African cornmeal mush (Ugali) is a starchy staple eaten across Africa as a side dish. It is very similar to polenta, and it is usually served as an accompaniment to meat and vegetable soups and stews.

 

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I grew up on Gari, which in its simplest form is fermented cassava mush. But a few years ago, in faraway Johannesburg, I discovered  the African cornmeal mush called Ugali. My first observations were the striking similarities between Ugali and Gari. Only, in South Africa, it was not called Ugali. It was called Mealie Pap.  I later learnt that this dish goes by different names across the African continent; Nsima in Malawi, Nshima in Zambia, Sadza in Zimbabwe, and of course, Ugali in Kenya.

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African cornmeal mush (Ugali) is a starchy staple eaten across Africa as a side dish. It is very similar to polenta, and it is usually served as an accompaniment to meat and vegetable soups and stews.  This African cornmeal mush is also popular in Caribbean creole cusisine, having been transported to the New World via the trans-atlantic slave trade, and is known by various names across the islands of the Caribbean; Funchi in Aruba and Curaçao, Fungi in the Dominican Republic.

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The recipe is incredibly simple – all you need is some hot boiling water, and your cornmeal. Typically, white cornmeal is used, but you can use yellow cornmeal as I have done. You may even substitute the cornmeal altogether for sorghum flour or cassava flour (although you would be hard pressed to call it Ugali!). Also typically, Ugali is made by pouring the cornmeal into boiling water. I find that this method increases the likelihood of lumps forming in the dough, and you have to work quite hard to knead out the lumps in that dough.

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As such, my preferred method of making this cornmeal mush is by adding boiling water to the cornmeal and kneading until the cornmeal is cooked, and the right consistency is reached.

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African cornmeal mush (Ugali) is traditionally eaten by hand, and the technique is as follows:

You take a small piece of the mush and roll it around in your palm until a nice round ball is formed.

Then you make an indentation in the middle of the ball with your thumb, with which you scoop the accompanying meats or stew.

Transfer the ball of ugali and associated stew to mouth and repeat the process until the Ugali is finished!

Southern and Eastern Africans eat this African polenta as a staple, almost on a daily basis. Kenyan runners (known for their achievements in long distance running) swear by Ugali. Well, if it is good enough for an Olympic athlete, I’ll have some of it too! And I am serving it with this vegan sautéed collard greens.

So now that you have mastered the technique of eating Ugali, lets cook!

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African Cornmeal Mush (Ugali Recipe)
African Cornmeal Mush (Ugali Recipe)
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African cornmeal mush (Ugali) is a starchy staple eaten across Africa as a side dish. It is very similar to polenta, and it is usually served as an accompaniment to meat and vegetable soups and stews.
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
African Cornmeal Mush (Ugali Recipe)
African Cornmeal Mush (Ugali Recipe)
Print Recipe
Add to Meal Plan:
This recipe has been added to your Meal Plan
African cornmeal mush (Ugali) is a starchy staple eaten across Africa as a side dish. It is very similar to polenta, and it is usually served as an accompaniment to meat and vegetable soups and stews.
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Ingredients
Units:
Instructions
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a kettle. heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Place the cornmeal in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and turn on the stove to low heat.
  3. Then add the boiling water slowly and in a steady stream to the cornmeal. When the water has fully soaked all the cornmeal, begin to stir the cornmeal while adding the rest of the water. Stir continuously to avoid the formation of lumps.
  4. Continue to knead, mashing away an lumps that appear as the cornmeal cooks until the mush becomes thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan. If the ugali is too thick at this point, add some hot water to the mush and stir to mix the water with the cornmeal to thin the consistency of the ugali.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool before serving.
Recipe Notes

* White or yellow cornmeal or maizemeal may be used. Whether white or yellow cornmeal, ensure that the cornmeal you are using is finely ground cornmeal

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Is this recipe right for you?

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Nutrition Facts
African Cornmeal Mush (Ugali Recipe)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 97 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Sodium 9mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Protein 2g 4%
Vitamin A 2%
Calcium 3%
Iron 5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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The information shown is an estimate, and does not replace a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Did you make this recipe?

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Please let me know how it turned out for you. Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #africaonyourplate.

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african cornmeal mush (ugali)

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Emem

Afro-fusion Food Lover.
Sustainable Food Advocate.
Completely nuts about Avocado.

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