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Travel for foodies: 10 Best foods to try in South Africa

As you read our blogs, we assume you enjoy travelling and food as much as we do. There are various reasons why we all enjoy travelling. For example, there is sightseeing, meeting people from diverse cultures, endless Instagram photo opportunities, and FOOD!

Who doesn’t enjoy sampling food from other countries? In our case, Petra is more adventurous and willing to try unfamiliar food first; if she’s not choking or landing up in the hospital, I will try it. This article is for foodies!

Did you know trying new foods will do more than widen your horizons? They say eating is like a geography lesson because you can learn more about a country’s culture by trying unfamiliar foods. It teaches you about the ingredients and spices that are more popular in certain parts of the world, including the methods they use to prepare the foods. Moreover, you learn about the country’s customs, ceremonies and special dishes served during special celebrations.

South Africa is known not only for its breathtaking scenery but also for its rich and diverse culinary offerings. If you’re a foodie keep on reading.

If you’re planning a visit to South Africa, we can highly recommend that you sample some of these local delicacies. However, if you’re not planning a trip soon and you would like to taste some of these unique foods, we’ve included some recipes for you to experiment with.

Ouma Rooi provides THE BEST traditional recipes for ‘pannekoek, malvapoeding, melktert, and several other proudly South African dishes. Visit their website for more information here

What are the best traditional South African foods?

We made a list of the top 10 foods that are truly South African and worth trying!

Koeksisters

If you are doing calorie counting, this dessert is definitely not for you! These sweet and syrupy golden treats are a staple in many Afrikaans (a native language in South Africa) households. Made from dough twisted and plaited, then fried, then dipped in an ice-cold sugary syrup. The secret to a good koeksister is that it must have a crunchy crust and a liquid syrup centre. This sticky desert is extremely sweet and best enjoyed with tea or coffee. Interestingly, a monument is erected in honour of the koeksister in Orania, South Africa, to recognise Afrikaners who baked thousands of these delicious treats for churches and schools to raise funds for various initiatives.

“Koeksisters don’t count as carbs or sugars; koeksisters count as heritage, culture, family & history” – Wilbur Smith.

There is a koeksister recipe at the end of the article for you.

Koeksisters

Bobotie

Bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-tea) is the National dish of South Africa, dating back to the 17th century. This classic casserole is made from curry-spiced minced meat and fruits like sultanas, topped with a milk and egg mixture to give it a creamy golden topping. Key ingredients are bay leaves, bread, fruit chutney, and raisins (optional). It is a spicy, sweet, comforting dish mostly enjoyed with yellow rice. This dish is easy to prepare and always a crowd-pleaser. Here is a great bobotie recipe by Taste magazine under, written by Woolworth.

Biltong

It is a popular local healthy snack because it is low in fat, high in protein and Vitamin B12, and full of amino acids. Biltong is South Africa’s answer to beef jerky. It is a dried and cured meat snack packed with flavour and perfect with wine or drink. While jerky is cut thin and cooked at low temperatures to dehydrate the meat slowly, biltong is an air-cured method to immerse beef (silverside cut), game, or ostrich meat in vinegar and spices. Instead of cooking the meat, a ‘curing’ process is used where the salt draws the moisture from the meat. The meat is covered with salt, coriander seeds, brown sugar, ground black pepper and vinegar. After rubbing the meat with the mixture, it is hung up to dry for five to ten days. Once the meat is properly dry according to preference, it is cut into thin slices from the slabs of beef.

Droë wors

(pronounced droo-uh-vors)

Directly translated to English, it means “dry sausage”. Like biltong, droë wors is an Afrikaans word which refers to cured sausage made from beef or game. The sausages are made of beef or venison (minced), beef fat, and spices such as coriander, ground black pepper, cloves, nutmeg etc. and vinegar which are then fed into a narrow thin sausage casing.  Like the biltong, it is left to dry for a few days.  This popular snack is often enjoyed with a cold beer or drink.

Droe wors

Boerewors

(pronounced boor-uh-vors) 

Directly translated from Afrikaans, it means Farmer’s sausage. Boerewors is a sausage made from beef, pork, or lamb. Boerewors goes with a ‘braai’ like pot and lid. It’s often grilled and served with pap (a type of porridge) and chakalaka (a spicy relish). Traditionally boerewors is made of minced meat in a sausage casing, much thicker than the previously described droë wors. Unlike droë wors, boerewors is grilled on fire or cooked in a pan. Legally boerewors must contain 90% meat and the rest fat. There are various types of boerewors depending on the spices added. Our favourite is Grabouw Boerewors from Woolworths.

