Zulu cuisine offers marvellous menus for travelling taste buds. From the comfort of isibhede and phutu porridge to the intoxication of utywala beer and the fiery perfection of chakalaka relish, Zulu dishes are seasoned with history, infused with culture and full of fine flavours.

Did you know?

Zulus traditionally sprinkle dried pelargonium leaves on dishes as an indigenous spice

The foundations of Zulu cuisine are sorghum and maize starches, which are generally eaten as polenta-like porridges or drunk in the form of beer.

Isibhede is a fermented porridge, which tingles on the tongue,while phutu is an unfermented, crumbly porridge. Amahewu is a non-intoxicating grain beer while utywala is a highly alcoholic brew. Of secondary starch status in Zulu food are amandumbe, fibrous root vegetables similar to the sweet potato.

Historically the Zulus were a rich and powerful nation with large cattle herds. Zulu cooking reflects this history with high levels of beef and dairy in the traditional diet. Milk is consumed in a soured form known as amasi while meat is stewed or grilled over an open fire.

Traditionally meat is portioned according to gender and age with adult men eating high status portions such as the head, liver and right-front leg. Boys are allocated the feet, lower leg portions and lungs. Tripe and ribs are considered suitable for women. The liver is perceived to be the site of human bravery much as the heart symbolically stores this character trait in Eurocentric food culture.

Meat is commonly eaten with a spicy vegetable relish known as chakalaka, providing evidence of the cultural and culinary fusion legacy of Zulus living and working closely with the large number of South Africans of Indian origin who also live in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Kwa Malulekoes Indigenous Herb Garden & Cultural Centre
Tel: +27 (0) 33 267 7380

Fordoun Boutique Hotel & Spa
Tel: +27 (0) 33 266 6217
Email: info@fordoun.com

The Rainbow Restaurant
Tel: +27 (0) 31 702 9161

How to get here

Zulu food is best in the KwaZulu-Natal province. The gateway to the province is Durban's King Shaka International Airport.

Best time to visit

Food fundis should know that summers are so hot and humid in KwaZulu-Natal that you are unlikely to want to eat anything but ice-cream! Early autumn, winter and spring are ideal.

Tours to do

Kwa Malulekoes Indigenous Herb Garden & Cultural Centre offers rural tours of the Kamberg district.

Get around

Zulu cuisine is best tasted in rural areas. A hire car will facilitate your gastronomic voyage of discovery. Alternatively, make use of local tour guides.

What will it cost

Costs vary by establishment. Cheap takeaways will cost less than R50 but a fine dining meal at Fordoun Spa may cost up to R400 per person.

Where to stay

For supreme luxury try the Fordoun Boutique Hotel & Spa in the Midlands region. As an added bonus, the hotel uses many indigenous Zulu ingredients on its sumptious menu.

What to eat

Chakalaka relish, amasi soured milk, mageu and umqomboti beers are just some of the delectable foods one should taste.