Bowl of Sadza

Sadza (isitshwala in Ndebele) is the staple food of Zimbabwe. It is made from Mealie Meal, which is a relatively coarse flour (much coarser than cornflour or cornstarch) made from Maize, pounded or put thorough a roller mill (hence it was sometimes called Roller Meal).

Maize meal is almost fine, and white in colour but behaves as a coarse flour. It is similar to corn meal, however corn meal (or polenta) is yellow in appearance. White maize is grown in Southern Africa, Yellow corn/maize is the common corn in North America.

Closer to the equator, mealie meal is replaced or substituted with Cassava flour, to make the locally named equivalent of sadza/isitshwala.



  1. Put mealie meal in pot. Add cold water to make a paste. Put pot on stove and add boiling water whilst stirring simultaneously.
  2. Keep stirring until rakukwata/ukuxhwatha (it’s boiling). Cover pot, reduce heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes, add more mealie-meal bit by bit and mona sadza/bonda isitshwala (mix). Be sure to do it well. When it’s just about to reach the consistency you want, cover it, rishinyire/ukutshela (loosely translated- let it simmer) for 5 minutes.

Your sadza/isitshwala is ready. Serve with your preferred relish.



  • Three-litre saucepan
  • mixing bowl
  • measuring jug
  • scale
  • mugoti/uphini (flat spoon).


  • 2 litres water
  • 550 grams maize meal
  • NO salt


  1. Measure out 2 litres of cold water. Split it into two aliquots of 1.5 litres and 0.5 litres respectively.
  2. Boil the 1.5 litres.
  3. Weigh out 550 grams of maize meal. Split it into two portions of 190 g and 360 g respectively.
  4. Mix the 190 g maize meal and 0.5 litre cold water in a mixing bowl to make a smooth paste.
  5. Add the paste to 1.5 litres boiling water in a saucepan stirring briskly to prevent lumps forming.
  6. Continue stirring until the mixture starts bubbling.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 15 minutes. This is the most critical stage of the entire process. If you have to cut corners do it elsewhere and NOT here.
  8. Turn up the heat and add the remaining 360 grams maize meal gradually with vigorous mixing.
  9. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  10. Mix again thoroughly immediately prior to serving.


  • Sadza/isitshwala is a very bad conductor of heat. So heat is transferred into the cooking mixture mainly through convection currents. Convection currents are only possible when the mixture is still runny. Therefore most of the cooking happens in stage 7 above. Thereafter the mixture is too thick for convection.
    If stage 7 is compromised for any reason, you get uncooked sadza/isitshwala called mbodza/imboza which happens to be the cause of many divorces in Africa. Conversely, if you have got time, try holding it at stage 7 for an hour and you will see the amazing difference it makes.
  • Maize meal added in the final thickening stage 8 gives the sadza/isitshwala its body. Like scones, sadza/isitshwala is made up of both thoroughly cooked and partially cooked starch.
  • Adding salt to sadza/isitshwala is an insult to the national dish. Salt should come from the relish. Sadza/isitshwala is a successful staple because it is plain. Just as you can take the ultimate plain food, water, every single day of your life without getting tired of it, so it is with sadza/isitshwala. Adding salt to it takes away that strength.
  • Can be served with curries, any other savoury relish or soured milk.
  • German proverb: “If you don’t measure it, you can’t control it!” As Lord Kelvin said:

“To measure is to know.” “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.”

The scientific method is from William Gwata, inventor of the Gwatamatic. [1], WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) 3 June 2010

With apologies to science:

  • 1 cup of mealie meal is ± 250 grams

Mealie Meal porridge

  • 1/4 cup mealie meal
  • 1 1/2 cup water

Boil / simmer together. Serve.

There are many variants and relishes. Cook above with 1 tsp peanut butter. Then garnish with jam.
Add butter or margarine as final garnish.
Serve with syrup.
Add/make your own variant/style.