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“Unlock the flavors of South Africa with an irresistible culinary journey as we dive into the secrets of cooking umleqwa. Brace yourself for a tantalizing adventure filled with tender, succulent chicken and an explosion of vibrant spices that will transport your taste buds to new heights. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a curious food enthusiast, get ready to savor the essence of African cuisine and master the art of preparing this traditional delicacy. Get your aprons on, because we’re about to embark on a culinary safari like no other!”

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How to cook umleqwa

Umleqwa, also known as free-range or village chicken, is a traditional South African dish that is deeply rooted in the country's culinary heritage. Unlike commercially raised chickens, umleqwa refers to chickens that are allowed to roam freely and forage for their own food, resulting in a richer and more intense flavor.
The term "umleqwa" comes from the isiZulu language, one of the official languages of South Africa, and it translates to "naked chicken" or "chicken with no feathers." This name is derived from the fact that umleqwa chickens are often plucked manually, without the use of scalding water or machinery.
The meat of umleqwa chickens is known for its firm texture and distinct taste, which is attributed to their natural diet and active lifestyle. The flavor profile of umleqwa is often described as being more robust and flavorful compared to commercially raised chicken. It has a slightly gamier and more pronounced taste, making it a sought-after ingredient in traditional South African recipes.
Umleqwa is commonly used in stews, curries, and braised dishes, where its robust flavor can shine. It is often slow-cooked to achieve tender, juicy results and is complemented by a variety of spices and seasonings that highlight its unique taste.
Cooking umleqwa allows you to experience the true essence of South African cuisine and indulge in a cultural delicacy that has been cherished for generations.
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Lunch or dinner
Cuisine South African


  • 1 whole umleqwa (free-range chicken)

  • 2 onions, finely chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)


  • Clean the umleqwa: Start by cleaning the umleqwa thoroughly, removing any excess fat, and rinsing it under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Preheat the pot: Heat the cooking oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Sauté the onions and garlic: Add the finely chopped onions to the pot and sauté them until they become translucent. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the spices: Sprinkle the ground paprika, cumin, coriander, and turmeric over the onions and garlic. Stir well to coat the ingredients evenly and let the spices cook for a minute to release their flavors.
  • Brown the umleqwa: Place the umleqwa in the pot and brown it on all sides. This step helps seal in the juices and adds flavor to the dish. Turn the chicken occasionally to ensure it browns evenly.
  • Add the tomatoes and seasonings: Once the umleqwa is nicely browned, add the diced tomatoes to the pot. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste preferences. Stir everything together.
  • Simmer and cook: Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the umleqwa simmer gently for about 1 to 1.5 hours or until the chicken is tender. You may need to add a little water during cooking if the sauce becomes too thick.
  • Check for doneness: To check if the umleqwa is cooked through, insert a knife into the thickest part of the chicken. If the juices run clear, it's done. If not, continue cooking for a few more minutes and check again.
  • Serve and garnish: Once the umleqwa is cooked, remove it from the pot and let it rest for a few minutes. Carve the chicken into serving portions and place them on a platter. Spoon some of the flavorful sauce over the chicken. Optionally, garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley for added freshness and presentation.
  • Enjoy: Serve the umleqwa hot alongside your choice of side dishes such as steamed rice, pap (a South African cornmeal porridge), or traditional bread. Don't forget to savor the delightful flavors and enjoy this taste of South Africa!
    Note: This recipe serves as a general guideline. You can adjust the seasonings and cooking time based on your preferences and the size of the umleqwa chicken.



When cooking umleqwa, here are four important things to note:
1. Cooking Time: Umleqwa, being a free-range chicken, tends to have a firmer texture compared to commercially raised chicken. It requires a longer cooking time to ensure that it becomes tender and fully cooked. Be patient and allow the umleqwa to simmer gently over low heat for at least 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the chicken is tender and the flavors have melded together.
2. Seasoning: Umleqwa benefits from bold and flavorful seasonings to enhance its natural taste. Don't be afraid to experiment with spices and herbs. Traditional South African spices like paprika, cumin, coriander, and turmeric are excellent choices. Adjust the seasoning to suit your personal preference, and taste the sauce during cooking to ensure it has a well-balanced flavor.
3. Moisture: Umleqwa may not have as much fat as commercially raised chicken, so it's important to maintain moisture during cooking. Adding diced tomatoes or a little water to the pot helps create a flavorful sauce that keeps the umleqwa moist as it simmers. Monitor the liquid levels and add more water if needed to prevent the dish from drying out.
4. Resting Time: After cooking, allow the umleqwa to rest for a few minutes before carving and serving. Resting helps the juices redistribute within the chicken, resulting in a more succulent and tender meat. Cover the umleqwa loosely with foil during the resting period to retain warmth.
By keeping these points in mind, you can achieve a deliciously tender and flavorful umleqwa dish that showcases the unique qualities of this traditional South African chicken. Enjoy the process of cooking and savor the rich flavors that umleqwa has to offer!


Serving: 200g
Keyword Umleqwa
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