13 Amazing South African Dishes You Shouldn’t Miss Out On

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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Africa is a continent that is beaming with cultural heritage and luckily, South Africa is one of the countries that still retains its culture and holds it dear.

Surely, when talking about culture, you can’t do so without emphasizing the way of life, language, and FOOD. Food was capitalized because when one is hungry, one may forget language and way of life. Lol. Over in South Africa, they have a lot of mind-blowing meals, and luckily, after reading this from another country other than South Africa, you can easily go to the market and get a hang of what they have to offer.

Most of these South  African dishes are quite easy to whip up, others need you to pay attention to every detail and cook with utmost precision. As usual, we will talk about some of the mind-blowing dishes that originated from South Africa and you’ll leave comments on how they worked out for you after you tried them out. Ready? Here we go!!!

Here are 13 Most Popular Traditional South African Dishes

Chakalaka and Pap – An All-Time Favorite South African Dish


This is so indigenous and delicious that it turned out to be the mainstay in every South African dining room. Chakalaka is a vegetable dish made of onions, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans, and spices, and is often served cold. Pap, meaning ‘porridge’, is similar to American grits and is a starchy dish made from white corn maize.

Chakalaka and pap are often served together, along with barbecued meat or as the locals call it, bread meat, bread, salad, and stews.

When you try out the recipe for this all-time favorite South African Dish, do make sure you have a lovely meal. Here are some health benefits of this dish, giving more reason to opt in for this healthy meal. See Recipe

Health benefits

  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in something called lycopene, tomatoes help to prevent prostate cancer and are good for your heart.
  • Carrots: Carrots are loaded with healthy vitamins and fiber! Carrots are full of beta-carotene, a natural chemical that the body changes into vitamin A. Carrots are good for your eyes, your colon, and your heart – and they have anti-cancer benefits.
  • Onions: Onions make Vitamin C work better for you. They also have chromium, which helps to improve the way your body manages blood sugar. Onions may also help protect against cancer and reduce heart attack risk!
  • Green pepper: Green, yellow and red peppers contain Vitamin C, which is great for making your immune system stronger. Full of fiber, which is great for your digestion, peppers also help to prevent some eye conditions.
  • Spices: Spice mixes for curry usually include cumin, ginger, and turmeric – these spices are good for everything from improving digestion to reducing inflammation in your body.
  • Chilli: Regarding health, chilies are little superstars of the vegetable world! Not only does their burn add zing! to everything, but they also have more vitamin C than oranges. It doesn’t stop there either; chilies contain vitamins A and E, folic acid, potassium, and beta-carotene. So, put them in!



A very traditional South African dish. Nothing is more traditionally South African than a potjie and good company.  It translates to “small pot food and is a stew prepared outdoors.

It is traditionally cooked in a round, cast iron, three-legged pot, the potjie, descended from the Dutch oven brought from the Netherlands to South Africa in the 17th century and found in the homes and villages of people throughout southern Africa.

The pot is heated using small amounts of wood or charcoal or, if fuel is scarce, twisted grass or even dried animal dung.

Traditionally, the recipe for this South African dish includes meat, vegetables like carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, or pumpkin, and starches like rice or potatoes, all slow-cooked with Dutch and Malay spices, the distinctive spicing of South Africa’s early culinary melting pot.

Other common ingredients include fruits and flour-based products like pasta. Potjiekos originated with the Voortrekkers, evolving as a stew made of venison and vegetables (if available), cooked in the potjie. As trekkers (pioneers) shot wild game, it was added to the pot. The large bones were included to thicken the stew.

Each day when the wagons stopped, the pot was placed over a fire to simmer. New bones replaced old and fresh meat replaced meat eaten. The game included venison, and poultry such as guinea fowl, warthog, bushpig, rabbit, and hare. This food has a lot of recipes but the most common potjiekos are the chicken and vegetable potjiekos. See Recipe

Butternut Soup

Image from cookingclassy

This soup sold out of South Africa and was advanced in Ghana and became a household favorite soup. Legend has it, that because of the export rate, they had to trademark the soup by adding the country’s name. For sure it’s the legend that’s having it, all we have to do is praise the highest for inspiring our forefathers to try this delicacy out and pass it on.

