RECIPE: Africa’s Most Prominent Staple Food – Pap / Stywe Pap / Umqa / Sadza


Pap is a stiff porridge prepared with maize meal and is the most dominant staple in most of Southern Africa.   Some may refer to it as another version of mealie pap.  There’s a isidudu , a soft porridge with a somewhat pourable consistency then we have umphokoqo /krummel pap/ phuthu with a coarse consistency.

Each and every culture has their way of preparing pap.  Texture and stiffness may vary depending on cultural preference as well as the relish to be used.   Generally, the pap is eaten by squeezing it in your hand, rolling and dunking it into a relish.   All this is done by hands spoons are not necessarily used.

The cooked pap is usually served with stews, potjiekos, wors, mashonza, lamb chops etc.  Chances are you’ll find the pap in most Shisa Nyama’s around the country more especially in Jozi and surrounding areas.   A braai is not complete without pap!

One thing for sure is that you have to make sure you have firm wrists and you have the energy to stir, vigorously I mean.  I used to watch my friend making it and there is a lot of stirring that goes into the preparation.  The good news is that the preparation does not take much of your time.  Let me give you some of the reasons why pap is the biggest staple:

  • Its preparation does not consume a lot of time i.e. ±15 minutes
  • It is more affordable
  • It’s a good source of energy
  • It is versatile i.e. different relishes or accompaniments can be used

Sometime last year I cooked for a group of friends, I made some salads, a lasagne and I was quite sure that the food was going to blow them away.  Dinner was served and a friend’s husband politely asked: “where is the pap?” You should have seen the reaction on my face…I was completely baffled…I mean I prepared my scrumptious mince lasagne and some salads,  why would someone then ask for pap?  The truth is our African brothers love their pap and a meal is not complete without it…so ladies take note.

A good friend, Ishmael, originally from Zimbabwe but currently residing in Cape Town showed me how to prepare the pap.  He insisted I should mention that his mom taught him how to cook the pap.  Where would we be without mothers?


Pap with Chakalaka and Boerewors


Ishmael’s Pap Recipe

Serves: 2-3

 1L boiling water

75ml cold water

125ml (½ cup) maize meal

350ml maize meal


  1. Transfer the boiling water to a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Make a paste with cold water and 75ml maize meal.
  3. Add the paste to the boiling water and continue stirring until it boils.
  4. Let simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the 350ml maize meal and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.
  6. The vigorous stirring is important at this stage to prevent lumping.
  7. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Serve.


Thuli’s Tip:

You may also be interested in this Pumpkin and Maizemeal Dish 👇

RECIPE: Setjetsa / IsiJingi (Pumpkin And Maize Meal Dish)

About Author


Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

Comments ( 2 )

  • moeletse

    wooo! it looks wonderful …ummm! and I love what you guys did with the page; its my first visit . Am your big fan on Facebook.

    • What’s up Moeletse? Thanks for finally visiting I see all your comments and “likes” on Fb! I appreciate the support dude!

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