The Proven Platter – Zambia, August 2024

The traditional cuisine of Zambia is built around legumes, pulses, greens and vegetables that are indigenous to the region. Ingredients like Bambara nuts, groundnuts (peanuts), cowpeas, sesame seeds, soyabeans, wild spinach, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin, okra, and sweet potatoes are used in simple, straightforward perparations that preserve their nutritional value. Animal-based proteins are less frequently used. Of animal proteins, chicken and dried fish are the most commonly used.

There had been considerable concern that the traditional recipes of Zambia had not been adequately codified and were at risk of being lost to future generations. In an attempt to address this, in 2006, the Department of Agriculture undertook a research project to document traditional recipes. The findings were recorded in local languages and then translated into English in 2007. The recipe for today is an adaptation of two of the traditional recipes recorded. One is a millet porridge/pudding. The other is a pumpkin and peanut “sauce” known as Chipwatanga. In a bind when I couldn’t find millet at the local grocery store, I looked up an alternative and learned that some local restuarnts in Zambia serve Chipwatanga over oats. So, the recipe shared here uses steel cut oats. Use millets in place of the oats if you can source them. Some recipes use crushed peanuts in the chipwatanga in addition to using it as a granish. Doing so made the chipwatnaga taste more like peanut sauce than pumpkin-peanut sauce, so I chose to just add the peanuts as a crunchy topping. The coconut milk sauce with cinnamon in the oats and the pumpkin peanut topping are a perfect complement to each other. It is a hearty dish, one I can see being eaten warm on an autumn morning and cold on a summer’s morning.

Chipwatanga and Coconut Oats Porridge (vegan)

For the porridge/pudding:
1 cup millet or steel cut oats
3 cups water
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sweetener of choice (I used maple syrup)
½ teaspoon salt

For the Chipwatanga:
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
A pinch of salt
¼ cup roasted peanuts


To prepare the Chipwatanga, add pumpkin puree, milk, sugar, and salt to the pot and cook on medium. Stir continuously so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom or burn. Caution: it will spatter, so be careful while stirring. Cook until the consistency thickens and the pumpkin is caramelized and creamy. Set it aside.

Add water and oats or millet to the pot and cook until desired doneness. In a separate pot, add coconut milk, cinnamon, and sweetener of choice (I used maple syrup), and stir until l it gets to a sauce-like consistency.

Mix the coconut milk “sauce” into the oats pudding. Serve the “pudding” with a generous scoop of the chipwatanga and garnish with the peanuts. Can be served hot or chilled.

Recipe and photo credit: Vinola V. Munyon