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Umfino Pap with cabbage and spinach: a delightful South African dish

By June 7, 2024FinGlobal

Umfino Pap with cabbage and spinach: a delightful South African dish

June 7, 2024


Umfino is a traditional South African dish that beautifully combines pap (a type of porridge made from maize meal) with a medley of green vegetables, most notably spinach and cabbage. This nutritious and flavorful meal has deep roots in South African cuisine and is cherished for its simplicity and versatility. Whether you are looking to explore new pap meal ideas or simply want to enjoy a hearty and healthy dish, umfino is an excellent choice.

What is Umfino?

The word “umfino” originates from the Xhosa language, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. Historically, this dish was born out of necessity, as people combined available ingredients to create a filling and nutritious meal. Over time, umfino has evolved, but it remains a staple for many South African households, particularly in rural areas.

Why you should try Umfino Pap with cabbage and spinach

  1. Nutrient-Rich: This dish is packed with vitamins and minerals from the spinach and cabbage, making it a healthy option for any meal.
  2. Versatile: Umfino can be enjoyed on its own or as a side dish to complement other meats and vegetables.
  3. Budget-Friendly: The ingredients are both affordable and accessible, making it an economical choice.
  4. Cultural Experience: Trying umfino allows you to experience a piece of South African culinary tradition.

Ingredients needed for Umfino Pap recipe

To prepare this pap and spinach recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups maize meal (for the pap)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped spinach
  • 1 cup finely chopped cabbage
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil or butter
  • Optional: spices like turmeric, garlic, or chili flakes for added flavor

Step-by-Step Umfino recipe

Prepare the Pap

  1. Heat 4 cups of water in a large pot until it reaches a boil.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the boiling water.
  3. Gradually add the maize meal while continuously stirring to prevent lumps.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let it cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it reaches a thick consistency.

Cook the Vegetables

  1. In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil or butter over medium heat.
  2. Stir in the chopped onion and cook until it turns translucent.
  3. Add the chopped spinach and cabbage to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are tender, which should take about 5-7 minutes.
  4. If desired, add spices like turmeric, garlic, or chili flakes for additional flavor.

Combine the Pap and Vegetables

  1. Once both the pap and vegetables are ready, gently fold the cooked spinach and cabbage mixture into the pap.
  2. Mix thoroughly to ensure that the vegetables are evenly distributed throughout the pap.
  3. Let the combined mixture cook together for another 5 minutes on low heat to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve and Enjoy
Serve your umfino hot, either as a main dish or as a side dish. It pairs wonderfully with grilled meats, stews, or even on its own with a dollop of butter.

Pap and spinach recipe variations

  • One of the joys of cooking umfino is its versatility. Here are some alternative options to consider:
  • Add Protein: Incorporate cooked chicken, beef, or tofu for a more protein-rich meal.
  • Cheesy Umfino: Stir in some grated cheese for a creamy and delicious twist.
  • Herbs and Spices: Experiment with different herbs and spices like thyme, coriander, or paprika to suit your taste preferences.


Umfino pap with cabbage and spinach is more than just a meal; it’s a celebration of South African culinary heritage. By trying this umfino recipe, you not only get to enjoy a delicious and nutritious dish but also connect with a rich cultural tradition. So why not give it a try? Gather your ingredients, follow the steps, and savor the unique flavors of this wonderful South African dish.

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