A Taste of Africa: Ugali - The Polenta of Africa

Tue, Apr 05, 2016 @ 01:41 PM

Getting to know Africa includes experiencing the vastly different - and yummy - expressions of each culture through food.

If you like Polenta, you're going to just love Ugali! They are both made from cornmeal. Whether an accompaniment to a soup or stew or alongside meat, chicken or fish dishes, Ugali is a delight.

And, it's remarkably simple to make.  Basically just a combination of cornmeal and water, stirred until well thickened.


 Source: Creative Commons, Labeled for Reuse

We love sharing our family recipes with you but please remember you can search online and find lots of variations on this dish and other terrific African recipes.  An online recipe site we use over and over again is The Congo CookbookMy East Africa Journal is also a great source for recipes.  

We just came across a terrific culinary resource - afrolems.com - A food blog for Nigerian, African and Interational recipes.  Visit them - they have a really nice selection of recipes and the instructions are laid out in a really easy to understand manner. 

AllRecipes and Food.com are also good resources.  Just a simple web search will turn up a wide variety of recipes for you to try.


  • 4 cups of finely ground cornmeal
  • 8 cups of water


  1. Heat water in a saucepan to boiling.
  2. Pour the cornmeal into the boiling water very slowly. Doing it very slowly helps to avoid lumps.
  3. Stir constantly. If any lumps form, mash them to break them up.
  4. You are aiming for a consistency much like mashed potatoes. Add cornmeal in very small amounts if you need to thicken the mixture a bit.
  5. Cook the Ugali for three or four minutes but make sure to constantly stir.  Stirring is the magical secret to great Ugali.
  6. When you've reached "mashed potato" consistency, remove from heat.
  7. We like to add a little pat of butter on the top.
  8. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

See, we said it was easy.  Just two ingredients and a lot of stirring!

We use Ugali in a variety of ways. In the bottom of a bowl of piping hot stew (sort of like a dumpling). Alongside chicken, meat or fish dishes. We especially like a "comfort meal" of meatloaf with a side of buttery Ugali.

Enjoy!  And please let us know how you enjoy this recipe and any creative culinary modifications you make. 


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Mustafa Salemwalla

Written by Mustafa Salemwalla

Mustafa hails from Tanzania and spent 30 years getting to know the magnificent continent of Africa. Hence his passion for African art, sculpture, fashion and empowerment of artisans.

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