Farmland near Virunga

How to Make Isombe

While tried-and-true favorites like Italian pastas and Indian curries are well-established and well-loved in the US, the culinary treats of Africa are only just beginning to be appreciated overseas. Among these dishes is a Rwandan staple called Isombe. Originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, this flavorful green dish is made out of cassava, or manioc, leaves and other vegetables that give it a unique flavor and much nutritional value.

The sought-after cassava leaves are rich in protein (100 grammes of cooked cassava leaves provides about 3.7 grammes of protein!), fiber, vitamin c, beta carotene, potassium, iron zinc, manganese and magnesium. It contributes building healthy bones and maintaining digestion.

Common Ingredients In Isombe

Ingredients: 1 pound fresh greens; 6 onions, 2 medium eggplants; 500g spinach; 2 green bell peppers; 3 tablespoons of sustainably grown and harvested palm oil; 3 tablespoons peanut butter.

Preparation: Chop all produce. Add your choice of greens to salted water and boil until tender. Add the onions, eggplant, spinach and green bell peppers then cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the palm oil and peanut butter and stir to form a smooth paste. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Serve with rice and bread.

Here are five steps to make Isombe (simple):

  1. Prepare the Cassava Leaves: Begin by thoroughly washing the cassava leaves to remove any dirt or debris. Then, finely chop the leaves and set them aside. If the leaves are tough, you may need to blanch them briefly in boiling water to soften them before chopping.
  2. Cook the Cassava Leaves: In a large pot, heat some oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and minced garlic, sautéing until they become fragrant and translucent. Then, add the chopped cassava leaves to the pot, along with a small amount of water to help them cook.
  3. Season and Simmer: Season the cassava leaves with salt, pepper, and any additional spices or seasonings of your choice, such as smoked paprika or chili powder. Stir well to combine the seasonings with the leaves. Cover the pot and let the mixture simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are tender and flavorful.
  4. Add Peanut Butter: Once the cassava leaves are cooked, stir in a generous spoonful of peanut butter to add richness and creaminess to the dish. Adjust the amount of peanut butter to taste, adding more if desired for a thicker consistency and nuttier flavor.
  5. Serve: Once the peanut butter is fully incorporated and the dish has reached the desired consistency, remove the pot from the heat. Isombe is typically served warm, alongside cooked plantains, rice, or another starchy accompaniment. Garnish with chopped peanuts or fresh herbs if desired, and enjoy your delicious and nutritious Rwandan dish!


Muryoherwe! (Enjoy!)

Cassava Leaf

A Cassava leaf, commonly found in Rwandan dishes

During our Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda Ecotour, we could not be more thrilled to team up with Aspire Rwanda, a locally-run non-governmental organization that provides vocational training to impoverished young women. Based in the capital of Kigali, Aspire is a place for women to learn skills to carry with them into their lives while providing food and education for their children. In addition to learning skills like hairdressing, many women receive training as cooks, both in terms of understanding nutrition, and in practical application. Among the many dishes they learn to cook Isombe. Guests on this trip will get a chance to help get hands-on with making this tasty dish, but for those who want a head-start at home, check out our recipe below! We’re thrilled about our collaboration with Aspire Rwanda!


If you’d like to learn about our Gorilla Trekking Trip, read on!

gorilla trekking adventure tour

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