Umbhako, or Xhosian Pot Bread: No, Not THAT Kind of Pot Bread…

Umbhako, or Xhosian Pot Bread: No, Not THAT Kind of Pot Bread…



This recipe comes to the table at the suggestion of Apple Crisp. While she was living South Africa, she learned a great deal about the Xhosa people and their food traditions. A little history- the Xhosa (pronounced ko-sa through a series of clicks in the back of the throat) is both a language and was a migratory tribe that moved and settled in southeastern South Africa from lower central Africa.  Nelson Mandela actually originates from the Xhosa.   Traditionally, they were mostly known as cattle herders and live in beehive shaped huts in scattered homesteads ruled by chiefs.  As for the food, staples are corn, bread, beef, mutton (sheep meat), and goat meat.  While the thought of cooking with goat meat was intriguing, I stuck with tradition and Apple Crisp’s suggestion and made Umbhako, or pot bread.  After all, I LOVE bread and look forward to eating it and making it whenever possible.

The funny thing about umbhako is that Apple Crisp didn’t even speak that highly of it, but insisted that if I was going with the classics, I just had to make it.  With this rave review in the back of my mind, I used the recipe she provided.  Umbhako is called pot bread because it was traditionally cooked in a cast iron pot on top of the stove. However, because this method usually took a lot of time (and who has that?), modern methods allow us to use a traditional oven.  My cast iron skilled it pretty large, so I used one of my saucepans instead.

What did I think?  Despite the yeast (which I just assume makes everything light and fluffy), it’s VERY dense and chewy almost, nothing like the heavenly pillows of wheat that line most bakery shelves.  I wasn’t sure, and to be honest am still not sure if I like it, but then again, I couldn’t stop eating it.  That has to say something right? Anyway, tea (rooibos, for sure), a drink with jam and bread is a common breakfast, so for my purposes, the umbhako fit the bill just fine.



2 cups white flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

½ cup corn kernals

1 large egg

2 tsp instant yeast

1 ½ TB brown sugar

2 tsp vegetable or palm oil

½ -3/4 cup warm water

½  tsp salt




1.  Combine the flours, the salt, the yeast and the sugar in a large bowl.  Ina separate bowl, combine the eggs, the oil and the warm water.

2.  Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing gently between each addition of liquid.

3.  Fold the corn kernels into the batter and pour this mixture into a well-oiled cast-iron pot – the mixture should fill ¾ of the pot.




4.  Put the tin aside in a warm place until the mixture has risen sufficiently to fill the pot – about 45 minutes.

5.  Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven until a skewer comes out cleanly – about an hour.

6.  Serve with tea and jam, which will bring you back to do-oh-oh-oh…oh, wait. Wrong country.

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3 thoughts on “Umbhako, or Xhosian Pot Bread: No, Not THAT Kind of Pot Bread…”

  • Excuse me, that is NOT how you pronounce Xhosa, firstly, and secondly, we are NOT all people who live in huts and are ruled by chiefs. Please, catch up with modern times.
    PS: the ‘x’ is a pronounced as a click, made with your tongue on the side of the palate. It really isn’t that hard. At all.

    • My EXTREME apologies and I certainly meant no offense. The pronunciation I learned from my friend who lived in SA for a bit and she described how to say it (omitting the click). Her pronunciation was confirmed through this site ( As for the hut/chief comment, I mistakenly made that statement present tense, and meant to state that the Xhosa USED to be a migratory people that lived in beehive shaped huts, a statement taken from here (, and Lonely Planet, South Africa). I’ve updated the post to state as much and I hope you accept my sincerest apologies for having caused offense. None was intended and in my posts I try to find as accurate sources as possible, but clearly not all hit the mark. Once again, I’m very sorry.

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