The ingredients needed for this invigorating South African dish are not far-fetched. They are;

See, it’s not far-fetched neither is it heaven sent, you can find it in any local market around you. Here comes the tricky part, the preparation. As a chef or culinary enthusiast, knowing all meals need to be prepared with love is just the basis while knowing some meals need to be prepared with extra care is another.

This is one meal that has to be easily prepared with both love and an extra touch of care. It’s worth the stress after all the gym slogan is “no pain, no gain” A treat is a gain. See Recipe.


Easter Meal Ideas BOBOTIE
Image from thegingeredwhisk

Another dish thought to have been brought to South Africa by Asian settlers, bobotie is now the national dish of the country and is cooked in many homes and restaurants, it is pronounced as bo-bo-tea.

To prepare this glorious South African dish, minced meat is simmered with spices, usually curry powder, herbs, and dried fruit then topped with a mixture of egg and milk and baked until set.

It is a very popular South African dish that was selected by 2008 Masters golf champion and South African native Trevor Immelman as the featured menu item for Augusta National‘s annual “Champions Dinner” in April 2009.

Each year, the reigning champion at The Masters golf tournament, played every year in Augusta, Georgia, hosts the gathering and tends to create a menu featuring delicacies from his home region.

Today, bobotie is much more likely to be made with beef or lamb, although pork can also be used. Early recipes of this South African dish incorporated ginger, marjoram, and lemon rind; the introduction of curry powder has simplified the recipe but the basic concept remains the same. Some recipes also call for chopped onions and almonds to be added to the mixture.

Traditionally, this South African dish incorporates dried fruit like raisins or sultanas. It is often garnished with bay leaves, walnuts, chutney, and bananas. Although not particularly spicy, the dish incorporates a variety of flavors that can add complexity. For example, the dried fruit (usually apricots and raisins/sultanas) contrasts the curry flavoring.

The texture of the dish is also complex, with the baked egg mixture topping complementing the milk-soaked bread which adds moisture to the dish. Bobotie is usually served with “yellow rice”, which is rice cooked with turmeric. See Recipe.

Cape Malay Curry

Cape Malay Chicken Curry
Image credit: Facebook

This is another delicious South African dish that came along with foreigners. In the 17th century, the Dutch and French landed and settled in Cape Town, bringing slaves from Indonesia, India, and Malaysia, along with their spices and traditional cooking methods.

When combined with local produce, aromatic spices such as cinnamon, saffron, turmeric, and chili create fragrant curries and stews. The health benefit of the ingredients used in preparing this South African dish is one of the things that makes it so popular.

A meal brought in by foreigners but generally accepted and embedded into the culture of the people is accepted as a South African dish. See Recipe.




Don’t attempt pronouncing this without proper guidance. It’s pronounced “cook sister” and you were surely saved from a tongue-biting moment there. This is a traditional South African dish, they are sticky donut treats that are deliciously sweet, sticky, crunchy, and drenched in syrup, laced with cinnamon, lemon, and ginger.

Perfect for snack or tea time and even breakfast. Not a weekend should go by without an occasional indulgence in this South African dish. See Recipe.

Biltong and Droëwors: Snacks Fit for a Road Trip

biltong scaled
image from: Pinterest.com

No South African road trip or sports event would be complete without biltong and droëwors. These cured meat delicacies are intrinsically woven into South African culture, serving as tasty companions for watching rugby, cricket, and football (soccer) – the nation’s most popular sports.

Biltong, an ancient maritime method of preserving meat, is made by soaking meat cuts in brine and hanging them to cure. While some might consider it unhealthy, locals prefer their biltong with generous layers of fat. See Recipe.

Image credit: Taste Atlas

Droëwors, on the other hand, undergoes a similar curing process but with a twist. Instead of meat cuts, ground beef mince and mutton fat are expertly blended with aromatic spices to create a thin, cured sausage that packs a punch of flavor in every mouthful. See Recipe.


