So I’ve got a story with this one so let’s get this out of the way up front if you’re not into that, I’ll be making a prep of seswaa and pap based on Botswana Youth’s recipe.

Seswaa is a dish served at most major events in Botswana – weddings, funerals, births, birthdays, and so on. It’s a dish deeply steeped in tradition.

When I started researching Botswana cuisine I got word from my family that my grandmother was imminently passing. She’d been sick for an extended period and in the previous few weeks things had taken a turn for the worse so this news was not unexpected but it was still complicated; my grandfather passed on Christmas Eve in 2017 and Grandma was never really okay again afterward but losing a loved one always sucks even when it’s an end to physical and emotional suffering for them.

This recipe really spoke to me on a core level, it’s a deceptively simple dish that requires heart and care in prep but is immediately comforting.

My grandmother passed early Monday morning. My car is looking at somewhere between $450 and $4500 in repairs. My phone is 5 generations behind and has about a 2 hour battery life. My shed is infested with black widow spiders. It’s been a hell of a week. I sat at my desk at work with my tupperware of reheated seswaa and pap and something about it just felt good when everything else felt like garbage.

You’ll need a slow cooker or dutch oven for this prep

LET’S DO THIS (seswaa):

  • 2-3 pounds of bone-in beef (I used beef rib and got closer to 3 pounds to account for the heavy bone weight)
  • 1 onion, ends trimmed and outer later peeled
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 cup beef stock and additional water
  • ground pepper to taste


  • 1.5 cups white cornmeal
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 cup reserved liquid from the beef prep
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Prep is pretty quick (16:00 to 16:15), but your time may vary.

Here’s what you’re going to do:

  • Salt and pepper the beef. Place the beef, onion, and bay leaves in the crock pot with the beef stock, then fill with water to cover the meat.
  • Cook on high for 4-6 hours, until the meat is falling off of the bone.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and into a bowl.
  • While the meat is cooling slightly, prepare the pap.
  • Bring the water, beef prep liquid, and salt to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium low and stir in the cornmeal. Once whisked in completely, cover and reduce heat to low.
  • Make sure you keep stirring the pap ever few minutes. While the pap is cooking (about 25-30 minutes), shred the beef and onion using forks or meat shredders (traditionally the beef is ground with a mortar and pestle).
  • Remove the pap from heat, stir in the butter. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to stiffen, then dish up with the beef.
  • That’s it! If you portion out and reheat the pap will solidify but is still delicious.
I got distracted playing video games so my total time was much longer than needed (didn’t take the meat out until around midnight) but my total time making the pap and finalizing the seswaa was about 20 minutes.