Much of traditional Zulu cuisine is based on starches, particularly sorghum and maize. Each of these are commonly prepared either as a thick, nutritious beer or a polenta-like porridge. Such porridges come in both fermented and unfermented forms, called ishbhede and phutu respectively. .
In creating beers, the Zulus traditionally make both an non-alcoholic variety, called amahewu, and an intoxicating kind, called utywala, that is highly potent. In addition to sorghum and maize, the Zulu diet has also consistently depended on a fibrous root vegetable named amundumbe, a tuber similar to the conventional sweet potato. One traditional vegetable preparation is chakalaka, a spicy relish often served with meat, and which illustrates the fusion of Zulu food culture with that of nearby Indian immigrants.
Because the Zulus are historically a powerful herding society, meat and dairy also play critical roles in their diet. Milk is served in a sour form, called amasi, while meat is generally cooked over an open fire or stewed. Meat is traditionally portioned by cut and assigned to different members of society. The head, liver and right front legs belong to adult men; boys receive the lower legs, lungs and head; and women eat the ribs and tripe. The Zulus traditionally esteem the liver to be the seat of human bravery, which is likely why the culture reserves it for those of warrior age and gender.