10 tasty traditional South African foods with recipes

South African cuisine is a blend of the country’s regional dishes. Various ethnic groups like Zulu, Xhosa, and Cape Malay have enhanced it with their delicious preparations.

Amidst outside influences, French and Indian play an essential role. Be it a curry-based item or a pure vegan one, you will get all sorts of foods when you are in this country.

With so many traditional black South African recipes to try, anyone can come up with a mean South African dish to impress his or her guests.

A community is known for its cultural practices and identities. South Africa is no different. However, with the history and colonization background, the cuisine served in different parts of South Africa is richly diverse and unique.

The following are examples of traditional South African recipes with pictures you need to try.

1. Biltong

Top on the list is Biltong which is most likely the beloved South-African snack pick any time. This is a cured, dried, and spicy meat that is difficult to keep your hands off. With several servings of this dish available, a good number of people go for Beef biltong which continues to be one of the favourites. It can also served more unconventionally as chicken biltong if that is what you prefer. The following recipe may come in handy.


  • 100 ml brown sugar
  • 2 kg meat
  • 15ml bicarbonate soda (this softens the meat)
  • 30 ml coarse salt
  • 125 ml red wine vinegar
  • 125ml crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 table spoon of paprika or chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp cracked black pepper


  • Make use of good quality meat preferably the silverside or use the topside
  • Slice your meat, with the grain into specific measurements, preferably 1 cm thick x 2 cm wide strips. The strips should be 20 cm in length and have strips thoroughly rubbed with the vinegar.
  • Mix the salt, black pepper, crushed coriander seeds, sugar, bicarbarbonate of soda, and paprika together in a bowl to create the rubbing mixture.
  • Rub your spice mixture into all meat pieces.
  • Using a glass or with your stainless-steel container, arrange the meat in layers and ensure that the thicker pieces are at the bottom.
  • Let the container be covered using a cling film and then refrigerate for 12 hrs while mixing after every few hours to let the meat flavours get infused evenly.
  • Hang the pieces of meat up so that they can dry in an area that is well ventilated.
  • You should dry the meat for about 4-5 days, based on your personal preference.

2. Malva pudding

Just from the name, this dish has Cape Dutch roots and origin. The pudding contains apricot jam, comes with a saucy feel and is spongy in texture not forgetting its caramel taste. The moment you get it out of the oven, a lot of people choose to add a creamy sauce over it. This gives it a sticky and very soft like dessert that resembles a cake.

3. Boerewors 

Boerewors which translates to “farmer’s sausage” refers to a special minced meat kind of sausage. This special kind of sausage must contain 90% meat or more for it to be regarded as boerewors. Your mince mix should contain spices that include cloves, coriander, as well as nutmeg, all of which give it a distinct taste. Locals prefer making boerewors for themselves to give it a special touch.

4. Koeksisters

You make them by frying pleated-dough pieces, which become even sweeter when you add sugary syrup. Usually, they have a golden, soft and crunchy crust, with its centre resembling that of a doughnut. They are also super sticky. You can choose to go for Malay version which means rolling it in desiccated coconut, and keeping the rich spicy flavour intact. Here is a simple recipe that you can follow:

Dough ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tbsp butter/margarine
  • 1 large egg
  • oil for frying
  • ½ cup of water

Syrup ingredients

  • 1kg sugar
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½ cinnamon sticks
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 ½ cups of water

Cooking instructions and preparing

  • You must sift your flour, the baking powder, and salt in one bowl.
  • Next would be to rub in your butter and then mix it until it is pliable.
  • Mix in the water and egg with the water being added a step at a time
  • Work the until it balls up.
  • Let it rest at room temperature for about 3 hours in a mixing bowl that is inverted

To prepare the Koeksisters:

  • Roll your dough out to a thickness of about 5mm.
  • Cut it into 6cm long and 2cm wide strips.
  • Further, cut each these strips into 3 strips but only to a point where you leave the strips connected on top.
  • Plat every strip while pinching together at each strip’s end.
  • Put them in hot oil and deep fry up to when they become golden brown.
  • Remove them and drain very quickly then dip your hot koeksisters in store-bough or freshly prepared cold syrup.
  • Keep your syrup cold while koeksisters remains hot if you want to enjoy it better.

How to make syrup:

  • Prepare your syrup one day before since it has to be stored in the ridge for it to be cold
  • First, you need to start by dissolving sugar in water.
  • Add your spices which include lemon juice and let the mixture boil. Leave your syrup to cool when refrigerated all night through.

