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The local cuisine of South Africa

If you are a food lover, you will be pleasantly surprised and ultimately satisfied by what food options await you in South Africa. This country features a wide range of excellent dishes that will whet your appetite, so be prepared to be inspired by our guide to South African cuisine and the must-try dishes in the country.
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South Africa's cuisine

With an array of top-class restaurants to choose from, you will be inspired to try as many local dishes as possible, but if you don’t know already, this is a country that is suitable for travelers with all budgets, so it will not cost an arm and a leg to have the culinary experience of a lifetime.

One of the best ways to try local foods is to do a food tour, and if you are a passionate foodie, you will be in heaven during this cultural and gastronomic adventure – what could be better?

If you are looking for more tips, tricks, and local suggestions for South African food, don’t hesitate to ask your ‘Destination Expert’ for their recommendations. After all, seeing a country through a local’s eyes is a fantastic opportunity. 

Let us give you an overview of what to expect regarding South African food and the main dishes and local snacks you need to try.

Local Cuisine

South Africa's cuisine

South Africa is a diverse country in general, but when it comes to the cuisine, you will notice it reflects a range of culinary traditions that have shaped what it is today. With many indigenous traditional influences and Dutch, French, Indian, and Malay, it is safe to say that South African cuisine is unlike any other in the world. And it is a melting pop for flavors, aromas, and textures, all of which await you on your culinary adventure. 

No matter what kind of palette you have, if you prefer sweet or savory flavors, spicy or mild, meat or vegetables, you will most likely find it all under one roof. However, if you are ready to be inspired by a country with one of the most varied and exciting cuisines that have evolved from centuries of immigration, traders, pioneers, and the native tribes sit back and let us uncover the best dishes out there you to try. 

Best dishes to try

Boerewors:

Boerewors

Meat lovers can get excited about this one – the sausage that originated in South Africa and is standard at a braai (South African BBQ). It is popular in South African cuisine and Namibian and Zimbabwean cuisine, and the name Boerewors comes from Afrikaans, meaning farmers’ sausage. It is made from coarsely minced beef, mixed with a range of spiced and braaied (grilled over charcoal).

Biltong:

Biltong

This South African snack might be familiar, considering it has made its way worldwide and can be found in many places if you know where to look or who to ask. It is a form of dried, cured meat that originated in the Southern African countries and can be found all over South Africa. So you won’t even need to try hard to find it.

Chakalaka:

Chakalaka

This spicy vegetable relish is commonly served with stews, bread, curries, and pap and originated in the townships of Johannesburg. This vegetarian dish can be used as a side dish, dip, main dish, or a relish, so the choice is yours.

Potjiekos:

Potjiekos

This dish originated from the Voortrekkers in the 1800s as a meal that could be prepared quickly and cooked outdoors over an open fire. It may resemble a stew, but as it is translated, this ‘little pot food’ is neither prepared like a stew nor tastes like a stew. Instead, the dish is prepared in layers, and once the pot is put on, it is just left to do its thing, so never start preparing this if you are already hungry, but chances are if you are eating at a restaurant, you won’t need to wait too long.

Melktert:

Melktert
Source: https://www.tasteatlas.com/melktert

Melktert, also known as the South African milk tart, is a sweet dessert loved by basically anyone with a sweet tooth, and if this is you, then you must keep an eye out for this on the menu. Featuring a flaky pastry, a creamy and luxurious filling, and topped with cinnamon, this is the answer to all your desert prayers and can be eaten at tea time or after dinner.

Durban Chicken Curry:

thai food Beef massaman curry
thai food Beef massaman curry

Durban is known to have the best curry in South Africa, and that is because this region is home to a large Indian population, who have brought with them their incredible recipes, which have influenced South African cuisine greatly. Durban Chicken Curry can be found all around the city and must be tried if you are a fan of Indian food or are open to trying it – and this brings us to our next dish, Bunny Chow.

Bunny Chow:

Bunny Chow
Source: https://www.taste.com.au/recipes/bunny-chow-chicken-curry-rolls/0143f121-7e40-4c27-ba53-822f6a9c3ea6 | Image by Simon Barnes, Ben Dearnley & Jeremy Simons

If you are a fan of Durban chicken curry and fancy having a true Durban specialty, you need to try Bunny Chow, which consists of hollowed-out bread filled with Durban curry. It is a local fast-food dish and originated with Indian South Africans of Durban. You can find this everywhere in Durban, but it may be pretty tricky to find it anywhere else in the country.

Pap:

Pap

This traditional porridge/polenta is a staple food of the African peoples and is made from coarsely ground maize or maize meal. If it seems familiar to you, it resembles Ugali, which is the same thing, but it is the staple dish of East African countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and even Malawi. The word pap comes from the Dutch word for porridge.

Malva Pudding:

Malva Pudding
Source: https://www.tasteatlas.com/malva-pudding

Another one for the sweet lovers is Malva pudding, a favorite dessert of the South African people, which has a spongy caramelized texture and contains apricot jam. It is common to pour a creamy sauce over this sweet dessert and serve it hot with either custard or ice cream (or both, why not?)

Bobotie:

Bobotie

This spiced minced meat dish, with an egg-based topping, resembles a lasagna or a pasta bake, but it tastes nothing like either of them. This curried mince bake is made with beef or lamb and generally topped with a layer of egg custard, and the traditional way to serve this dish is with yellow rice. It is known as the South African casserole, and considering it is the country’s national dish, it is a must-try dish for this reason and because it is so wholesome and tasty, of course. 

Gatsby:

Gatsby
Source: https://www.tasteatlas.com/gatsby

If you are looking for a hearty street snack to share or gobble up yourself, you need to grab a Gatsby. This enormous sandwich is filled with chips (French fries), a variety of other ingredients, and sauces and is generally shared between a group of people. We kid you not when we say that this is a considerable snack, but vendors tend to cut it into small portions to make it easier to share or eat by yourself if you have a big appetite. This is undoubtedly one that will keep you going on your adventure days.

For a combination of food and wine tasting, a township tour, a cooking class, and a tour of the Winelands, you cannot miss the Foodie Cultural Tour in South Africa.

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