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Zambian maize stape: Nshima

Zambian maize stape: Nshima

Nshima, also known as "Nsima," is a staple of Zambian cuisine that represents both nourishment and cultural value. Generations of Zambians have been fed by this traditional staple made from maize (corn), and it is an essential part of the country's culinary legacy. Its historical antecedents are a reflection of the long-standing bonds between Zambians and the land they cultivate.

The agricultural methods used in both ancient and contemporary Zambia are entwined with the history of nshima. Through encounters with early Portuguese and Arab traders, maize the main component of nshima was brought to the area. This crop flourished in Zambia's rich soil, adapting to the region's environment to become a dependable source of food. It eventually became a staple.

Nshima transformed over time from a basic food source to a symbol of culture. It changed into a social dish that was frequently made and consumed with others at events, parties, and family feasts. Nshima preparation typically involves a large number of family members and community people, establishing a sense of community and solidarity.

The intense stirring and molding rituals that are part of the nshima preparation process are strongly ingrained in Zambian culture. Nshima is, in essence, more than just a food item; it is a container for the history, culture, and sense of community of the people of Zambia.

Preparation Time

50 minutes



4-5 cups water

2 cups maize meal (cornmeal)

A pinch of salt


  • Boil the water in a large pot.
  • Mix the maize meal with a small amount of cold water in a bowl to form a smooth paste. 
  • Gradually pour the maize meal mixture into the boiling water while stirring continuously to avoid lumps from forming. 
  • Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let the mixture simmer for about 10-15 minutes. 
  • Continue to cook and stir until the Nshima is smooth, thick, and has a dough-like consistency. 
  • Take a portion of the nshima and shape it into any desired shape and serve with Ndiwo, chicken or beef stew.