Zambia is one of the few countries in Southern Africa that is famed for its diverse wildlife and rugged terrain. It’s a lovely vacation destination with numerous attractions, like the impressive Victoria Falls. However, beyond all that, there are many also amazing Zambian foods waiting to be discovered.
What Is Special About Zambian Foods?
Zambian cuisine offers a good blend of local flavors influenced by indigenous traditions and neighboring communities. However, Zambian foods have stayed true to their gastronomy.
One fun fact about Zambia is that most of its foods are made from locally sourced crops like corn, millet, potatoes, sorghum, and peanuts. Meat, fish, and vegetables are also a staple in Zambian cuisine.
The Zambian food scene is a testament to the rich food culture in the country. Family traditions and communal living is the foundation of Zambian food culture.
National Food Of Zambia
Nshima (Corn Flour Porridge)
Often considered the national dish of Zambia, Nshima is a corn flour porridge famous in many African countries, albeit with different names. It is a well-loved and widely consumed food in Zambia.
Nshima has a bland taste, and you can’t enjoy it alone. You have to pair it with delicious stew or soups. You can eat your nshima with a spoon, but to enjoy the African experience, you should emulate the locals as they enjoy it with their hands.
There’s just something about eating with hands that make food more delicious.
This staple food is made from locally sourced crops, so there are many different variations of this food in Zambia. Cassava, sorghum, and millet are other alternatives for corn. The original version remains corn flour. Any version you decide to eat, with the perfect stew combination, you are sure to have a finger-licking delicacy.
Famous Traditional Zambian Foods
Ndiwo (Vegetable Dish)
Ndiwo is one of the staple dishes of Zambia that is often seen second to just Nshima. This is a simple traditional Zambian food made with a variety of green vegetables, onions, and tomatoes.
This Zambian dish originated from the country’s northern region. The most common vegetable leaves used for ndiwo include cassava leaves, pumpkin leaves, bean leaves, collard green, and pea leaves.
This dish goes well with the typical nshima (corn flour porridge), both of which are considered the most popular foods in Zambia. Ndiwo is a great vegetarian dish, but you can also have it with fish or meat for more taste.
Ifisashi (Greens In Peanut Sauce)
This traditional Zambian food is designed for nutty soup lovers. If you want to enjoy the true African experience, ifisashi is one Zambian food you must try. It is made with pounded peanuts, onions, tomatoes, and any green leaf vegetable, such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, spinach, and collard green.
The peanuts give this dish a special aromatic flavor; you will be able to taste its richness better when you enjoy it hot. This is another great vegetarian dish in Zambia.
Samp (Corn Kernels)
Samp is a celebrated Zambian food, not because of its uniqueness but because of its availability and versatility. This food is made from grounding maize like nshima. However, the result differs.
While Nshima is finely ground maize that can be used to make porridge, samp is not as finely ground and cannot be used for porridge.
Nevertheless, samp is a food endeared to the Zambian people. Corn is one of the most farmed foods in Zambia, and therefore, related dishes like samp are deeply rooted in the country’s heritage.
You can enjoy this staple food in many ways. Locals eat it with milk (fresh or Sour), sugar, roasted peanuts, or raw peanuts. It’s one item you can enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner when in Zambia.
It is also a go-to economical option for feeding a large crowd. Unsurprisingly, it’s a very popular Zambian food in high schools (boarding schools) across the country.
Tongabezi Chicken Curry
Zambian cuisine offers a good blend of dishes; not all their foods are vegetarian, and you will find plenty of meat options too.
Tongabezi chicken curry is a special Zambian breakfast dish. This is one of the hearty and filling foods in Zambia you can use to kick-start your day. Garnished with curry and fresh vegetables, it’s tasty and has an appealing appearance.
While the origins of this dish are unclear, it has clearly developed into a staple in Zambia. You can enjoy it as a main dish on its own or as an accompaniment to rice and fried potatoes. This is one Zambian food you have to try on your trip to this African country.
Kandolo (Sweet Potatoes)
Sweet potatoes are one of the most farmed crops in Zambia, and it’s no surprise that many of the foods in Zambia have a touch of sweet potatoes. Beyond the shores of the country, sweet potatoes are also a food enjoyed in many African countries.
