Alternative names Sima, sembe, posho
Type Porridge
Main ingredients Cornmeal
Cookbook: Ugali  Media: Ugali

Ugali (also sometimes called Sima, Sembe, Kaunga, Dona, Obusuma or Posho) is a dish made of maize flour (cornmeal), millet flour, or Sorghum flour (sometimes mixed with cassava flour) cooked in boiling liquid (water or Milk) to a porridge- or dough-like consistency. It is the most common staple starch featured in the local cuisines of the African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. When ugali is made from another starch, it is usually given a specific regional name.


Ugali with beef and sauce.

The traditional method of eating ugali (and the most common in the rural areas) is to roll a lump into a ball with the right hand, and then dip it into a sauce or stew of vegetables and/or meat. Making a depression with the thumb allows the ugali to be used to scoop, and to wrap around pieces of meat to pick them up in the same way that flat bread is used in other cultures. Left over ugali can also be eaten with tea the following morning.

Ugali is relatively inexpensive and thus easily accessible to the poor, who usually combine it with a meat or vegetable stew (e.g. sukuma wiki in Kenya) to make a filling meal. Ugali is easy to make and the flour can last for a considerable time in average conditions. Maize, from which the flour is obtained, is hardy and will grow reliably in dry seasons. For these reasons, ugali is an important part of the diet of millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Other names and similar foods

Ugali and usipa (small fish), staples of the Yawo people of the African Great Lakes.

The word ugali is a Bantu language term derived from Swahili. In parts of Tanzania, the dish also goes by the informal, "street" name of nguna.

In Kenya, ugali is also known as kimnyet in Kalenjin, ngima in Kikuyu, kuon, "mogo", "Chenge" or "Buru" in Luo, Obusuma in the Nyole dialect of Luhya,[1] nkima in Meru and obokima in Kisii (Ekegusii). In Luhya culture it is the most common staple starch, but is also a key part of Luhya Wedding traditions; obusuma prepared from millet was traditionally included among delicasies on a bride's high table. Obusuma can also be prepared from other starches like millet, (known as obusuma bwo bule), sorghum or cassava (obusuma bwo 'muoko). Obusuma is commonly served with tsimboka, or etsifwa, Eliani (vegetables), inyama, (meat), inyeni, (fish), thimena, (whitebait) or omrere (jute leaves). For distinguished guests or visitors it is usually served with ingokho, (chicken).

Yawo women preparing ugali for a large gathering.

In Uganda, ugali has several regional names, including posho' .

In Rwanda and Burundi, the dish is called ubugali, while in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo it is referred to as bugali.

In South Africa, a similar cornmeal mush called phuthu or mealie pap is a staple food; elsewhere in Southern Africa it is called isitshwala or bogobe in Botswana or sadza in Zimbabwe, nshima in Zambia, nsima in Malawi (normally eaten with utaka – a type of local dried fish), chima in Mozambique (in several languages), and oshifima or pap in Namibia. Fufu, a starch-based food from West and Central Africa, may also be made from maize meal, in which case it may be called fufu corn. In the Caribbean, similar dishes are cou-cou (Barbados), funchi (Curaçao), and funjie (Virgin Islands). It is known as funche in Puerto Rican cuisine and mayi moulin in Haitian cuisine.

In the West-African country of Ghana, it is popularly called tuozafi (or T.Z for short). Though a less popular term, it is also called saab in the Kusasi language of Ghana.

See also


  1. "Kenya Information Guide Home page". Retrieved 24 June 2013.
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