Masonja (Mopane Worms)

Amarachi Irobi
Amarachi Irobihttp://@Amara_ii
My name is Amarachi Irobi, a content writer and food lover who loves to explore traditional African cuisine.
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Mopani or mopane worms (also known as masonja) are a common food in southern Africa. Women and children often handpick mopane worms in the wild. Caterpillars in the bush are not regarded the property of the landowner (if any), but permission from the resident should be sought.

Dried mopane worms can be eaten raw as a crisp snack, however, the head is not eaten in Botswana. The flesh is yellow, and the intestines may still include dried leaf bits that are safe for humans. If the dried leaves aren’t removed when preparing them, they have a taste similar to tea leaves.

Origin of Mopane Worms

Mopani worms also called ‘amancimbi’ in Ndebele or’madora’ in Shona (a native ethnic group in Zimbabwe), have long been a good source of protein. The worm is a huge caterpillar from the Gonimbrasia belina species, which is also known as the Emperor moth.

It’s called a ‘mopane’ because it exclusively lives in Southern African countries and feeds on the leaves of mopane trees after hatching in the summer. During the rainy season, the worms are picked, cleaned, sun-dried for preservation, and made available for consumption throughout the year.

The mopani worm dish has no known history in Zimbabwe. However, a stone-age pit excavated in Zimbabwe’s Pomongwe Cave revealed a deposit of dried mopane worms thought to be about 6,000 years old.

Are Masonja (Mopane Worms) Healthy?

According to research, mopane worms are not only nutritious to eat, but they may also be important in preserving the biological balance of the dry bush they live in.

Protein is a nutrient found in meat, eggs, fish, and insects that helps build and repair muscles.

Masonja is on the list of Southern Africa protein-rich foods. It has numerous health benefits that you just cannot overlook when eaten as part of the main meal, a snack, or even as the ‘meat’ itself.

How Mopane Worms Are Prepared

To enhance the flavor of dried mopane worms, they are typically canned/packaged in tomato sauce or chili sauce. However, too much flavor messes with the taste of these worms. You would want the masonja to be the natural and focal point of the flavor.

After cleaning the mopane worms, the customary technique of preserving them is to boil them without adding any additional water and a substantial amount of salt. They are then sun-dried or smoked, giving them a richer flavor.

Mopane worms can also be soaked to rehydrate before being fried till crispy, or cooked with onion, tomatoes, and spices before being eaten with pap or sadza. They’re crunchy and delicious, and you can season them with crushed chilies, garlic powder, and other herbs and spices to provide variety and flavor.

After preparation, they can be eaten with family or sold in tins in rural stores and markets throughout Southern Africa.

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masonja-mopane worms

Masonja (Mopani Worms)

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes


  • 300 g Mopane Worm
  • 1 Medium Onion Chopped
  • 2 tbsp Cooking oil
  • 2 Tomatoes Chopped
  • 1 cube Beef Knorrox
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • salt


  • Boil the Mopane worms in a pot till they are soft.
  • Rinse them. Then add another cup of boiling water.
  • Add cooking oil.
  • Then it begins to fry, add onions, tomatoes, a cube ofknorrox, paprika and salt.
  • Let it simmer until the mixture thickens.
  • Serve
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Amarachi Irobi
Amarachi Irobihttp://@Amara_ii
My name is Amarachi Irobi, a content writer and food lover who loves to explore traditional African cuisine.

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