groundnuts are the most important legume after beans in Uganda. To many a Ugandans, for more than 50 years, no stew has stuck closer than a brother to their mealtime than the groundnuts stew. To make your special occasion worthwhile, ebinyebwa-the Ugandan groundnut stew should be on the menu.