Mangoes with Chili (Maembe na Pilipili)

You know food has a funny way of sending you down memory lane.  One of my fondest food memories is one that a lot of Kenyans my age will relate to – Mangoes with Red Chili Powder.  I know, sounds crazy right?  Okay, at least I know Mexicans know what the hell I’m talking about because they use chili powder and lime on their fruits.  When I was a kid, I would wait for school to let out so that I could buy a mango with chili on it and walk to the bustop with this treat.

Usually the vendors were situated right at the bus stops (or “stage” as is known in Kenya).  The mangoes were similar to a Keitt variety that is dark green even when ripe.  The vendor’s station was an upturned aluminium trash can and the cover, also inverted, sat atop it with a thin wire mesh with an array of mangoes and grilled corn on the cob. In a separate dish was the chili powder with half a lemon.  We would dip the lemon into the chili and then rub it all over our mango, which was already cut in sections for us…mmmhhh.

I’m now grown up and know all about germs so I am a bit wary of eating the mangoes on the street like I used to so I’ve made my own home version.   I use ripe mangoes (like a Haden varietal) and dice them up into a bowl and sprinkle the chili powder all over.  Fork to mouth. Repeat until bowl is empty!!! In the States you can buy the special chili powder from any grocery store under the brand name Tajin or Klass.  However, you can make your own as we do here in Nairobi.  We also use this chili on another Kenyan street food – grilled/roasted corn (we locals call it “roasted maize”) .

Recipe for: Fruit Chili Powder 

Servings: to taste

Ingredients Directions
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 tsp citric acid


  1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl
  2. Sprinkle liberally on mangoes or whatever you think needs a kick!

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