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.

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. They serve it as funjie in the Virgin Islands. In Antigua and Donimica it is called fungi. And Haitians make mayi moulin.

4 to 6 servings


  • Water — 4 cups
  • Salt — 1 teaspoon
  • 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 through 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.
  • Most Africans would not salt the water, so you can leave the salt out if you wish.
  • Stir in a little butter for richer flavor.
  • Caribbean Fungi, Funchi, Funjie and Haitian Mayi Moulin: Use yellow cornmeal.


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