Umqombothi (African beer)

Umqombothi (African beer)

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  • Makes 10 litres
  • Easy
  • 3 days


  • 1 kg King Korn Mtombo Malt
  • 4 cups maize meal
  • 12 litres water
  • ¼ cup brown sugar

Cooking Instructions

1. Mix half the malt with the maize meal in a bowl. Add 2 litres of boiling water and stir until you have a smooth paste.

2. Set aside to cool, cover with a lid and leave in a warm place overnight to begin fermenting.

3. Pour 4 litres of the remaining water into a large pot. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat and work in the soured mixture, stirring constantly.

4. Place back on the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until boiling.

5. Continue cooking the mixture for 60 minutes, until thick. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool, then transfer into a large plastic bucket.

6. Add 6 litres of the remaining cold water, mix in the remaining King Korn Mtombo and the brown sugar. Cover with a lid and set aside for between 2 and 3 days to ferment.

7. On the third day the fermented mixture will have a pungent smell and tiny bubbles will appear on the surface. Pour the beer into a large fine-mesh sieve. Using your hand or a large wooden spoon, press the beer mixture through the sieve to achieve a smooth liquid.

8. Set aside to settle for 30 minutes before serving.

Cook's note: On the second day, add 2 litres of store-bought sorghum beer to assist with the fermentation.

Find more South African recipes here.

This recipe is an extract from Dorah Sitole – 40 Years of Iconic Food, published by Human & Rousseau and retailing for R380 at all good book stores.

Read our conversation with Dorah Sitole here.

Dorah Sitole Recipe by: Dorah Sitole
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Dorah Sitole needs no introduction. With an immense career spanning 40 years in the food industry, she has paved the way for young food writers, specifically food writers of colour, to thrive in South Africa.

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