Beans, particularly red kidney beans, are a staple in Burundian cooking. Most people eat beans at least once a day. Recently, rice has become another staple. Other common foods are plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, peas and maize. Many families can afford to eat meat only a few times a month. A small number of families raise cattle, sheep and goats. Those who own cattle regard them as a status symbol and are reluctant to kill them for meat. Snack foods include groundnuts, sugar cane and fruit. Traditionally, Burundians do not cook many sweet foods or serve desserts with meals.

Burundians may drink urwarwa (homemade banana wine) during special celebrations or as part of a meal. Primus beer, which is produced in Burundi, and impeke, a home-brewed beer made from sorghum, are also popular. When close friends or family members meet, they often drink impeke through straws, from a single large container, as a symbol of unity.

In urban areas, a greater variety of food is available. In Bujumbura and Gitega, restaurants serve fast foods and Greek, French and Asian cuisine. People of South Asian origin have introduced rice, chappattis and highly spiced foods. However, restaurants are expensive and people do not eat out often. There are few restaurants outside the cities.

Most food is boiled, stewed or roasted over a wood fire. As forests are dwindling, the availability of wood is becoming a problem.

   Bananas with Beans

500 ml dried red kidney beans
4 green bananas or plantains
2 tbsp palm oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt
Hot pepper to taste


Soak beans for 3 hours, then boil in water for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Drain. Peel and chop bananas. Heat the oil and brown the onions. Add beans, bananas, salt and hot pepper and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add 4 cups water. Simmer until bananas are cooked and about 250 ml liquid is left. Serve hot.

   Did you know?
Many Burundian families make their own food containers. They grow gourds of various kinds and dry them to make vessels for eating, drinking, carrying water and storing grain. They also make earthenware pottery for cooking or storing foods.

   Did you know?
Ibitoke (plantain) is a type of banana. Green plantains are peeled by making two or three cuts along the length of the fruit, just deep enough to cut through the thick skin but not the fruit. The skin is then easily stripped off in pieces. Ripe plantains are thin-skinned and easily peeled. Unlike bananas, they are usually cooked.