South African Cuisine Facts and History

The cuisine in South Africa is also known as the “rainbow cuisine”, due to the large number of influences coming from other cuisines. Besides traditional African cuisine developed by the local tribes, parts coming from the Asian and European cuisine compose today’s cuisine in this part of the world.

South African Cuisine

From a historical point of view, the cuisine of South Africa had two major local groups that contributed in the highest degrees to the development of the traditional cuisine. One of the largest group is the Bantu-speakers, which were growing crops, like pumpkins, beans, and various vegetables, and raised animals, like cattle, sheep, and goats. The Khoisan was another important group for the development of the traditional cuisine, this group being hunter-gatherers, eating game meat, wild tubers and other available vegetables.

South African Cuisine Menu

• Breakfast

It is considered that the English colonies influenced the way breakfast is served in South Africa a lot. This is why you will see coffee and tea served in the morning, with a lot of sugar, being accompanied by toast with cheese, or jam, a very hard type of cookie called rusk, bread with butter, or a hot-dog type bun. But, fried eggs with bacon or sausages are also common, together with sautéed mushrooms, baked beans, and broiled tomatoes. So the breakfast is quite generous.



In South Africa, lunch is served around 1 p.m. and it consists in a wide diversity of dishes, according to preferences. All kinds of meats can be used in the recipes, chicken or fish being quite popular, together with a large array of vegetables. Bunny chow, which a loaf of bread filled with curry, made out of lamb, mutton or chicken, chips and beans, with plenty of gravy. Various stews are also prepared, meat being used a lot in the South African cuisine, together with vegetables. A typical stew is the tomato bredie, which is made with lamb and tomatoes.

• Snacks


Snacks will often contain meat because, as mentioned before, people in this region love meat, and will use it with every occasion. Thus, a much-appreciated snack is Kapana, which consists in barbecued meat cut in bite size pieces, improved with salt and spices, being eaten just like this. Biltong, another snack consisting in meat, being a piece of dried meat that resembles jerky, is also highly appreciations. It is made out of beef, which is the most sought-after meat, but also from ostrich, chicken, and even game. If you are more courageous, you can try “walkie-talkie”, which are deep fried chicken feet or heads, served on the side of the road, especially in areas with a lot of workers.



Dinner resembles lunch very much, various foods and dishes being served during this moment of the day. In fact, the dishes served for lunch and dinner are interchangeable, depending on availability, so it is not a strict rule to be followed. Dinner is usually served around 7 or 8 p.m., dishes containing meat also being present, although it is not unusual for vegetable-based dishes to be eaten as well. For instance, chakalaka is a relish made from vegetables, which is served simply with bread, stews, curries, or pap, which is porridge made from maize. Chakalaka is made out of beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and some curry paste. Meatballs, chicken pie, and pumpkin pap can be served for dinner.

• Desserts

Milk-based tarts and the Malva pudding are quite popular in South Africa, as desserts. The milk tart contains a pastry crust that is filled with a creamy paste. The filling contains milk, eggs, sugar and flour. The Malva pudding is considered to have Dutch origins, and it contains milk, flour, sugar, and apricot jam, being served with custard or ice-cream, or both. Koeksisters is another appreciated dessert, which is a dough twisted in rolls and deep dried, and soaked in syrup. Guava ice cream, coconut ice, chocolate crunchies, and soetkoekies, which are spiced cookies with almonds.

• Drinks

Tea and coffee are popular drinks during the day. Mageu is another popular drink, made out of fermented mealie pap, or maize meal. It tastes like yogurt mostly, the varieties found in stores being flavored like yogurt as well. Fruit juices are also appreciated, being served usually unsweetened. Among alcoholic beverages, beer is one of the most popular one, followed by wine and some spirits varieties.

South African Cuisine Food

Holiday Menus


• Christmas

Christmas is South Africa is celebrated much like in any part of the globe, with caroling in the Christmas Eve, enjoying the Christmas tree and leaving stocking for Santa, and going to the Church in the morning. It is also a reason to spend time with family and friends, serving dishes turkey or duck roast, even beef, cooked with fine spices and nuts, and served with yellow rice, vegetables and raisins. Because the weather here is quite warm during this period, because South Africa is in the southern hemisphere and Christmas takes place in the summer, people will enjoy a barbecue, or “braai”, which is a type of social grill, where they will cook more meat.

• Easter


Easter is another period of the year when special dishes are prepared. The Cape Malay pickled fish is usually served during the Good Friday, together with hot cross buns. Lamb is highly appreciated and served in various manners, like roast, spring rolls, stew, even served as a fancier kebab. Chicken, beef and fish can also be served, together with desserts like chocolate truffles, cheesecake, and other desserts containing chocolate.

Most Popular Dishes


• Bobotie – a dish with meatloaf, raisins and baked egg on top, served with yellow rice, coconut, sambals, slices of banana, and chutney;
• Mala Mogodu – something similar with tripe, served with hot pap, a maize porridge, and spinach;
• Potjiekos – a traditional stew made with meat and various vegetables, which are all cooked in cast-iron pots over hot coals;
• Vetkoek – balls made out of dough that are deep-fried, and stuffed with meat, snoek fish, or jam.

Most Used Ingredients


• Meat / Fish: beef, chicken, lamb, seafood, snoek fish;
• Veggies: onions, tomatoes, beans, garlic, chili;
Fruits: coconut, guava, banana, lime, grapes;
• Other: maize, wheat flour, rice, milk, spices.

Street Food – What to eat when you travel to South Africa


If you are traveling through South Africa, the biltong and droewors are two common foods that can be taken on the go, as they don’t need refrigeration. Biltong is something similar to jerky, and droewors is a type of air-dried sausage. Boerewors are another type of sausage served on the streets, made out of pork or lamb, and a mixture of spices, and cooked on the barbecue. Bunny chow is another type you can serve at food stalls, being tasty and easy to eat. A common street food in South Africa is fish and chips, something you may be more familiar with.



Are you from South Africa? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on South  African ethnic food.

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