It is also possible to keep syrup cold by putting your syrup bowl in a different container full of iced water.

5. Bokkoms

If you are interested in a real South African traditional food, then this is it. It may not be everyone’s taste, but bokkom which comes from the West Coast region of Mzanzi is such a delicacy. It refers to wind and sun dried small but whole mullet fish that are salted. It is often served as a snack and can easily be turned into fish biltong.

6. Milktart

The Milktart which in Afrikaans is “melktert” is some kind of pie-like dessert that consists of unique but sweet pastry crust with some creamy filling created from milk, sugar, flour, and eggs. You can choose to buy it whole at all leading supermarkets. You should note that most families have their personal secret recipe which makes the dish unique in every homestead.

7. Bobotie

Bobotie is an all time dinner favourite in most homesteads. The dish contains some spiced mince, egg-based toppings, as well as some traditional sultanas or raisins thrown into the mixture. This gives the dish some sort of sweet taste. Considering that it has a Cape Malay influence, it comes with some additional spices that include tumeric, curry, turmeric, and almonds.

8. Potjiekos

When considering the different cultures in South Africa and their food, this is one of the most dishes that cut across cultural divides. Traditionally, the dish was made in rounded cast-iron pots and then cooked over an open fire. Commonly known as pot food, or Potjiekos, this meal was traditionally prepared using vegetables and meat.

9. Chakalaka

A mix of vegetables that include peppers, carrots, onions and tomatoes, this sauce is excellent for anyone that enjoys extra spicy dishes. Usually, it is served at braais as an accompaniment to side dishes such as pap. It resembles the polenta, only that it is smoother and goes perfectly with boerewors. Here is a recipe you can follow:


  • Oil to cover the base of your potjie
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 1kg Lamb (on the bone)
  • 2 tsps Ginger and Garlic paste
  • Chunks of Potatoes, Carrots, Baby marrows and Green Beans
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • A few Bay Leaves
  • 1 400gr can of Diced Tomatoes


  • Put a pot on fire to heat oil in.
  • Add your onions and let them fry until they become translucent and soft.
  • To dish, add your lamb and ginger together with the garlic paste until they brown on all ends. You can add some tots of wine or some water in case the pot becomes too warm or if the meat starts to burn.
  • Throw in some salt and some black pepper.
  • Once the meat browns, add your diced tomatoes and a bit of bay leaves.
  • Place a lid on it and let it simmer gently for 1 hour or so.
  • Thrown in the potatoes and carrots for 30 to 40 minutes then add baby marrows and your green beans.
  • Taste it and adjust the salt as well as black pepper if needed.
  • Make sure not to stir the pot, but be careful to gently shake and make sure that you have enough liquid in the bottom and that it’s not burning. If unsure, add a bit more wine or water.
  • Use a different lid then let the food simmer for about 20-30 minutes
  • Get the pot off the fire and then serve it hot with rice.

10. Vetkoek

This dish is popular in all Afrikaner cooking. Vetkoek refers to fried dough bread whose meaning is “fat cake”. You may equate it to the Dutch oliebollen. Usually, it is accompanied by sweet or sometimes savoury toppings such as minced chutney and curry.


  • 1kg Snowflake Cake Wheat Flour
  • 30ml sugar
  • 10ml salt
  • 10ml instant dry yeast
  • 750ml lukewarm water
  • 30ml cooking oil


  • Start by sifting flour together with the salt then add yeast and sugar.
  • Add some oil and lukewarm water, then mix to create a soft and sticky dough. Adjust the ingredients whenever necessary.
  • Knead the dough for 5-10 mins on a flat surface, until it’s smooth and elastic. Put the dough inside a big but lightly oiled bowl and cover then leave it to rise. Place it somewhere warm for 30 mins or so until it is twice its former size.
  • On a lightly floured base, continue kneading the flour until it is smooth. Divide it into 20 pieces then roll it out into smooth balls.
  • Put the balls onto greased baking trays. Cover them and place in a warm area then let them rise for 15 mins or when they are well risen.
  • Heat some oil in medium but heavy-based saucepan. Drop in the dough balls in the hot oil. Keep turning and fry until they are golden brown and well done. Remove the balls from oil and let them drain on a paper towel. Serve them warm with some butter, jam and cheese.

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