Traditional South African Food

categories: africa travel

Chicken Sosaties

South Africa is renowned for its long white sandy beaches, astonishing landscapes, wild animals, and breath-taking vistas; however, its cuisine is as impressive as its land. South Africans are known for their love of variety and it is possible to enjoy anything from Italian, to Moroccan, to Portuguese; all down a local alleyway.

Cape Town is the culinary capital of South Africa, even though Johannesburg may argue this point as their flavours play a big part in both traditional and contemporary South African Cuisine. The diverse mix of people and produce in Cape Town is to thank for offering inspiration to local chefs for many years.

History of South African Cuisine

Aboriginal South Africans were primarily hunter-gatherers. Their diet consisted mainly of tortoises, coconuts, crayfish, and squash.  The origin of South African cuisine, however, is known to stem from its history of colonialism. 200 years after the Portuguese first set foot in South Africa, Dutch settlers (Boers) formed a European settlement. The Dutch harvested gardens with fruit and vegetables including watermelons, pumpkins, pineapples, and potatoes.

The Dutch East India Company also expanded its trade between South Africa, India, and Europe, bringing with it unfamiliar and exciting tastes to South Africa’s culture. That is why South Africa has so much variety and the locals are (in general) so open to trying new food.  As a result, South African cuisine is commonly referred to as ‘rainbow cuisine’.

Food Culture

South Africa’s diverse and rainbow-like culture is reflected in their cuisine. Meat (especially chicken), and fish, form the basis of many dishes. One of the greatest treats available in the country is the amazing range of fish that is available, fished from the two oceans that surround the country. Some other popular foods include crocodilian sirloin, fried caterpillars, snake meat, and evening ewe heads.



Barbecues are also very popular in South Africa; they are called ‘Braai’ by the natives and are a regular weekend activity.

The Most Popular Foods in South Africa

There are some foods that were popular among the pioneers and are still enjoyed by 21st Century South Africans, and there are some foods that are popular which have been influenced by colonists.

One thing you will not find in South African food is bland flavours; as expected from most hot climates their food is often very spicy, and uses a combination of unique flavours which are difficult to describe yet undeniably appealing.

BiltongHere are some of the most popular and loved foods:

  • Traditional South African Food #food #travel #southafricaBiltong: cured, dried meat that is popularly beef or kudu
  • Rusks: hard, dry biscuits
  • Naartjies: soft loose-skinned citrus fruit
  • Babotie: spiced minced meat baked dish with an egg based topping that includes raisins or sultanas
  • The Boer: crusty chicken potpie with plenty of seasonings, egg and ham
  • Bredies: meat and vegetable stews of all kinds
  • Rooibos Tea: a natural powerful antioxidant tea without caffeine
  • Boerewors: thicker sausage that is traditionally barbecued ‘braaied’
  • Bunny Chow: Hollowed out half loaf of bread that is stuffed with curry
  • Chakalaka: garnish made from onion, garlic, ginger, green pepper, carrots, and chillies
  • Koeksisters: twisted pastries that are deep fried and heavily sweetened
  • Potjiekos: traditional African stew made with meat and cooked over coal
  • Melkert: milk-based tart
  • Gatsby: deli sandwich, long rolls cut open length-wise and stuffed
  • Bokkoms: salted and dried mullet
  • Smoked Snoek: smoked game fish which is regional to Cape Town
  • Sosaties: kebabs – grilled, marinated meat on a skewer
  • Pineapple Sherbet: a pineapple smoothie
  • Putupap: cornmeal porridge
  • Morogo: wild spinach combined with butter-braised onions and tomato
  • Boerowors Roll: South Africa’s tastier answer to New York’s hot dogs
  • Droewor: air dried sausage
  • Frikkadel: meat ball or meat patty

If you are after a more daring meal South Africa also offers culinary challenge that ranges from sheep head, to crocodile sirloin, to fried caterpillars. All three are well-received by locals and many tourists who were brave enough to try them have all reported these daring dishes to be delicious.



South Africans are known to be prolific beer drinkers. For three centuries wine has been made from imported grape varieties such as Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Shiraz.

South Africa has a rich history and a diverse cultural background. It is a popular destination for people on their gap year and aside from the beautiful scenery and landscapes, the delicious South African cuisine is certain to draw people to this diverse land too.

South African food is colourful and interesting, yet alien to the majority of first-time visitors. The taste is terrific; therefore rest assured that a well-prepared local meal can definitely be a highlight of your trip to South Africa. Trying South African cuisine should be included in every visitor’s itinerary.


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Amy Fowler

by Amy Fowler

This piece has been written by Amy Fowler, a keen traveller who enjoys little more than trying new foods from new cultures. Some of her favourite cuisines include Japanese, Spanish, Turkish, Brazilian, and French. She writes for Sport Lived; find out more on their blog at

5 Responses to “Traditional South African Food”



Three of my favorite South African foods that didn’t make it into the list:
* Springbok
* Warthog
* Malva pudding
Yum! Also, don’t forget to wash it down with a great South African wine. My favorite is the Graham Beck winery, and I’m particularly fond of the cap classique!

Chris Christensen


What is Malva pudding?



@Chris Christensen Indescribable yumminess.

HTC Butterfly


Traveling in South Africa is a life changing experience. Also, they have the most delicate and unusual delicacies that you can eat and experience.



@HullFinancial Yes, South African wines are generally very good. Lots of wine drinking is must when visiting 🙂

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