Zambians make their sweet potatoes in many ways. Fried, boiled, dried, there are endless ways to enjoy kandolo in Zambia. You can spice up kandolo with fragrant ingredients like cinnamon, nutmeg, sweet pepper, and sesame seeds; they add flavor to this simple yet solid sustenance.
You can also enjoy your sweet potatoes with syrup or any sauce that suits your palette. Best of all, it is easy to find this popular Zambian food anywhere in the country.
Soups, Stews, And Sauces In Zambian Food
Chibwabwa (Pumpkin Leaves Sauce)
Chibwabwa is a popular traditional Zambian food. Where it originated from is still a mystery, but it’s a food enjoyed nationwide. Pumpkin is one of the many fruits grown in the country, and Zambians particularly love the leaves.
Chibwabwa is made with pumpkin leaves, tomatoes, onions, and peanuts, often paired with meat or dried fish. It has a rich flavor and amazing taste and goes well with staples like nshima.
When chibwabwa is prepared well, it has a creamy texture and distinct taste. This dish promises the real Zambian food experience.
Delele (Okra Stew)
This sumptuous Zambian dish is popular in many African countries. Delele is the Zambian name for okra; you can guess where this stew got its name from.
This dish perfectly blends vegetables (okra and any leafy greens) with stock like meat or fish. The result is a delicious and rich stew loved by both locals and travelers in Zambia.
Locals like to enjoy delele stews with nshima or rice, so they can soak up all that goodness. Any option you choose, this stew is one you must try.
If you love vegetables with a slightly sour taste, this is the Zambian food for you. Lumanda is a vegetable with a sourness that hits the spot. This plant, known as Roselle in English, is famous for its red flower; however, in Zambia, it is more famous as a delightful delicacy.
Lumanda is often cooked together with ground peanuts, which enhance the taste with their fragrance. It creates a healthy, nutrient-packed food to try in Zambia. Similarly, you can enjoy lumanda with rice or nshima.
Kalembula is a well-loved food of the Zambian people. This dish is made with the main ingredient of sweet potato leaves and ground peanuts, with tomatoes and onions. Although not everyone adds peanuts to their kalembula, some prefer it with other veggies like spinach.
This is another Zambian food with a rich taste and great nutty flavor. This side dish goes well when paired with a main dish like Nshima.
Tente Mushroom (Zambiana Mushroom Stew)
This seasonal Zambian food is a special delicacy in the country. While it is believed to have originated in China, that topic is still up for debate.
Tente is a wild mushroom dish in Zambia with limited availability because this mushroom only sprouts out between October and January in the country. That seasonal availability only makes this dish more cherished locally.
If you are adventurous, this is one Zambian food you should try. It is quite tasty and appealing. Spices like ginger and garlic are added for extra flavor.
Zambia Food-Snack, Light Dishes, And Street Food
Tute Ne Mbalala As (Cassava And Groundnuts)
If you like cassava, there’s just the street food for you in Zambia. This particular delicacy takes cassava flavor up to another level by perfectly blending it with a smoky and nutty flavor.
The combination of cassava and groundnut creates a nice stroll and chew snack. You can even pack and enjoy this food on your evening walks in Zambia. Simple but delicious.
Ifinkubala (Mopane Worms Or Caterpillars)
While it seems like an unusual, exotic dish, it is one of the beloved Zambian foods. Insects often serve as a good source of protein since ancient times. Ifinkubala originated from the northern part of Zambia and has swiftly crept into Zambian cuisine, as it can be found nationwide.
Fresh caterpillars are usually plentiful during the rainy season between November and March. These caterpillars are handpicked and dried after removing all their inner parts.
The caterpillars are garnished with pepper and vegetables and seasoning to add flavor and enhance the taste. They are mostly enjoyed as snacks or side dishes with nshima.
Chiwaya (Roasted Corn)
Corn is a traditional Zambian food that has cemented its place at the top of Zambian cuisine. It’s one of the major crops grown in the country; as such, they utilize it as much as possible.
