An epicurean adventure to: Kenya
Take your chip game up a notch with this super easy, lip-smacking Kenyan masala chips recipe.
Originating in West Africa, masala chips are a popular street food made from deep-fried potato slices seasoned with a flavour-packed, spicy masala blend. These potato chips sometimes answer to the name 'Indian naughty fries' too!
The masala sauce includes chilli flakes, paprika, curry powder, turmeric, ketchup, lots of garlic and ginger, topped off with fresh, chopped coriander.
Widely enjoyed in Kenya and beyond, these fries are a popular, budget-friendly snack, commonly found at street stalls and restaurants. Masala chips are often served alongside ketchup, chilli sauce or tamarind chutney, making them a flavourful staple of East African street food culture.
Our recipe uses oven chips, making it a super quick side dish for a weeknight meal. Just follow our straightforward, easy steps and experience the vibrant street food culture of Kenya in your very own kitchen.
Fast facts - Kenya
|Location||Kenya is located in East Africa and is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the southeast, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the northeast.|
|Language||Kenya is a linguistically diverse country with numerous languages spoken, but the official languages are English and Swahili.|
|Population||Circa 54 million people.|
|Trivia||It's a paradox: Kenya's largest economic contributor is coffee production, yet most Kenyans prefer tea over coffee. Kenya ranks as the world's third-largest coffee producer, with global exports, including Starbucks showcasing Kenyan coffee beans. However, domestically, Kenyans typically opt for the colonial-era beverage known as "chai".|
What's to love about this recipe
- Using oven chips as a base makes this recipe incredibly quick and hassle-free, perfect for busy days.
- Elevate your everyday, humble chip to a whole new level.
- You can adjust the spice level to suit your preference, whether you like it mild or extra spicy.
- You'll need only a handful of readily available ingredients for chips masala.
- These chips make a fantastic side dish for a variety of main courses or as a standalone snack.
Key ingredient notes and substitutions
**Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full list of ingredients.
Let's talk about the chips for your masala chips recipe - you've got options:
- Oven chips - We keep it simple with good old frozen oven chips. Just preheat the oven, pop your chips in and whip up the sauce while they're cooking. Once the chips are ready, mix them into the sauce, give it a good stir, and you're all set!
Feel free to use chunky chips, thin, crispy fries, crinkle cuts etc.
- Homemade fries - Feeling ambitious? You can either deep-fry or oven-bake your very own fries or chunky chips from scratch.
- Takeaway chips - Order some chips from your local takeaway or chip shop, then add them to the sauce. Pan-fry them over low heat until they're warmed through.
It's worth noting that using firmer chips works better for this recipe. Since you'll be tossing them in the sauce, firmer chips hold up better and won't break apart too easily during the mixing process.
Use your favourite onion, whether it's colourful red onion, versatile white/brown onion, or subtly sweet shallots.
As a guide, we use a medium-sized onion which yields roughly 150g of peeled, chopped onion.
You can get creative with your choice of spices.
- If you're craving more heat, simply toss in extra chilli flakes. Red chilli powder can also be used.
- Don't have smoked paprika? No problem, regular paprika works just fine.
- If you're a fan of bold curry flavours, feel free to increase the curry powder or choose a spicier variant.
- You could also experiment by adding some ground cumin powder, garam masala or chaat masala.
Garlic and ginger
We like to make masala chips easy, so we use garlic paste and ginger paste. Most supermarkets stock them in tubes, small tubs or little glass bottles.
But, if you have some extra time, using freshly minced garlic or grated ginger would work perfectly.
Garlic powder or onion powder can also be used in a pinch.
Tomato ketchup (tomato sauce) is a key ingredient that ties everything together. It adds a nice mix of tanginess, sweetness and moisture to the dish.
If you like, you can also blend tomato ketchup with tomato paste in equal amounts for a milder flavour.
To give these chips a lovely finishing touch, generously sprinkle fresh, chopped coriander (cilantro) on top!
For extra heat, you can also add some finely chopped green chilli. This is optional, so feel free to adjust it according to your family's taste preferences.
How to make masala chips: Step-by-step
- Follow the package instructions to bake the oven chips in a single layer on a baking tray.
Cooking time may vary between different brands and thicknesses.
- While the chips are baking, start by adding the oil to a frying pan and heating it up over medium-high heat.
You can use olive oil, vegetable oil or any other neutral-flavoured oil.
- Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onions to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté them gently for approximately 5 minutes, or until they become soft, translucent and lightly browned.
- Add the smoked paprika, chilli flakes, ground turmeric and curry powder to the cooked onions. Stir them together and continue frying over medium-low heat for about 1 minute.
Side note: This process is called 'blooming'. Blooming spices means briefly cooking them in oil or fat to release their flavours.
- Add the garlic and ginger paste and cook together for an additional 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato ketchup, salt and black pepper.
- Reduce the heat to low and gently stir fry for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
If you notice that the sauce has cooked too quickly and become too dry, simply add a splash of water or a bit more tomato ketchup to adjust the consistency.
- Add the cooked chips to the pan. Toss them well with the sauce and briefly fry for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Sprinkle over the chopped coriander and sliced, green chillies (if you are using them). Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.
