Skip to main content

Why and Where to Eat the Strange but Traditional Nshima?

Nshima Served with A Protein, Relish, and Vegetable Side Dish

Nshima Served with A Protein, Relish, and Vegetable Side Dish

There are a few foods that are traditional to Zambia:

  • Nshima
  • Delicacies such as caterpillars, flying ants and the likes
  • Vegetables, which are plentiful and eaten in season
  • Fish
  • Chikanda is a vegetarian dish, which, when cooked looks like meatloaf.
  • Ifisashi, smashed peanuts mixed with various vegetables
  • Fruits, also eaten in season
  • Michopo, grilled meat, usually found in bars and taverns
  • Vitumbuwa, fried balls of dough

In this article, I would like to feature the dish: Nshima

What is Nshima?

Nshima is made from corn and is a staple carbohydrate in the diet of the Zambians. The corn is processed into an extremely fine meal. In fact, it is referred to as "Mealie Meal". Usually, the Nshima is served with meat or fish and side dishes of vegetables.

Not having much taste, it is always served with some type of relish.

The Art of Eating Nshima; When in Rome!

Nshima is eaten with the hands. Yes, the hands! Once prepared, it has the consistency of a very thick porridge. You take a small portion. Next, knead it between your hands and fingers until a golf ball-sized ball is formed. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of the ball. This indentation becomes the "home" for your relish. It is the traditional way of eating this dish and truly, isn't as sloppy as it sounds! Typically, when eating the Nshima, you only use one hand.

Nshima is Ready to Roll!

Nshima is Ready to Roll!

Brief History of Nshima in Zambia:

Sometime between the 16th and 17th centuries, Nshima was brought to Africa from America. Originally, when introduced, it was made from sorghum. Because of the plentiful fields of corn in Africa, corn quickly replaced sorghum as the main ingredient. In Zambia, where corn is plentiful, it is said that "corn is life"!

Scroll to Continue

Let's get Boiling and Rolling!

Cook Time

Prep timeReady inYields

15 min

15 min



  • 4 cups  cornmeal , (one cup per serving is sufficient)
  • 2 teaspoons  salt, (to taste)
  • 16 cups water, (more as or if as needed)


  1. Pour cold water (two and 1/2 cups for each cup of cornmeal) into a large pot. Over high heat, begin to bring to a boil.
  2. After a few minutes, when the water is boiling, slowly add about half the cornmeal to the water a spoonful at a time, stirring continuously with a sturdy wooden spoon. Continue cooking (and stirring) until the mixture begins to boil and bubble. Reduce heat to medium and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Cooking the mixture over medium heat, add the remaining cornmeal, as before, sprinkling it spoonful by the spoonful as you continue to stir. It is essential to keep stirring
  4. The nshima should be very thick (no liquid remaining) and smooth (no lumps). It may reach this point before all of the remaining cornmeal is added to the pot -- it could be necessary to add even more cornmeal than this recipe indicates. (This depends on your local humidity level and elevation)
  5. Once the desired consistency ( which should be the consistency of soft playdough, perhaps a bit stickier) is reached, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and allow the Nshima to stand for a few minutes before serving. Serve Nshima immediately, hot, with the relish of your choice.
  6. With clean hands, tear bits of Nshima off and use them to scoop up the relish.

Use a wet serving spoon to serve out in fist-sized lumps onto plates and enjoy with your choice of relish!

This particular recipe might be out of your typical comfort zone. I realize that but as we travel, part of the experience comes down to immersing ourselves in the local culture of our destination. I sincerely hope that you will give this recipe a try and come back to the site and leave your impressions in the comment section.

Until next time, friends, remember "To Travel is to Live!"

Until next time, friends, remember "To Travel is to Live!"

Zambia Tours & Excursions in 2022

Save up to 12%* on your next Qatar Airways flight

Cheap flights

  • South Africa – trips
    Cheap flights, trains, hotels, and car hire with 24/7 customer support & the Guarantee. Discover a new way of traveling with our interactive map, airport, and destination guides in your pocket.

Related Articles