Somali Chicken Stew (Digaag Qumbe)
June 21, 2022
By Elizabeth Palmer Califano

Comfort food at its finest, this traditional Somali dish comes together quickly, yet tastes of all-day cooking with its complex flavors. Chicken provides protein and satiety, while coconut milk acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antimicrobial ingredient, also supporting cardiovascular health and supplying beneficial medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which boost brain health and lower bad cholesterol. While traditionally served over rice, here we’ve swapped in low-glycemic quinoa, which has a delicious nutty flavor that pairs deliciously with this dish. For a truly authentic Somali experience, serve this with a banana to eat bite-for-bite alongside the stew.

Serves 4

Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup plain coconut yogurt (or use plain regular yogurt if preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cooked quinoa, chopped cilantro and bananas, to serve


  1. In a blender, combine the tomatoes, jalapeno, bell pepper, tomato paste, coconut yogurt and spices, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until completely smooth.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened and golden.
  3. Add the sweet potato, chicken thighs, coconut milk and the blender sauce. Stir well to combine, and bring up to a simmer.
  4. Cover and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sweet potato is tender. Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Serve over the cooked quinoa, sprinkled with the cilantro, with bananas alongside.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Palmer Califano
Elizabeth is a graduate of Hamilton College and The French Culinary Institute, as well as an avid world traveler and dinner party hostess. For more information, visit her website: