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Friends of Malawi > Learn About Malawi > About a Volunteer's Life in Malawi > Favorite Malawian Recipes
Favorite Malawian Recipes

The following are recipes became familiar favorites during our time in Malawi. Most are taken from the Peace Corps’ Volunteer Action Committee publication Where There Is No Cook. Scroll down the to browse, or you can jump to a particular recipes by using the following links:


Nsima has become the “staple” food of Malawi, much like bread, rice, pasta or potatoes are in other cultures. Nsima is thick starchy porridge made from corn, cassava, or other starch flour. (for example, the corn flours in Malawi are ufa woyera and ufa ngaiwa. Ufa woyera is maize flour which has first had the outer kernel shell and seed germ pounded off, leaving just the starchy part of the seed. Ufa ngaiwa is the whole corn kernel). The nsima porridge is formed into hamburger-size patties by scooping the porridge with a wet wooden spoon and flipping it onto a plate. The patty congeals in contact with the cool wet spoon and plate. Marble size pieces are broken off and rolled into a ball in the palm of the hand with the fingers. A final dimple is pressed into one side of it. It is then dipped in ndiwo (the sauce of vegetables or meat).

4 to 6 cups cornmeal, corn flour, or ground maize (1 cup per serving is sufficient)


  • Pour cold water (two and 1/2 cups for each cup of cornmeal) into a large pot. Over high heat, begin to bring to a boil.
  • After a few minutes, when the water is warm, slowly add the about half the cornmeal to the water one spoonful at a time, stirring continuously with a sturdy wooden spoon. Continue cooking (and stirring) until the mixture begins to boil and bubble. Reduce heat to medium and cook for a few minutes.
  • Cooking the mixture over medium heat, add the remaining cornmeal, as before, sprinkling it spoonful by spoonful as you continue to stir. It is essential to keep stirring -- if making a large quantity, it may take one person to hold the pot and another to use two hands to stir. The nshima should be very thick (no liquid remaining) and smooth (no lumps). It may reach this point before all of the remaining cornmeal is added to the pot -- or it may be necessary to add even more cornmeal than this recipe indicates. Once the desired consistency is reached, turn off heat, cover the pot, and allow the nshima to stand for a few minutes before serving. Serve nshima immediately, hot, with the ndiwo of your choice. With clean hands, tear bits of nshima off and use them to scoop up the ndiwo.

Recipe from:

Basic Vegetable Ndiwo

3 cups greens (see below for examples), chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tbs. Oil
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 cup water
salt to taste

  • Saute onions in oil until tender.
  • Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or until greens are tender.
  • Serve with nsima or rice.

Common green vegetable leaves used in ndiwo:

Cassava Leaves = Ntapasya or Chigwada
Sweet Potato Leaves = Ntolilo or Kholowa
Bean Leaves = Nkwanya
Small Bean Leaves = Chitambe
Pumpkin Leaves = Mkhwani
Chinese Cabbage = Chinese
Mustard Leaves
Rape Leaves
Kale Leaves

Mkhwani with Groundnut (peanut) Flour

Another popular ndiwo. The leaves of the pumpkin vine are considered every bit as good as the pumpkin itself, and are ready to eat much sooner—an important consideration at the beginning of the harvest.

3 cups pumpkin leaves, de-veined and chopped
½ cup water
1 tsp. Salt
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ cup groundnut flour (peanut flour)

  • Bring water and salt to a boil in a saucepan.
  • Add chopped leaves and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and groundnut flour, mix well, and simmer for 5 minutes longer.
  • Serve with nsima or rice.


More ndiwo.

1 small pumpkin (sweet potato, cassava, green bananas)
1 ½ cups groundnut (peanut) flour
3 cups water
salt to taste

  • Prepare vegetables by cutting into large, bite sized pieces and boiling until just tender.
  • Add groundnut flour and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes.
  • Serve with rice or nsima.

*Add ½ tsp. Curry powder for a savory dish or cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar for a sweet dish.

Ujeni Ndiwo

“Ujeni” is the Malawian word for “whatever.” This ndiwo is not Malawian, but is made with ingredients readily available in Malawi, and can provide a bit of variety for volunteers tired of eating a repetitious diet of tomatoes and onions.

1 small onion, chopped
1 Tbs. oil
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cups rape, thinly cut (or your favorite greens)*
2 tsp. curry powder
1 ½ tsp. ginger
1 Tbs. powdered milk
salt to taste

  • Saute onion in oil.
  • Add curry powder and ginger with a little bit of water.
  • Cook for a few minutes, then add tomatoes.
  • Simmer a few more minutes, then sprinkle powdered milk over the mixture.
  • Stir, add the greens, cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
  • Serve with nsima or rice.

* If using cabbage, omit the milk.

Ngaiwa Phala

This dish is eaten for breakfast, preferably sweetened with a lot of sugar.

3 cups water
1 cup ngaiwa (whole ground dry maize)
½ cup milk
dash of salt

  • Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook over high heat stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook covered for 15 minutes.

Rice Phala

Another variation on breakfast porridge.

1 cup uncooked rice
2 ½ cups water
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. margarine

  • Bring water to a boil and add rice.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add milk and butter, cover and cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Add sugar to taste.


Donuts! These are commonly sold by women in the market or at bus stations to earn a little extra income.

2 cups flour (all-purpose wheat four)
pinch of salt
2 tsp. Baking powder
2 Tbs. sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk or water
oil for frying

  • Mix flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.
  • Add sugar, egg, and milk and beat until smooth.
  • Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning once.
  • Drain and enjoy.


15 very ripe bananas, peeled
1 to 2 cups ufa (preferably ngaiwa—see the nsima recipe above for an explanation)
banana leaves

  • Take banana leaves and pass them over a fire. This makes them pliable.
  • Run a knife down the spine of the leaf, trimming off the thick part.
  • Cut them into thirds and rinse in water.
  • Pound bananas with a mortar and pestle.
  • Pound in enough ufa to make a dough.
  • Place about a hamburger patty-sized amount of dough on each third of the banana leaf.
  • Completely wrap dough up with the leaf.
  • Place bundles in a pot vertically (do not pile too high) with enough water to cover the bottom.
  • Cover and place on a fire. Place more coals on the lid.
  • Check after 20 to 30 minutes. The dough should be bread-like inside.

*This makes a lot, so share with friends.

Fried White Ants

This is usually served as an ndiwo, but can be eaten as a snack. Many volunteers compare it to popcorn.

1 cup day-old white ants (these are large termites, in the winged stage)
½ cup water
2 Tbs. margarine
salt to taste

  • Clean ants by removing wings and any foreign matter.
  • Place insects in salted water and boil over high heat until water has evaporated.
  • Reduce heat and add margarine.
  • Cover and simmer for 3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve immediately.


South African beef jerky.

½ kilogram (1 pound) topside steak, cut into thin strips||
vinegar for rinsing

Vinegar Marinade:
1 cup vinegar
2 Tbs. salt
1 tsp. sugar
¾ tsp. coriander
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt pepper
1/8 tsp. baking soda

  • Dip strips of meat in vinegar and wring out.
  • Marinate strips for 24 hours, then hang strips in a warm, dry place until all the moisture has evaporated.

Banana Fritters

3 ripe bananas
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
½ cup ufa
oil for frying

  • Mash bananas with sugar and salt.
  • Stir in four and drop spoonfuls of batter into hot oil.
  • Fry until golden on both sides.
  • Drain on paper towels. Roll in sugar if desired.






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