Vitumbua - Tanzanian Doughnuts


Flicking through rare East African cookbooks fills me with that familiar, comforting feeling of when I cosy up with my favourite Indian ones.

Being nourished with a mishmash of Indian, African and British food has all my life, allowed me to connect and experiment with the culinary cultures of all these cuisines. In other words, I’ve been spoilt and have loved every minute of it. Hell, I’ve been rabbiting on about it to you all since 2009.

For my generation, it feels like the Indian influence on East African cooking is a hush-hush camp, with recipes hidden away inside the spirits of expat grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles. As sad as it may sound, I’m a 23-year old girl worried that Zanzibar Trail Mix, Malindi Halwa and Ugandan Kasodi will one day be forgotten by my Indo-Chinese-obsessed peers – and that’s deep, bro.

In the name of doing my bit to preserve the East African cuisine my family are so proud of, I’d like to introduce you to Vitumbua. These Tanzanian rice flour doughnuts are a favourite of my saintly Bapu, Gunwantrai Modha and I completely understand why. Born in Tanzania, my dad his brothers think of these dishes as fuel food – they’re good for the soul and all that.

Vitumbua should be golden and crunchy on the outside and like a delicate morsel of cardamom-scented cloud on the inside. The batter is made with coconut milk which makes these cakey baked doughnuts pure white and melt-in-the-mouth.

They’re perfect with tea in the morning or if you’re a bit more adventurous, with a kidney bean and coconut stew for dinner.

If you have a Vitumbua or Appam pan, please use one. I don’t (shock, horror) so a cupcake tin is a great substitute. Being a Yorkshire lass at heart, I faked it and made my Vitumbua in the same way I’d make my Eggless Yorkshire puddings. I guess you could say Vitumbua cooked in this way are neither nowt nor summat, but they’re damn delicious all the same.

Vitumbua - Tanzanian Doughnuts (2)

Vitumbua - Tanzanian Doughnuts
(makes 8-10)


185g rice flour
2 tablespoons plain flour
220ml coconut milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
50g sugar
1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, ground
½ teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil


1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the sunflower oil. Whizz with an immersion blender for a minute until you get a smooth and creamy batter.

2. Cover and leave in a warm place for one hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

4. Place ½ teaspoon of oil in eight to ten compartments of a of a 12-cake cupcake tin (as if you were making Yorkshire puddings).

5. Put the oil-filled tin in the oven for around four minutes or until smoking hot.

6. Carefully remove the tin from the oven and using an ice cream scoop, add one scoop of batter in each compartment. It should be sizzling hot so be quick and careful.

7. Place the tin back into the oven and lower the temperature to 180°C. Cook for around five minutes. Remove the tin from the oven, flip the Vitumbua over (the bottom should be golden). Return the tin to the oven and cook for another five to eight minutes or until cooked through.

Serve hot Vitumbua with steaming Cardamom Chai.