Green Banana in Coconut Milk (Swahili Style)

Swahili food is very simple yet extremely delectable. Fresh coconut and green bananas are a part of the staple diet of the Swahili people of Zanzibar, Tanzania. Zanzibar is also called Spice Island, hence the use of spices like cumin, turmeric, coriander seeds and black pepper along with other abundantly available ones bring out a distinct aroma and flavours.


  • 2-3 Raw Green Bananas
  • 1 Onion (medium)
  • 2 Tomatoes (medium)
  • 4-5 Garlic Cloves (peeled)
  • 1 Ginger Piece (medium)
  • 1 Dry Bay Leaf
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste or Puree
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
  • 2 Teaspoons Curry Powder (if you don’t have curry powder then just grind together cumin seeds + coriander seeds + pepper + turmeric powder + chilly powder to make your own curry powder)
  • 2 Dry Red Chillies (you can use green chillies also if you like)
  • Oil (I used coconut oil for extra flavour)
  • 2 Cups Coconut Milk (preferably fresh or any store-bought coconut milk)
  • Salt to Taste
  • Fresh coriander (for garnishing)


Prep: 15 minutes
Cooking: 25 minutes

  1. Cut and peel the bananas. Boil the peeled bananas in water until soft. Use a fork to check if they are thoroughly cooked.
  2. Cut onions and tomatoes into fine slices and finely chop the ginger and garlic.
  3. If you are working with fresh coconut milk then grate 1 coconut and mix the grated coconut in 2 cups of water and let it sit for a minimum 15-20 minutes. Squeeze out as much water using a drainer to get fresh coconut milk. (I used a tetra pack store-bought coconut milk).
  4. If you don’t have curry powder then just grind together 1 teaspoon each of cumin seeds + coriander seeds + black peppercorns + turmeric + chilli powder to make your own curry powder.
  5. In a deep pan or any utensil of your choice, heat 2-3 teaspoon of oil (I used coconut oil) on medium-high flame and add the bay leaf and cumin seeds.
  6. Now add chopped onions and sauté till slightly pinkish in colour. Do not brown the onions.
  7. Once your onions have become pink in colour add your chopped ginger and garlic and sauté on medium-low flame for about 1 minute.
  8. Once your onions have become pink in colour and ginger garlic are cooked enough, add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree or paste (I used a tetra pack of local store-bought tomato puree). Cover and cook on medium-low flame till tomatoes become soft.
  9. Now add the curry powder, red dry chillies (I used spicy smokey Zanzibari dried pili pili chillies that I got from my travel to Zanzibar) and salt as per your taste. Cook further till the raw smell of the curry powder is cooked away.
  10. Next, add the coconut milk and cooked green bananas, cover and let it simmer on a medium-low flame for about roughly 2-3 minutes. Check and adjust for salt seasoning. Bring it to a boil and close the gas. Remember the green bananas are already cooked so we don’t want to overcook them and mash them up.
  11. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves if available. Serve steaming hot with plain rice or cumin infused rice or chapatti.