Discover the South African Food Traditions

South Africa is known for its cultural and ethnic diversity. It is also known as The Rainbow nation, due to being one of the most multicultural countries in the entire world. It borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini and Lesotho. In traditional African society, the tribe is the most important community as it is the equivalent of a nation. This provides both the emotional and financial security. Did you know that the oldest art objects in the world were discovered in a South African cave?

Due to the 17th century colonization by the Dutch, English, French, and German settlers, these nations heavily influenced the local culture, art, and cuisine. South African cuisine has therefore emerged into a unique fusion of these different external influences.

African Family in the Kitchen

Today, Afrikaans cuisine consists of plenty of meat, vegetables, and rice or potatoes. The braai (barbecue) is the most famous way of cooking meat. This is the way of cooking burgers, sausages, chops, and steak over hot coal, infusing them with the distinct, mouthwatering smoky flavor. Below you will find some of the most famous South African dishes that will surely make your palate dance.

Bobotie

This is the country’s national dish, thought to have been brought into South Africa by Asian settlers. An all-time dinner favorite, this is made from minced meat simmered with spices. Usually curry powder, herbs, and dried fruit such as raisins or sultanas are used to simmer. This is then topped with a creamy mixture of milk and egg and baked in the oven until the custard is set.

South African Bobotie

Biltong

This is one of the most well-loved South African snacks and is served at just about any social gathering. It consists of a dried, cured, and spiced meat, much like America's beef jerky. Beef and venison are popular favorites, but chicken is possible too (despite being unconventional). The meat is cured in a mixture of salt, sugar, vinegar, and different spices, then hung to dry.

Dry curing of meat was a method used by the traditional tribes of South Africa to preserve meat before fridges were available.

South African Biltong

Boerewors

In English, boerewors can be translated to “farmer’s sausage”. They are traditionally served in a coil shape and cooked on a braai (barbecue). This sausage is made from minced beef, and contains spices such as cloves, coriander, and nutmeg.

South African Boerewors

Bokkoms

This dish is similar to biltong, but in fish version. This is a small mullet fish, dried in the sun and wind and then salted. It can easily be incorporated in various meals such as pastas, soups, and more.

South African Bokkoms

Chakalaka

It is usually impossible to find a South African braai (barbecue) without this relish. This combines vegetables such as onions, peppers, carrots, and tomatoes into a spicy relish, and is traditionally served cold.

South African Chakalaka

Malva Pudding 

This pudding is of Dutch origin. This is a sweet and sticky sponge pudding, served with apricot jam and a bed of hot cream sauce. It is traditionally served at home but can be seen on the menu of plenty of restaurants, too. Aside from the cream sauce, it can also be served with vanilla ice cream.

South African Malva Pudding

Melktert

Also known as “milk tart”, this dessert is quite similar to the British custard tart and is available in many bakeries across the nation. This is a sweet pastry crust with a creamy filling made from eggs, milk, and sugar, usually thickened with flour. You will quickly find out that almost every South African family has their own secret recipe to this dessert.

South African Melktert

Koeksisters

This pastry dish is not only pretty to look at but also incredibly delicious. The dough is elegantly twisted into a plait, almost resembling a woman’s braid, and deep fried to golden perfection much like a classic doughnut. It is traditionally served with tea and a sugary syrup, super sticky and sweet. The Malay version of this pastry has a slightly spicy taste and is rolled in desiccated coconut.

South African Koeksisters

Potjiekos

The roots of this dish supposedly emerged from the Great Trek, an Afrikaaner tradition. Potjiekos is easily translated to “food made in a pot”, which is its literal translation. Typical ingredients include meat, vegetables, and starch (usually potatoes), cooked inside a round cast-iron pot over a fire.

South African Potjiekos

Vetkoek

This is basically fried bread, and is thought of as the South African version of the classic hamburger. Instead of a burger patty, the filling is made from curried minced meat or chicken mayo. The whole burger is then deep fried so the outside is crispy and golden, but the inside is moist and fluffy. Smaller versions of this bun are eaten with a dollop of butter or jam.

South African Vetkoek