The Ultimate Guide to South African Mieliepap

The Ultimate Guide to South African Mieliepap

There is not one South African that doesn’t know a thing or two about mieliepap. No braai (bbq) is complete without having pap in some form or another – either slowly bubbling away in a black cauldron on the stovetop or made into little balls and deep-fried or even layered with yummy cream, cheese and bacon for an indulgent pap tert side!

What is mieliepap?

Mieliepap is eaten all over the world in some form or another. Italians has polenta, Americans has grits, but South Africans has taken this traditional corn staple to a whole new level. If you follow my blog, you would’ve seen my post about Maize Rice. In that post I’ve described how maize rice is being produced.

The process for maize meal (to make mieliepap) is very similar: white corn (maize) cobs are grown in a corn field. The corn cobs from the outside looks very similar to your average sweet corn, however, when you peel back the husk and silk you’ll find that the kernels are much bigger than those of sweet corn and it is white in colour. It is not very pleasant to eat raw as it is very starchy and not sweet. Once these ears of corn are ripe, it is left in the field to dry in the sun until the moisture content is 12.5% or less. This is then harvested, stripped off the cob and taken to a silo for storage until it is needed or sold to a mill.

When it is ready to be milled, the maize kernels are crushed where the outer shell and heart of each kernel is removed. The shell and heart is repurposed as either animal feed (shell) or cornflour (heart) and the rest of the maize kernel is ground until a course meal is formed. It is called meal since it is much coarser than flour and will need a lot more water to rehydrate than flour would.

There are some great pictures on Tusk Super Maize Meal’s website that shows what the inside of a mill looks like.

What is maize meal used for?

There are so many different uses for maize meal, but the most common way to prepare it is for mieliepap: a white, bland, porridge-like staple food and, depending on the occasion, there are as many pap recipes as there are people in South Africa! Each having their own way or their own take on what a great scoop of pap should look like.

  • Stywe pap (literally translated as stiff porridge) is usually eaten with braaivleis (bbq’ed meat) and has a tomato and onion gravy (sous) over the top. Sometimes we also add sweet corn kernels to the pap for a lovely variation and to add some texture.
  • Slap pap (literally translated as runny porridge) is usually eaten at breakfast with butter, milk and sugar. Slap pap can also be used when making paptert (a savoury pie layered with pap, bacon, mushrooms, cream and cheese)
  • Krummel pap (literally translated as crumbly porridge) is also known as Phutu Pap. It is a lovely all rounder and takes some skill to make! Krummel pap can be enjoyed either at breakfast or at dinner and is not as heavy as the other two.

The only difference between these three types of pap is the maize meal to water ratio. For stywe pap the ratio would be 3 parts maize meal and 2 parts water, slap pap will have a 1:2 ratio where you need one part maize meal and two parts water and for krummel pap (putu pap) you would need a ratio of 2.5 parts maize meal to 2 parts water.

Maize meal can also be used to make:

  • Mielie vetkoek (read here what vetkoek is all about)
  • Corn bread (recipe to follow soon!)
  • Corn muffins
  • Chips (when slap pap is cold you can cut it and deep fry it)
  • Fish bait (vispap) – yes you read it correctly. Every great fisherman will use some left over pap to make some vispap. They will flavour it according to a top secret family recipe (usually something with curry powder, eggs or garlic) in the hope that it will land them the biggest carp in the lake!

Is mieliepap healthy?

Definitely! Since it is made from corn you will find it contains vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and B9, along with zinc, magnesium and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in fibre and protein which makes it not only versatile, but nutritious as well. My father always scoops out his portion of pap to allow it to go completely cold before he eats it. We’ve always teased him about it as it is fairly strange – pap should be eaten hot! Although, recent scientific research has shown that by allowing the pap to cool before eating it lowers the glycemic index of the pap which means the glucose is released at a slower rate into your bloodstream which not only will keep you fuller for longer, it will also help to keep your blood sugar levels more steady.

The only down-side to pap is that it is high in carbohydrates which is great if you are an athlete that is bulking up, but sucks if you are on a low carb weight loss diet…

The most popular way to eat mieliepap

The most popular way to eat mieliepap in South Africa is as part of your main meal along with braaivleis (bbq’ed meat) and with a sauce made from onions, tomatoes and spices. Depending on your family traditions this sauce can either be very simple consisting of only tomatoes and onions (tamatie-en-uie-smoor) or it can be complex and hearty (Chakalaka) where it consist of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, chilli and beans. In our home we have a bit of a hybrid between the two sauces. I like to fry my onions with some garlic before adding some chopped tomatoes and a touch of smoked chipotle chilli.

Mieliepap Recipe

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


    Stywe pap
  • 750 ml maize meal
  • 500ml boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Slap pap

  • 500 ml maize meal
  • 1 litre boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Krummel pap

  • 625 ml maize meal
  • 450 ml boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon salt


    Stywe pap and slap pap:
  1. Bring the water to a boil and add in the salt.
  2. Whisk in the maize meal and turn the heat to the lowest setting.
  3. Simmer for 3 hours (stir every half an hour) until cooked through.
  4. The consistency for stywe pap will be rigid and hard to stir (use a whisk), however the consistency for slap pap will be runny and very easy to stir with a wooden spoon.

    Krummel pap:

  5. Bring the water to a boil and add in the salt. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting.
  6. Pour the maize meal in the centre of the pot so it forms a little heap. Close the lid immediately.
  7. Let the pap steam for twenty minutes.
  8. After twenty minutes cut the meal with a knife or two-pronged meat fork to form a crumb-like texture. Place the lid back and steam for another 20 minutes and cut again with a knife.
  9. Repeat every 20 minutes until the pap is crumbly and cooked through.

If you fancy some more South African recipes, why not try:

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16 Comments on “The Ultimate Guide to South African Mieliepap

  1. Ooo! Iā€™d never heard of this before! I had heard of grits but I love the sound of this! It always interests me what different countries eat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was so surprised when I heard that other countries also have something similar to pap – would love to try grits one day to compare the similarities. If you do have a South African shop nearby you may find some maize meal šŸ™‚ Thank you for taking the time to comment!


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