Xhosa Traditional Food

The Xhosa people of South Africa are rich in cultural heritage, as displayed through their traditional events, such as weddings. This is usually visible in the form of clothing worn by Xhosa women, songs played and Xhosa traditional food served up at these celebrations.

Xhosa cuisine is not only delicious, but also packed with nutrients. And although these are traditional recipes, they’re easy to make and can be learned by anyone. Read on to learn more.

xhosa traditional food
Xhosa Traditional Food

History of Traditional Xhosa Food

In Xhosa culture, meals were not scheduled around a clock like they are in the European culture. Eating in the morning would be done before families dispersed to do their daily chores, otherwise people ate when they were hungry.

Meals were traditionally cooked in the morning and late afternoon to accommodate people who worked in fields or herded cattle all day. If anyone felt hungry during daylight hours, they would simply eat whatever was leftover from breakfast.

European eating habits have drastically changed African cuisine, to the point where we now have meal titles and eat according to a schedule. In fact, African food has become so popular among tourists that traveling to townships for authentic dishes is a common vacation activity.

Favourite Xhosa Traditional Food

A key ingredient in many Xhosa traditional dishes is maize. With this, they can create all sorts of delicious meals that vary in taste. For example, pap, a breakfast food, or crumbly meal perfect for lunch.

The Xhosa cuisine is made up of samp, vegetables, grains, white and red meat. These ingredients are what make most traditional Xhosa foods so nutritious. If you’re not from the Xhosa community but wish to learn about some of their best traditional dishes and how to prepare them, then keep reading.

If you are not originally Xhosa but are married to a Xhosa man and want to learn how to make Xhosa dishes, this list below will be helpful for you. These delicious, traditional foods all hail from isiXhosa cuisine, but they can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter where you’re from. These are some Xhosa dishes everyone should try at least once.


Umfino is a delicious traditional Xhosa meal that you should taste and maybe even prepare at home. It’s essentially maize meal cooked with cabbage and other leafy greens.

Although it’s very flavourful, you may think that it takes forever to make, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This meal is both delicious and budget-friendly, and it only takes 10 minutes to prepare! You’ll have the entire family drooling over this 40 minute dish.

Delicious Umfino


If you’re looking for a delicious Xhosa dish to try, look no further than mieliepap. It’s made from maize meal and can be served with meat or even just as a porridge or cereal for breakfast.

Mieliepap is not only a delicious Xhosa dish, but it’s easy and quick to make. Additionally, people of all cultures and backgrounds enjoy Mieliepap because it can be eaten as a main or side dish. The zulu traditional food, phutu, is very similar.


Traditional Xhosa cuisine isn’t only delicious, but also very nutritious, containing essential nutrients like protein, minerals, and vitamins. The core ingredients are samp and sugar beans.

If you want to try this mouthwatering dish for yourself though, be warned, it takes at least 24 hours of preparation time. Soak the beans overnight and set aside 1 hour 30 minutes to cook them before serving.


This Xhosa cuisine can be prepared in just 10 minutes, with cooking taking only 25 minutes. It’s thick porridge that is made with amasi. This means you can have Umvubo ready to eat in less than an hour.

This Xhosa traditional food is versatile in that it can be eaten morning or night. It’s perfect for a quick breakfast before work or as an easy dinner option after a long day.

Chicken Feet

Chicken feet, also called “walkies” or “runaways”, are eaten in all nine South African provinces. They’re referred to as “amanqina enkukhu” in the Xhosa language. They’re easy to prepare and best eaten without utensils. You can either stew them, braai them or deep fry them.

fried chicken feet
Chicken Feet


If you’re looking for a delicious and homemade alternative to regular bread, Umbako is a great option. This Xhosa bread is made with similar ingredients as regular bread, but has a different making procedure that gives it its unique flavor.


The dish umleqwa, which is the Xhosa name for ‘road runner,’ gets its namesake from the chicken—the main ingredient in this traditional food. The meal takes about three hours to prepare and is also very easy to cook.


Umqa is an excellent traditional Xhosa food that you should not only try but also make at home. This meal consists of three ingredients, namely, pumpkin, corn and sugar, yet it tastes delicious. It’s simple to prepare and doesn’t take long to cook. Additionally, it’s quite affordable.


Traditional Xhosa dish uMxhaxha is a cheap, easy-to-make meal that only requires four ingredients and 45 minutes of your time. The ingredients are mielies, pumpkin, water and sugar. Like other traditional foods on this list, uMxhaxha is very nutritious and will provide you with the energy you need to power through your day. Use this recipe.


On a hot summer day, Umphokoqo is the perfect meal to combat the heat and make you feel calm. It consists of crumbed pap mixed with amasi. It can be served as a late afternoon braai or as a fast breakfast, because it is light and only takes 35 minutes to prepare.


While many wine production companies in South Africa make products that compete on an international level, most people believe that when it comes to local drinks, nothing beats umqombothi.

South Africa’s umqombothi is a nutrition-packed, alcoholic beverage traditionally made from maize. It contains high levels of vitamin B and only takes 3 hours 50 minutes to brew.


Xhosa food is a classic and anyone should try it at least once. If you have a visitor, entertaining them with Xhosa food is a great way to show off the culture.

If you attend any typical Xhosa function, you will likely have one of the dishes discussed above. Also, if you need to host a social gathering or your friends, the traditional South African recipes shared are worth trying out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the result. All the best and happy cooking!

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