Mahewu, A Traditional African Beverage

There is a huge interest in the role of fermented foods for overall health. Social media, magazines and health food stores all tout the benefits of foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi and yogurt as functional foods whose benefits in overall health extend beyond nutrition.  The African diet is rich in fermentation with  foods such as  sour uji (East Africa),  Ben-Saalga (Burkina Faso), Ogi (Nigeria) and Kenkey (Ghana) constantly being served. Two of my personal favorites are soured milk which tastes almost like a thickened kefir and Mahewu (Amarewu, Togwa , Mabundu, Mapotho), a porridge based drink fermented with sorghum or finger millet malt. I had some left over sadza (ugali/posho/pap/nshima /isitshwala) and being the middle of summer the weather was just right so I decided to brew Mahewu- a childhood favorite.

Ingredients used:

Maize (corn) meal, water, sorghum  with finger millet malt and a lot of sunshine.

leftover sadza

Most recipes call for a porridge made from 1 part maize meal/sorghum/millet to 9 cups water.  I had some left over sadza so I used that. (No measurements, just eyeballed it as I went)

sadza peices

To make it into a porridge, I tore the sadza into small peices  and added water. How much water to add is a matter of preference. Add more if  you prefer a thin beverage, less if you prefer it thicker.

liquifey X

I used an immersion blender to blend the sadza to a thin gruel.  A blender works just as well or you can go the traditional route of crumbling and mashing with your fingers. (Get the kids to join in the fun….they will love it).


Next it was time to add a handful of malt (Sorghum and finger millet) to the blended porridge. While I used a two-grain malt,  single grains such as finger millet, sorghum, wheat and maize meal ferment well too.  POT

After thoroughly blending the mixture , I transferred it to a pot, covered it , placed it in a sunny spot and allowed the fermentation to begin. My aunt had a dedicated clay pot for  Mahewu brewing.  She claimed that it had a “memory” of the process so her Mahewu brewed a lot quicker. I now know that the clay pot had residual fermented malt from previous brewings and this added mature malt which hastened  the process. I do subscribe to her notion and use the same pot every time I brew. However, in addition to matured malt, my pot is seasoned with all the curries and stews I cook in it between  batches. I guess that adds hints of turmeric and garlic to my beverage. Yum?????


It was really hot  and within 2 days bubbles formed on the surface of the liquid and a strong smell of fermentation filled the pot. The Mahewu was brewed and ready for serving. I transferred it to a pitcher and placed it into the fridge for some chilling.


Later that same day, I had a cup of chilled goodness and memories of my childhood flourished.  While I like my Mahewu a little on the sour side many can not take the strong taste and add a spoon of sugar.  Feel free to do so if that helps but watch the quantity. Sugar adds unnecessary calories and can negate the overall benefits of the Mahewu if it is used in excess.

(P.S: During the cold winter months Mahewu takes longer to ferment but makes a deliciously healthy hot beverage.)

Here’s to your health (and childhood memories)!

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Categories: African Food, Uncategorized, What's Cooking?

Author:Cordialis Chipo

Cordialis is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - a nutrition consultancy that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian or on Facebook (The African Pot Nutrition.

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13 Comments on “Mahewu, A Traditional African Beverage”

  1. Barry Wiseman
    November 13, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    I want to make my own mahewu, unobtainable here in the UK, it is a fantastic sports energy drink. Where can I get some sorghum malt? I am happy to buy it in SA and bring it across here.


    • December 23, 2015 at 4:30 am #

      Hi Barry, have you tried some of the small African shops. I would visit the local stores and see if they have it.


      • Barry Wiseman
        December 23, 2015 at 10:16 am #

        Hi Cordialis, thanks. I don’t seem to have any such shops in my area, unless I just don’t know where they are. I was brought up on mahewu in Swaziland and would love to have a regular supply.


      • December 23, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

        I have seen some people use wholemeal wheat flour. I have never tried it but have heard it works.


  2. Art
    June 20, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

    Cordialis, the finished brew in your cup looks partially clarified compared to the starting mash. Do you strain out the sadza mash before serving, or skim the clearer liquid off the top, or do you stir up the mash and drink it all?


    • June 21, 2016 at 6:05 am #

      Hi Art, Great question. You do not strain the mahewu. The difference in the pictures is that the final product was stirred and the other was not. Let me know how your mahewu turns out.


  3. October 20, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

    Love this. Thank you – I think a whole lot of South African vegans are going to start making Mahewu again.


    • October 20, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

      All hail the mighty Mahweu.🙂 T
      Thanks Anna. Glad to hear more people will be making it. I have a love affair with this drink….it’s just too good.
      Would love to talk to you about being a vegan in South Africa. Please send me an email at if you have a chance.


  4. Darryl Hunter
    November 12, 2016 at 1:15 am #

    Hello, Im looking for something my dad would bring home from the gold mines when I was a boy. We called it jabulani. we ate it as a cereal. It was made of Soghum and maize and i dont know what else. Any idea. that is where I tried mahewu


    • November 19, 2016 at 1:27 am #

      Hi Darryl, sorry I can’t think of it but hopefully someone will read this message and get back to you.
      If I find out, you will be the first to know.



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