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Zambian Food: 9 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Zambia

Zambian Food: 9 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Zambia

Zambia is a country in Southern Africa known for its stunning natural landscapes, including Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is bordered by Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola and the DRC; many of which have similar traditional dishes and cooking techniques.

Zambia’s history is deeply rooted in the traditions of various ethnic groups, including the Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, and Lozi. The country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1964 and has since embraced its cultural diversity.

Most Popular Zambian Dishes

Zambia’s cuisine has been influenced by indigenous ingredients, European flavors, and the cuisine of neighboring African nations.

Zambian cuisine is characterized by staples like maize, cassava, and groundnuts which feature heavily in many popular dishes. Lemongrass and cilantro are commonly used to season the dishes, along with spices like 

Nshima, a thick porridge made from maize, is the country’s staple food, often served with savory dishes.

Nshima (Maize Porridge)

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Nshima is a thick maize porridge that is typically served with a variety of savory relishes, similar to dishes like sadza in Zimbabwe and ugali in Kenya.

Nshima is made with maize that is ground into a powder, mixed with water and boiled until it thickens into a dough-like consistency. This dish is served to dip into soups and stews in Zambia.

Kapenta (Fried Fish)

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Kapenta is a popular Zambian snack or side dish, made by drying sardines which can be caught in Lake Tanganyika. These small fish are often salted, resembling dagaa from Tanzania.

There are a number of Zambian dishes that can be made with Kapenta, including Stewed Kapenta with Sadza. They may also be fried and served as a side dish or snack.

Ifinkubala (Fried Caterpillars)

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Ifinkubala is a Zambian delicacy made by frying mopane worms (caterpillars). The mopane worms are cleaned, dried in the sun and consumed as a high protein snack.


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Served as a side dish or breakfast food, Samp involves coarsely ground maize kernels. Groundnuts (peanuts) may also be mixed into Samp for extra falvor.

Chikanda (Orchid and Groundnut)

Chikanda is a savoury cake made from orchid tubers and groundnuts, giving it a distinctive nutty flavor. This dish resembles bologna sausage, it can be sliced and eaten fresh or fried with vegetables and sauces.

Originally created by the Bemba people from Zambia’s Northern Province, today Chikanda is served at Zambian celebrations across the country.

Ifisashi (Spinach Groundnut Stew)

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Ifisashi involves cooking spinach in a stew with groundnuts, tomatoes, onions, and other greens such as pumpkin leaves. This dish is enjoyed as a side dish or a main course.

Delele (Okra Stew)

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A Zambian stew, Delele involves boiling okra in water with tomatoes with baking soda. This stew is often served with nshima (maize porridge). ‘Delele’ is the Zambian word for okra.  

Kandolo (Sweet Potato Balls)

Kandolo is made by shaping sweet potato seasoned with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg into balls and covering them with sesame seeds.

Kandolo can be served with a groundnut sauce, or as a starchy side to stew/soup dishes.


Lumanda is a Zambian vegetable; its leaves resemble spinach, which can be cooked to make dishes with a savory, somewhat sour flavor.

This vegetable is often cooked with a groundnut sauce to create a stew and served with nshima.

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