How to make traditional South African pap (porridge)

14 August 2013
Pap, (© Stephanie Fisk,

Pap, (© Stephanie Fisk,

Pap is a traditional dish that is native to South Africans; the dish is made from softly grounded maize, which is then cooked to the chef’s desired idea of the meal that they have in mind. However grounded maize may be found in other parts of the world as well, and just differs in name. In the West, pap is better known as polenta or grits, and in East Africa it is known as ugali.

Pap (© Neill Schrenk,

Pap (© Neill Schrenk,

The word pap is Dutch (similar to South Africa’s Afrikaans language), and simply means “porridge” in English. South African pap is found in most of South Africa’s poorest provinces because it is inexpensive, and it serves as one of the country’s most staple foods.

Each ethnic group in South Africa calls pap by a different name; the BaPedi people in Limpopo call it “bogobe”, the Zulu people in KwaZulu Natal call it “phuthu” and the Xhosa people in the Eastern Cape call it “ipapa”. It does not matter what you call pap, what matters is how it is made!

In traditional villages, South African pap is cooked outside in a black cast-ion pot, and the fire that it is cooked on gives the pap a good smoky taste. The fire also assists the pap to cook faster than it would on an electric or gas stove.

When cooking pap for four people, these are the items you will need:

  • Aluminium pot
  • 750g maize meal
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • ¾ L boiling water
  • Wooden spoon (for stirring)

Once all of these items have been gathered, place the pot on a hot stove or fire, and pour the boiling water into the pot. Add 1 tbsp. salt, and then pour 750g of maize meal into the boiling water. If cooking on a stove, lower the heat to medium and stir the maize meal with a wooden spoon until it becomes one lump. Keep stirring the pap every 10 minutes. Switch off the stove after 30 minutes and allow it to cook in the pot’s warmth for about 20 minutes.

Pap always tastes better when it is served warm, preferably with stew or potjiekos.

Contact us for more information