Image Credit; Pinterest

In South Africa, the quality of a butcher is often judged by the excellence of their boerewors, a beloved sausage that holds a special place in the hearts (and stomachs) of many South Africans. While it may appear unassuming to visitors, the creation of this authentic delicacy is governed by strict rules that butchers in South Africa adhere to with reverence.

The boerewors must contain at least 90% meat or fat from beef, pork, lamb, or goat, with a majority of roughly ground beef acting as the base. Pork and lamb may be added for their distinct flavors and textural contributions, but the sausage must never contain more than 30% fat.

South Africans traditionally braai (barbeque) boerewors over an open fire, and while cooking, it is essential not to prick the casing – because it would allow the precious juices to escape, resulting in a dry sausage. This beloved delicacy is also a staple in neighboring countries like Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. See Recipe.

Mealie Pap

Mealie Pap
Image Credit: FAEPA

Mealie pap, a coarse maize meal porridge, is a staple in a majority of South African households. Its affordability, and long shelf life, made it a beloved. Whether it’s the thick and hearty stywe pap or the crumbly porridge similar to couscous, mealie pap is a comforting and nourishing presence on many South African tables.

For those seeking a more fluid version, slap pap, a runny porridge, is often enjoyed for breakfast, adorned with milk, sugar, and butter – a simple yet satisfying start to the day.

See Recipe.


Dried Apricot and Lamb Sosaties
Dried Apricot and Lamb Sosaties

South African cuisine is a region of diverse influences, and one dish that shows the Malay heritage is the beloved sosaties, more commonly known as kebabs in other parts of the world. These skewered morsels of meat and vegetables, marinated in a spicy sauce describe the fusion of flavor in South Africa.

Whether it’s succulent lamb, tender chicken, juicy beef, or savory pork, the meat is combined with different vegetables and infused with an aromatic marinade. South African love cooking these sosaties outdoors on a braai (barbeque), allowing the smoky flavors to permeate every bite, creating a truly unforgettable experience. See Recipe.


Image credit: Somebody feed seb

No discussion of South African desserts would be complete without mentioning the tantalizing melktert, a decadent milk tart that has captured the hearts and taste buds of generations. With its sweet pastry crust and a filling similar to a light cheesecake.

The filling, a blend of milk, flour, sugar, and eggs, is carefully mixed to balance the creamy texture and a predominant milky flavor. A dusting of powdered cinnamon this delectable dessert, adds a subtle warmth to the flavors.

Over the years, South Africans have embraced innovation, creating recipes that cater to various dietary needs, such as substituting regular milk with lactose-free versions, ensuring that everyone can enjoy this beloved treat.

Malva Pudding

malva pudding

Alongside the melktert, malva pudding stands as one of South Africa’s most loved desserts, gracing tables across the nation with its irresistible allure. This soft and springy cake, infused with the delectable flavors of apricot jam and caramel, is topped with a sweet, creamy sauce, creating a dessert that is simply divine.

Served with a thin custard and a scoop of ice cream, malva pudding is a treat that transcends mere dessert. See Recipe.


Image Credit: The South African

Hertzoggies, or Hertzogkoekie in Afrikaans, hold a unique place. These pastry tartlets, filled with a delightful combination of apricot jam and coconut, were discovered during a pivotal moment in the nation’s history.

Their origins can be traced back to the campaign of General JBM Hertzog, who promised to grant women the right to vote and ensure equal rights for the Cape Malay people, alongside white South Africans. While his promise to the Cape Malay community remained unfulfilled, the hertzoggies maintained their elegance and served as the perfect accompaniment to English tea. See Recipe.


Image Credit: Facebook

When the chill of winter sets in, South Africans turn to the comforting embrace of melkkos, a traditional milk porridge that warms both the body and the soul. With its simple yet satisfying ingredients, this dish is a beloved staple among many households, particularly grandparents who have mastered the art of its preparation.

Melkkos is a quick and easy mix of milk cooked with flour until thickened, infused with the warmth of cinnamon and sweetened with sugar. Often topped with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of tangy naartjie or orange zest.

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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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