Chiwaya is a popular street snack you can find anywhere in Zambia. It’s quite easy to make. It is also popular in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, albeit seasonal.
Chiwaya is another lovely street food in Zambia; however, you should be cautious as some corn can be rather tough to chew. Try as much as possible to get a soft one so that you can enjoy the perfect African snack experience.
Zambians love fried delicacies, and this is one of many fried foods in Zambia. Samosas originated in India but have developed into a staple food in Zambian cuisine, as in many other countries.
These snacks are distinguished by their iconic triangular shape. They come filled with a special mix of minced meat and spiced veggies (carrot, potatoes, pepper). Samosas are deep-fried oil to develop that crispy goodness.
This is also a common breakfast special accompanied by rich-flavored Zambian coffee. You can also enjoy them as appetizers with a glass of fruit juice.
Sweets, Desserts, And Pastries In Zambian Food
Golabjamoun (Zambian Sweet Potato Dessert)
This popular Zambian dessert is made from sweet potato, milk, sugar, and oil. Golabjamoun, in other countries, is known as a dessert made with flour, milk, and sugar, but that’s not the case in Zambia.
This Zambian food is made by boiling sweet potatoes in milk with sugar. You form a dough with it before you deep fry it in oil. We bet this is a tasty Zambian cuisine that you’d like to try.
This is one Zambian food you can find in almost every other African country. You will see vendors selling this delightful snack on the street or in the market.
Vitumbiwa is made with dough from wheat flour, and you can enjoy it with tea, coffee, soda, or fruit juice.
These ball doughs assume a golden brown color after deep frying. It’s one of the cheapest snacks in Zambia. They are regularly at bus stops, schools, and any crowded location, so it’s easy to find and try them out.
Chikanda (African Polony)
Chikanda is a special Zambian food you can enjoy as a snack, dessert, side dish, or a main dish on its own; such is its versatility.
Chikanda is made from dried and pounded tubers of chikanda orchids. You mix these pounded chikanda orchids with peanuts and chili pepper. When it is done, the result produces a snack with a meat-like consistency hence the name African Polony.
The dish was invented by the Bemba tribe (north-east Zambia), but it is now a staple nationwide. It’s certainly a traditional Zambian food you should try when given the opportunity.
Iconic Drinks In Zambian Cuisine
This is one traditional Zambian beverage rich in carbohydrates. Thobwa is popular in many other African countries and is believed to have originated in the region.
This beverage is made with basic ingredients sugar, water, and millet or sorghum flour. Thobwa is more popular in the eastern part of the country.
Because it’s carbohydrate-heavy, it serves as a great source of energy and has become a staple Zambian breakfast. You can try this breakfast drink warm or chilled when you travel to Zambia.
Munkoyo is a traditional Zambian drink made from munkoyo roots (an indigenous plant from southern Africa) and corn flour. This plant is actually a staple ingredient in many nutritional beverages in Zambia.
To prepare this beverage, corn flour is mixed with boiling water and allowed to thicken. When it reaches a certain desired consistency, munkoyo roots are added, and the mixture is allowed to cool and ferment overnight.
After the overnight fermentation process, the munkoyo roots are removed, and the drink is allowed to ferment further for a few days. After that, the drink can be served chilled, accompanied by meat or fish. You can also enjoy it as a standalone beverage.
You can see it’s a rather time-consuming preparation process, but good things are worth waiting for. This is one local beverage tourist enjoys in Zambia.
Maheu is another cherished Zambian drink. It is very similar to thobwa, the only difference being the base ingredient. Maheu is essentially made from corn flour, water, and sugar.
Corn flour is mixed with boiling water before sugar is added, and allowed to ferment for a few days. Maheu is a non-alcoholic beverage. However, the fermenting process gives it a sour and tangy taste.
Once the fermentation process is over, the maheu drink is born. It is best served chilled. It is one of many natural preservative-free drinks you can enjoy in Zambia.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Foods In Zambia
Embarking on a culinary journey via Zambian Foods offers an amazing experience you will never forget. Zambian foods are special for their simplicity and readily available recipes. They have foods both for meat lovers and vegetarians. Zambian foods don’t have any special spices, yet they are tasty and flavourful.