A-Maize-Ing: African Food

Maize meal goes by a plethora of names in Africa, depending on where you are. It is a staple food, eaten in all forms – from smooth and soft to harder and crumbly – and with a wide range of other foods.

Whether you’re eating breakfast, lunch or supper in Africa, there’s a maize dish to accompany it, or form the main part of it!

There are literally hundreds of ways to eat maize meal!

Maize Meal

SuSanA SecretariatPlanting Corn - SuSanA Secretariat

Made from white maize (or mielies), maize meal is roughly ground maize. Traditionally it was ground in a mortar and pestle, and cooked in a black pot over an open fire.

These days, it can be bought in a packet at the grocery store, and cooked in a pot on the stove. Or in the microwave, but don’t tell cooking gurus that, they’d be horrified!

If you want to experience truly tasty pap, though, do yourself a favour and try some cooked in a pot over the open fire – it adds a smoky deliciousness that is hard to beat.

Sour Porridge

John AthertonMaking Umvubu - John Atherton

This traditional dish, consists of maize meal (umphokoqo in isiXhosa, impuphu in Zulu) and sour milk (amasi in SA, mukaka wakakora in Zim). It is ideally eaten on hot days, as the cold sour milk cools the crumbly pap.

While many turn their noses up at the thought of eating sour milk, this is not sour milk as we know it. The milk used is whole, not pasteurised, so the ‘sour milk’ is actually more like yoghurt – delicious.

This dish is eaten throughout southern Africa and is called different things by different people, like Umvubu in isiXhosa or Bogobe ba ting (or just ting) in Setswana, also often made with sorghum.


philippChakalaka - philippA hot and spicy vegetable ‘sauce’ that is often served with mielie pap, this is a South African favourite. Recipes differ from area to area, and family to family.

Basic ingredients include onion, garlic, tomato, chillis and curry powder. Some people add beans (often, a tin of baked beans), carrots, cabbage, or other vegetables. 

Kai HendryEat up! - Kai HendryTraditionally, the maize meal is rolled into balls with the hands, and dipped into the chakalaka. The simple, clear taste of the maize meal is the perfect accompaniment for the spiciness of the chakalaka. Basically, it's a vegetable-filled-tomato-stew-taste-explosion.

Chakalaka is one of those dishes for which each family has a slightly different recipe, which is handed down from generation to generation.

Shisa Nyama

Alan LevinBraai - Alan Levin

Africa loves meat. Meat – be it chicken, beef, goat, or sausage (boerewors) – is best cooked over an open fire a.k.a. braai or barbecue. Once cooked, it is served with a portion of pap, liberally doused in sauce like chakalaka or smoor.

The cooking of the meat is a social occasion, with families and friends gathering around the fire. There are plenty of street vendors selling shisa nyama throughout southern Africa and numerous restaurants.

These are some of our favourites, where you pick your meat and hang out with friends, while it’s cooked for you:


FacebookGarwe Roadrunner - Facebook

Yip, you read right, Roadrunner Stew. This Zimbabwean favourite is made from free-range (i.e. runs around the yard) chicken, thus the roadrunner title.

The dish combines onion, garlic, paprika and chilli. Served with sadza, this spicy tomato chicken stew will leave you mopping up the sauces with your sadza and then licking your fingers and asking for more. 

Where To Eat Roadrunner


Stig NygaardMozambique Fishermen - Stig Nygaard

Mozambique is known for its miles of pristine white beaches, framed with palm trees overlooking the warm, azure Indian Ocean. Added to this paradise, is the bonus of delicious seafood that lands straight on your plate from the sea.

A side dish often served with the seafood (and xima, Mozambique’s version of pap), is matapa. Made with finely ground cassava leaves, peanuts, garlic and coconut milk, it’s creamy and delicious, especially soaked into xima, with fresh shrimp!

Where To Eat Matapa

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