Boerewors and a braai broodjie

Bunny chow

Bunny chow is a kind of bread bowl. This popular street food originated in Durban. It consists of a hollowed-out quarter loaf of bread filled with vegetarian or meat curry, often served with grated carrots, chilli and onion salad. It’s messy to eat, but oh so delicious! The term ‘bunny’ relates to an Indian term that means merchants. To read more about the history of bunny chow, click here.

Malva pudding

This is Bernie’s favourite dessert to bake for her sons when they visit South Africa! This is a sweet and sticky pudding made from apricot jam; it has a spongy caramelised texture. The pudding is made by baking a moist cake, and when it comes out of the oven, a warm syrup made of cream, sugar and butter is poured over the cake to soak into the cake while it is still warm. Malva pudding is often served warm with custard or ice cream in winter. The secret to a good Malva Pudding is that it must have vinegar and apricot jam as ingredients. Here is a link to the best malva pudding recipe by SNOWFLAKE.

Mielie pap en vleis

A simple but delicious meal, pap en vleis consists of pap (a type of porridge made from maise meal) and grilled meat. It’s a staple in many South African households. Mielie pap can either be made into a pap porridge for breakfast, or it can be made into pap or ‘krummelpap’ served with braaied meat and tomato relish. This savoury mielie pap bowl recipe turns the traditional boerewors and pap into a beautiful, balanced bowl of deliciousness packed with South African flavours. And if you want to impress a South African, you must say you enjoyed a ‘braai broodjie’ with your pap and vleis. Here is a link to how to make stif pap by Taste magazine underwritten by Woolworths.

Mielie pap and chakalaka

Milk tart

A milk tart, called in Afrikaans Melk tert, is a sweet and creamy custard pie made from milk, sugar, flour, and eggs with a sweet pastry crust. Cinnamon is sprinkled over the custard filling. It can be served cold or at room temperature. It’s often served at birthdays and family gatherings. Ouma Rooi provides an awesome recipe for making the perfect milk tart.

Melk Tert baked by Charmaine Meyer

Chakalaka

This is a South African spicy, savoury relish made from colourful vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, chilli, and curry powder. Chakalaka is a versatile condiment, often served with braai (barbecue) meats or pap. It is said to have originated in the townships of Johannesburg or the gold mines. There are many variations of chakalaka; some include beans, cabbage, and butternut. It can be served cold or heated, and the best part is that it is suitable for many dietary requirements because it is gluten-free and vegan-friendly. Here is a link to making your own chakalaka.

Here is a list of truly South African items that you can search for on your trip:

  • Mrs Ball Chutney
  • Rooibos tea
  • Pinotage
  • Veldskoens
  • Cream soda
  • Niknaks chips
  • Peppermint Crisp chocolate
  • All Gold Tomato Sauce
  • Amarula (A MUST TRY!)
  • Sally Williams Nougat
Mrs Balls Chutney
Petra with a bottle Amarula
All Gold Tomato sauce
Niknaks chips
Rooibos tea

Conclusion

South African cuisine is rich and diverse, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy. From sweet treats like koeksisters and malva pudding to savoury dishes like boboties and boerewors, you will surely find something tantalising your taste buds.

So, try some of these delicious South African foods on your next trip to this beautiful country. And don’t forget to let us know which are your favourites in the comments.

Koeksister recipe

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About Author

As a freelance travel journalist and seasoned business professional, Bernie van der Linde has made it her mission to explore the world's most unique and luxurious destinations. With a PhD in business studies from the University of South Africa, Bernie has channeled her passion for travel, web design, and writing into founding the travel blog Travel Buddies Lifestyle. Here, she shares her adventures alongside her best friend and travel business partner, Petra, who seamlessly translate and compile articles relevant to their German and European audience.

Bernie's love for exploring new places has taken her to some of the world's most exotic locations. Whether gazing out at the glittering skyline of Dubai or enjoying the tranquillity of a private beach in Mauritius, Bernie is always looking for unique experiences that will inspire and entice her readers to travel.

Through her thoughtful writing and unparalleled passion for travel, Bernie van der Linde has made a name for herself in the world of travel writing. Her knack for uncovering hidden gems and sharing her experiences with her readers has made her a trusted source of inspiration for those looking to explore the world in style.

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