10 Greatest Ndebele Traditional Food Recipes with Pictures

Ndebele people are historical descendants of the Nguni-speaking people of South Africa. The community traces its origins to the broader Bantu community. The Ndebele people are well known for their artistry in beadwork, wall paintings, decorative homes, architecture, their distinct way of dressing – a highly colorful mode of dressing and ornamentation. Just as every culture is distinctive in various manners of which food is a major part, the Ndebele people have great dishes which carved a niche for them amongst other cultures in Africa. We take a look at ten (10) of the greatest Ndebele traditional foods recipes.

Best Ndebele Traditional Food Recipes

From ancient times, food has been a major part of the culture, especially in Africa where communities are greatly culturally diversified. Generally, corn is the staple food in the Ndebele community. Maize cereals, which are known as itshwala, are also popular amongst them. The Ndebele people even prefer to consume corn and sorghum milk rather than normal cow milk.

In addition to the above, several other food crops, fruits, and vegetables are grown for consumption. The community also rears cattle for milk that is usually used to prepare foods such as isathiyane, porridge with fresh milk.

Some of the greatest traditional recipes of the Ndebele people include –

1. Maize Meal – Sadza/Itshwala’s Recipe

Maize-meal, also known as Sadza or Itshwala, is a popular food among the Ndebele people and Zimbabweans at large. Sadza is a carbohydrate staple, consumed in many homes across the country.

It is eaten with a variety of stews and delicacies such as collard greens, beef, chicken, or pork stews, and even Mopani worms. Although Sadza is commonly made from maize meal it can also be made from a variety of grains such as sorghum and millet. More so, it is one of the first foods that babies are given, usually at 6 months old (some introduce it even earlier).


  • 7 scoops mealie-meal
  • 1 cup of water (cold)
  • 750 ml hot water


  • Put the mealie meal into a pot and mix with cold water till it becomes a paste.
  • Put the mixture on heat and add boiling water to it while stirring. The stirring reduces the formation of lumps.
  • Continue stirring until it’s boiled (rakukwata)
  • Cover the pot and allow it to boil under reduced heat for a period of 15 minutes. However, this is highly dependent on the type of mealie-meal you’re using. It is advisable to use a super-refined mealie-meal so it will take less time. If you’re using mugaiwa (unrefined mealie-meal) it will need more time to cook.
  • Add more mealie meal bit by bit, and mix to prevent the formation of lumps.
  • When it’s almost set to the texture you desire, cover and let it cook for 5 minutes.
  • Your sadza is ready. Serve with your preferred accompaniment.

2.  Bota Une Doi /Iyambazi‘s Recipe

A diluted form of maize meal, sorghum, or millet sadza is called Bota. It can be flavored with peanut butter, margarine, salt, and sugar. Elevated versions of this meal involve the use of fresh cream.

Bota is traditionally seen as a children’s meal, although adults can enjoy it too. It is commonly served as the very first meal of the day. This is to help fuel people who head out to the fields in rural areas, with breakfast coming later on.

In other parts of Southern Africa such as Botswana and some parts of South Africa, cornmeal porridge is known as “motogo” pronounced “moo-taw-hor.”


  • 4  to 5 cups of water
  • 1 cup of white cornmeal
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (unsweetened)
  • Optional – Milk, and sliced fruit (to serve)
  • Optional – Sugar or sweetener (to serve)


  • Put a cup of cornmeal into a pot and mix with a cup of cold water.
  • Continue to mix the cornmeal till it turns into a paste.
  • Add boiling water to it and place the pot on the fire. The type of cornmeal will determine the amount of water you would add.
  • After a while, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes. You would begin to see it thicken rapidly.
  • Add boiling water to make it soften according to your taste. Care should be taken at this stage and it is highly recommended to cover the pot with a lid as the mixture tends to bubble and pop, which could easily cause burns if contact is made with the skin.
  • Dish the cooked porridge into a bowl and mix with peanut butter till it is well incorporated.
  • Add sugar to taste. If so please, you can add milk or sliced fruit then serve the food.

3. Yellow Watermelon with Sun-dried Maize – Umxhanxa‘s Recipe

A traditional Ndebele dish, Umxhanxa is mostly eaten by the Ndebele and Kalanga people. It is a seasonal dish often served in winter after harvest time. It is usually eaten for lunch.


