International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Ugali Recipe (African cornmeal mush)

(African cornmeal mush)

Image Creative Commons by Bitterjug

Average: 4.2 (70 votes)

Known as ugali in Kenya and Tanzania, this starchy, polenta-like side dish goes by different names in sub-Saharan Africa. In Malawi and Zambia it is called nsima or nshima. The South African name for it is pap or mealie pap. Zimbabweans call it sadza.

4 to 6 servings


  • Water -- 4 cups
  • Salt -- 2 teaspoons
  • White cornmeal, finely ground -- 2 cups


  1. Bring the water and salt to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the cornmeal slowly, letting it fall though the fingers of your hand.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue stirring regularly, smashing any lumps with a spoon, until the mush pulls away from the sides of the pot and becomes very thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat.
  3. Place the ugali into a large serving bowl. Wet your hands with water, form into a ball and serve.


  • White cornmeal is the most commonly used grain for ugali. But you can substitute sorghum, millet or coarse cassava flour or even hominy grits.
  • More or less water can be added to achieve the consistency you prefer.
  • Stir in a little butter if you like for a richer flavor.


  • Ugali is usually served as an accompaniment to meat or vegetable stews, greens or soured milk. To eat ugali, pull off a small ball of mush with your fingers. Form an indentation with your thumb, and use it to scoop up accompanying stews and other dishes. Or you can form larger balls with your hands or an ice cream scoop, place them in individual serving bowls and spoon stew around them.
  • Cornmeal mush is also found in Caribbean creole cuisine and was certainly brought there by imported slaves. On the islands of Curaçao and Aruba it is known as funchi, funjie in the Virgin Islands. In Antigua and Donimica it is called fungi. Haitians make mayi moulin.


This recipes gets the proportion correct. You don't want corn flour you want cornmeal. "Bob's Red Mill" medium ground cornmeal is what I use. Normally you would use white cornmeal similar to grits. That's my opinion as a South African.

this recipe is great! I found it via google and it is exactly what I was looking for. just like back in the days in tanzania...

Thank you for posting this! Myself and 4 fellow East African students decided we wanted to have a real East African Meal for christmas dinner - just one small issue - not one of us remembered the correct proportion of cornmeal to water for the ugali! Thanks to your post we now do!

Cheers and happy holidays!

I have tried, several times, to cook this receipe but the ugali doesnt cook well what could be the problem? is it that the water doesnt boil or am not using the right type of pan?

It can take several months if not years to get it right, try to attempt using small batches, you must continue adding cornmeal or whatever your using until you get the right consitency the recipe and ugali recipe can only be a guide, depending on your water quality, the way your stove heats, the pan your using, and the quality of your ingrediants you may need more or less of anything, don't give up, even skilled prepareres have good days and bad days--when its practically inedible

In Antigua, younger people make this funji (the first cousin of ugali) using a "short cut." We mix the cornmeal in cold water to make a paste, which we then pour into the boiling water, which is already "slippery" from the okra. Adding a good dollop of butter, or a couple teaspoons of olive oil, jacks up both the smoothness and the flavour. I like to add a couple shakes of garlic powder to the mix, as well, since I like well seasoned foods.

the problem may be in the cornmeal. the states grinds there cornmeal really fine. the cornmeal in Haiti is coursley ground.

The possible reason could be that you are adding the cornmeal too fast. When the water comes to a boil, you are supposed to add maybe a cupfull each time, stir, add, stir and as you go, it's best to use your hands, scoop and sorta sprinkle the flour over the forming mould. each time, my mom always insisted you have to mix the flour in till it disappears before adding the next. This ensures it cooks and does not come up sticky and raw. After you have come to your consistency of preference, turn heat to medium, then use the flat wooden spatula to again mix, flatten, turn, mould (it is an exercise!) then cover and let simmer for about five minutes. Then turn again one more time and let sit on low heat for another two or three minutes before taking it off the stove and placing it on a plate. By this time, the aroma is awesome and if the sticky stuff on your 'sufuria' (the cooking pot) is not golden brown or darker when u peel it off, then my mom would say "not cooked well enough!) I hope this helps.
Find you tube videos on how to mix ugali. It takes a certain angle, sometimes a 360 degree turn of the mound to just get it right.
mcDimples From Kenya.

I've made Polenta/Ugali either on stove top, or baked in cast iron skillet, but my new fav method is using a basic crock pot. I use the 2:1 ratio, course grind cornmeal, splash of salt, mix, set crock pot to low, then head off to bed. 6-8 hours later, you have a very creamy mix which I then transfer to bread pans, put into refrig. I do this at least 3 times per week, as I eat it every day.

We call it fungi in Jamaica too. Sometimes we will use yellow cornmeal.

we dont add salt in ugali.salt and butter makes it worse if not worst.visit East Africa village hotels or homes (i did not say towns) for a fantastic taste of ugali