Tips and tricks
Choose firmer chips
Opt for firmer chips to prevent them from breaking up when tossed with the sauce. This ensures that your masala chips remain crispy and intact.
Toss the chips quickly and with a light hand
When adding the cooked chips to the sauce, be sure to toss them quickly and gently. This ensures they're evenly coated without becoming soggy or breaking up.
Be generous with the salt
Don't be shy with the salt! We typically use half a teaspoon for every 500 grams of chips but feel free to adjust to your taste.
Keep in mind that when taste-testing the sauce, it should be slightly saltier than you'd expect from a regular sauce because it will be diluted when mixed with half a kilo of chips.
Besides the substitutions we mentioned under 'Key ingredient notes and substitutions', here are some more ideas to change up your masala chips:
- Include cooked and shredded chicken or lamb for a hearty, meatier version.
- Or, use plant-based alternatives like tofu or tempeh instead of meat or dairy products for a vegan-friendly version.
- Sprinkle grated cheese over the chips before tossing them in the sauce for a gooey, cheesy version.
- Swap regular potatoes for sweet potatoes for a slightly sweeter and more nutritious alternative.
- Incorporate extra vegetables like peas, corn or carrots for added colour and texture.
- A touch of citrus zest can add a zingy twist.
- Consider adding cooked shrimp or prawns for a seafood twist.
- If you enjoy a touch of smokiness and meatiness, sprinkle some crispy bacon bits over your masala chips.
- Serve masala chips with a side of extra ketchup or your favourite dipping sauce.
- Drizzle some sour cream or yoghurt over your masala chips for a creamy contrast.
- Top with creamy avocado slices.
- Place a fried egg on top of your masala chips for a hearty breakfast-inspired variation.
- Pair masala chips with your favourite main dishes, such as grilled chicken, burgers or grilled vegetables. Or go all out Kenyan and enjoy it with traditional Nyama Choma, a meaty stew made with beef, lamb or goat.
- Mimic the street food experience by serving masala chips in paper cones or small bags for a casual, on-the-go treat.
- Serve with lemon wedges for anyone who might like a squeeze of lemon juice on their spicy chips.
Masala chips are best enjoyed straight from the hot pan, as they are the crispiest and most flavorful when freshly prepared.
If you have leftover masala chips, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1-2 days. However, keep in mind that they may lose some of their crispiness over time.
To reheat leftover masala chips, place them in a preheated oven for a few minutes to regain their crispiness. Or, flash fry them in a pan until heated through. Avoid using the microwave, as it can make them soggy.
Masala chips are not well-suited for freezing, as the freezing and thawing process can significantly affect their texture and crispiness.
Kenyan Masala Chips
- 1 frying pan
For the chips
- 500 grams oven chips - or homemade deep-fried chips
For the masala sauce
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil - olive oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil etc
- 1 medium onion - red or white, roughly 150g peekled and chopped
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika - or plain paprika
- ¼ teaspoon red chilli flakes - or more if you want it spicier
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste - or freshly minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste - or freshly grated ginger
- 5 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- ½ teaspoon salt - or to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper - or to taste
- 2 green chillies, chopped
- 2 tablespoons coriander, chopped
Cook the chips
- Follow the package instructions to bake the oven chips in a single layer on a baking sheet.500 grams oven chips
Make the masala sauce
- While the chips are baking, start by adding the oil to a frying pan and heating it over medium-high heat.2 tablespoons cooking oil
- Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onions to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté them gently for approximately 5 minutes, or until they become soft, translucent and lightly browned.1 medium onion
- Add the smoked paprika, chilli flakes, ground turmeric and curry powder to the cooked onions. Stir them together and continue frying over medium-low heat for about 1 minute.½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon red chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
- Add the garlic and ginger paste and cook together for an additional 1 minute.1 tablespoon garlic paste, 2 teaspoons ginger paste
- Stir in the tomato ketchup, salt and black pepper.5 tablespoons tomato ketchup, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Reduce the heat to low and gently cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.If you notice that the sauce has cooked too quickly and become too dry, simply add a splash of water or a bit more tomato ketchup to adjust the consistency.
- Add the cooked chips to the pan. Toss them well with the sauce and briefly fry for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Sprinkle over the chopped coriander and sliced, green chillies (if you are using them). Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.2 green chillies, chopped, 2 tablespoons coriander, chopped
Choose firmer chipsOpt for firmer chips to prevent them from breaking up when tossed with the sauce. This ensures that your masala chips remain crispy and intact.
Toss the chips quickly and with a light handWhen adding the cooked chips to the sauce, be sure to toss them quickly and gently. This ensures they're evenly coated without becoming soggy or breaking up.
Be generous with the saltDon't be shy with the salt! We typically use half a teaspoon for every 500 grams of chips but feel free to adjust to your taste. Keep in mind that when taste-testing the sauce, it should be slightly saltier than you'd expect from a regular sauce because it will be diluted when mixed with half a kilo of chips.
**Nutritional data disclaimer**
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is calculated by a third party and we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We try our best to give you the most accurate information, but we do not take responsibility for errors that may be present. Also, the nutritional value of the recipe may change depending on the exact brands and products used. We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalised advice on your dietary needs.