  • iJodo (pig melon)
  • Umumbu (maize/corn grains)
  • Sugar


  • Put the maize grains in a pot and boil for a length of time.
  • Set aside and don’t add salt.
  • Use a knife, slice up the ijodo into strips. These strips are just to make it easier to peel the outer layer.
  • Peel the Ijodo, and remove the seeds.
  • Cut the melon into cubes.
  • Put the melon into a pot and add water for it to boil. Boil till everything liquefies. (This can take up to 1 hour).
  • When it is set, use uphelo (a wooden mixer with wires) to mix.
  • Now, pour the boiled maize grains into the liquefied melon, add sugar to taste, stir and your delicacy is ready to serve.

4. Peanuts, Maize, and Beans Meal – Mutakura/Mangai‘s Recipe

Mutakura is a wholesome mixed dish of maize (Chibage), peanuts (Nzungu), Bambara nuts (Nyimo), cowpeas (Nyemba), and sometimes sugar beans. When it is just a mixture of peanuts and maize, it is called Mangai. It is similar to South Africa’s Umngqusho.

Mutakura is a very nutritious meal as it has both carbohydrates and proteins. It can be eaten as a lunchtime meal or supper, with or without meat. Some people can even eat it at breakfast with a cup of tea.


  • 1 cup of chibage chakafushwa (boiled and dried maize corn)
  • 1 cup of shelled groundnuts
  • 1 teaspoon of salt


  • Put chibage in a pot add water and boil it for about 40 minutes.
  • Go ahead to add the shelled groundnuts, salt, and more water (if necessary).
  • Partly cover it and cook for about 1hour 20 minutes and intermittently add water if necessary.
  • Your mutakara is ready to serve after boiling for 1hr 20mins.

5. Cocoyam Dish – Madhumbe/Magogoya‘s Recipe

Cocoyams are truly versatile crops as they can be eaten in a number of ways, most commonly boiled and eaten at breakfast or as a side dish. As a lunchtime snack, cocoyams can be lightly fried after a low simmer for a few minutes.

Madhumbe can also be ground into powder. This powder can be mixed with Sazda and served with meat, sour milk, or collard greens for a wholesome and delicious meal.
Madhumbe flour is also a favorite for making healthy bread.


  • 2 medium-sized madhumbe
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 table-spoon of margarine/oil/butter
  • Water


  • Wash the madhumbe and put it into a pot.
  • Add adequate water and cover to boil.
  • Boil till it becomes soft enough to be pricked by a fork.
  • Allow it to cool then peel and cut them into rings.
  • Sprinkle salt to taste.
  • Pour oil into a pot, heat it together with margarine/butter.
  • Add the madhumbe rings and fry each for a period of 2 minutes or till a slight golden brown color appear.
  • Taste the seasoning and adjust accordingly.

6. Sour Milk – Hodzeko/Maasi‘s Recipe

Hodzeko is a traditional Zimbabwean meal, dating back to the Khoisan people of prehistoric times. Back then, sour milk was consumed with honey and sorghum Sadza.
It’s fermented in a clay pot known as Hodzeko, hence the dish’s name.

Nowadays, Hodzeko production is commercialized, and Hodzeko is sold in most supermarkets. It is eaten with Sadza as a lunchtime meal, as a snack, or even as a dessert with added sugar. It is lauded for its nourishing ability and health benefits. Hodzeko is regarded as a great protein source and provides beneficial fats and bacteria.

7. Offals (Beef Tripe) – Matumbu ‘s Recipe

Matumbu is a very popular dish usually eaten as a tasty relish, or it can be barbecued to make a delicious meal known as Gango. Matumbu can include tripe, intestines, testes, liver, and kidney. The offals are prepared by boiling the meat for several hours, then adding it to a tomato and onion soup.

Zvinyenze is also a delicacy where the intestines are wrapped around the tripe. These dishes are most often eaten with Sadza at lunch, or as a hearty main dish, washed down with an ice-cold drink of your choice.


  • 1 kg of casings (matumbu)
  • 3 large fresh tomatoes (chop and set aside)
  • 1 large onion (chop and set aside)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt or the measure that suits your taste
  • 500 ml of water
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic (chop and set aside)
  • 2 teaspoon of tomato puree


  • Wash the Matumbu (casings) until they are clean. Wash both the outside and inside, till they are to remove any trace of dirt or sand.
  • Pour the oil into a pot and heat it.
  • Add the matumbu to the oil alongside garlic and salt. Fry till the mixture begins to appear brown.
  • Add water and allow it to boil then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer, till the Matumbu is tender and cooked enough.
  • Add onions and curry powder and allow to simmer for about 3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and tomatoes puree and allow to cook for about 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Add water, a little quantity (50ml – 100ml), and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Make sure to season to taste and your meal is ready.

