Mrenda- Nourishing Kenyan Dish

Habari! Greetings from the East of Africa. Where kunde na mrenda grows (cowpeas and jute mallow leaves). If you haven’t guessed already, we are taking a look at Kenyan food recipes today. From the ever-expanding ‘Recipes for African Food’ folder, we decided to explore a mrenda/jute leaves recipe. Not familiar with this plant? Vegetarian African food will shock you with its resourcefulness and variety. It’s always good to learn new recipes, and you know Humblevege’s got you. Just don’t forget to subscribe for more updates on this journey around Africa yet in the comfort of your own home. Now, let’s get those pots hot and ready! Bonus points if you’re using an open fire.

regular mrenda jute-leaves Kenyan-dish, Vegetarian African food
regular mrenda- Kenyan dish

What is Kunde na mrenda?

Let’s break it down. Kunde means cowpeas, na means and, Mrenda means jute mallow leaves. Yes, we are learning some Swahili today! But if you’re thinking of beans when we say cowpeas, think again. In some recipes for African food, we use the leaves of the plant. Kunde is thought to originate from West Africa and Southern Africa, but it is now distributed all over. This allows us to use it in Kenyan food recipes as well, which is great because it is a fighter in times of drought. On the other hand, Mrenda is known to be grown in western Kenya, originating from the Middle East. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads, cooked in soups, or brewed in tea like a cinnamon stick in Kenya dawa. This versatile plant is mainly eaten by the Luhya people of Kenya, a Bantu people known for their love of melody and dance. You will be dancing too when you try this vegetarian African food. And with the health benefits that come with kunde na mrenda, your organs will dance with you to the beat of this jute leaves recipe.

creamy mrenda-Kenyan Vegetarian African food.
Creamy mrenda-traditional Kenyan food

Health benefits of Kunde

One of the most asked questions when transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle is probably, “Where will I get protein from?” Friend/Oga, don’t worry. Plants have protein too. In fact, studies show that cowpeas leaves have about 23-25% protein. So if you’re a gym lover or just care about your cells and muscles functioning well, have some kunde. More than 50% of it is starch, so no worries about energy either. 

Mix of molokhia and spinach puree. If you haven’t guessed already, we are taking a look at Kenyan food recipes today.
Green Sauce (molokhia&spinach puree)

Jute mallow leaves health benefits

According to research, mrenda is rich in bone-healthy minerals such as vitamin C and calcium. They also have vitamin A, which is good for eye health, and iron for your blood. If you want that healthy skin, studies also show that mrenda has omega-3 fatty acids for that. And the vitamins also contribute to healthy hair and teeth. If you are, try this jute leaves recipe.

Simple Kenyan food recipes

You may not have kunde na mrenda growing somewhere in your garden. But making an effort to purchase them from an African grocery store is worth the experience of trying our new recipes for African food. And when or if you have them, you can make this vegetarian African food. Curious about a no-animal-meat food lifestyle? Check out our Instagram page for real-life inspirations.We hope you enjoy it, leave a comment if you do. Kwaheri!


Easy & Healthy Mrenda- Traditional Kenyan Dish

Yield: 3
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Jute mallow leaves/Mrenda is cherished among Kenyan food recipes & recipes for African food. Try creamy vegetarian African food to know why...


  • 8oz molokhai /jute leaves
  • 2TBSP Oil
  • 1/4onion diced
  • 1 small vegetable cube
  • 1 small tomato or 2 TBSP Chunky salsa
  • 1/4cup water
  • 1/4cup milk (any milk except for Soy)
  • Half tsp of salt


On low-medium heat, place a small sauce pan on flame. Boil 1/4cup water and add the thawed or fresh jute leaves to the boiling pot of water. Note, remove excess water from the thawed leaves. For Kenyan mrenda, you do not need to blend or chop the leaves finely but do so if you prefer. Boil the jute leaves uncovered for 5mins. The water should dry down. Note, this process blanche the molokhai/jute leaves.

After that, transfer the boiled leaves to a bowl. Using the same pot (make sure it is clean), add the oil to the pot and proceed to add the onion. Sautee this onion mixture for 1 minute until fragrant and add the diced tomato, salt, and vegetable cube. If the cube is hard, try to break it into pieces so it can cook evenly. You want the tomato mixture to cook for 5 mins or until any water from the mixture dry down.

Next, add the boiled molokhai or jute leaves to the tomato mixture. Stir to combine and remember it is okay for the leaves mixture to have a little water after you boil it. Cook on low-medium heat. Allow the sauce to cook for 2 mins uncovered.

Lastly, add the milk to the leaves sauce and stir to combine. Do not use soy milk for this recipe because soy curds at high temperature. Once you add the milk, cook the sauce for 3-5mins on uncovered on medium heat. The consistency you want is for the milk to reduce slightly but it will be absorbed by the leaves thus reducing the need to cook it longer than 5 mins.

That is it! You’ve successfully cooked Kenyan mrenda. Will you eat it with Ugali or as-is?


Note, we didn’t use cowpeas in this recipe because of we are outside of Kenya and such greens are hard to find.

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