8. Mopane Worms – Amanchimbi/Mandora‘s Recipe

This edible caterpillar is a type of emperor moth and gets its name from feeding on Mopane tree leaves. When harvested (i.e. picked from the trees), these insects are squeezed to clean their intestines out. It is a delicacy among the Ndebele people which can be eaten freshly picked or dried in the sun. If they are dried, you must first boil them to soften them. They can then be fried and eaten as a snack or made into a stew to eat with Sadza. As of recent times, Madora is readily available in most supermarkets, and can even be found canned.


  • 400g of Madora
  • 4 teaspoon of curry powder
  • Oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (grounded)
  • Shallots (1 stem)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 – 2 medium onions (chop and set aside)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (chop and set aside)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger (grounded)


  • Soak the mandora in boiling water for 10 minutes, and drain the water after. Make sure to rinse them.
  • Put the oil into a pan and heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and stir.
  • Add the mandora now and stir momentarily for a period of 10 minutes.
  • Add the curry powder and onions and keep stirring till the onions are cooked. This may take 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and stir it like the onions, till it is cooked for about 2 minutes.
  • Lastly, add the shallots, stir till you get an even mixture.
  • After 1 minute, your delicacy is ready to be served. You can serve with plain Sadza.

9. Cow Heels – Mazondo‘s Recipe

This is one of the more iconic Ndebele dishes, and it is enjoyed by all age groups. Traditionally, it is served with Sadza and collard greens. However, it is worth noting that the preparation of Mazondo is time-sensitive, as it involves boiling the cow heels for several hours. As this dish takes time, and a lot of electricity, most families cook it over an open flame.


  • 1.2 kg of cow heels/Mazondo
  • 2 teaspoon of salt
  • Water
  • 1 medium onion, (finely chopped)
  • 2 large tomatoes, (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder


  • Put your cleaned Mazondo (cow heels) inside a pot, add enough water and add a teaspoon of salt.
  • Allow it to boil for a while, after which, you can reduce the heat.
  • Under the reduced heat, cook the Mazondo for about 3 hours, or until you notice that the Mazondo is soft.
  • Drain the water till a little amount is left in the pot.
  • Begin to spice to taste then add your curry powder, salt, chopped onions and tomatoes, and tomato paste. Make sure to add a little more water, if needed.
  • Allow it to boil for some more minutes, till the onions and tomatoes are cooked. If the soup is runny, you can add 1 teaspoon of flour with water to make a paste and pour it into the pot.
  • Stir everything together, allow it to boil for 5 minutes, and serve.

10. Pumpkin Pudding – Nhopi‘s Recipe

Pumpkin pudding is traditionally seen as a meal for young children but has become quite popular among adults over the years. It is localy called Nhopi and it is a porridge made from mashed-up pumpkins, water squash (Shamba), mealie meal, and peanut butter.

While it is a naturally sweet dish, sugar can be added to further sweeten the meal. Nhopi can be served as dessert, snack, side dish, or lunch more so, fresh cream and cinnamon are commonly added to pumpkin pudding to add some depth to the flavor.


  • Pumpkins
  • Water squash (Shamba)
  • Mealie meal
  • Peanut butter
  • Sugar
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon


  • Cook the squash or pumpkins till they become soft.
  • Add the peanut butter, salt, ginger, and cinnamon to it while it’s still cooking.
  • Reduce the heat and cover the saucepan just long enough for the peanut butter to be cooked. 3 minutes should do.
  • Squash the pumpkin to a smooth pulp.
  • Allow it to boil for another 5 minutes then serve.

Recap Of The 10 Greatest Ndebele Traditional Foods

    1.  Sadza/Itshwala
    2. Iyambazi/Bota Une Dovi, popularly called “Bota”
    3. Umxhanxa
    4. Mutakura/Mangai
    5. Madhumbe/Magogoya
    6. Hodzeko/Maasi
    7. Matumbu
    8. Amanchimbi/Mandora
    9. Mazondo
    10. Nhopi
Tyna G
Tyna G
A digital nomad with a never-ending curiosity and passion for discovering new places, cultures and creative outlets - this author has been writing her way around the globe for many years. Everything from entertainment to biographies, reviews to travel tips, you’ll always find stunning high quality content coming from her


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