Different braai meat on a grill and fire coals.

South African Comfort Food – A List Of My Personal Favorites

As a South African, I am often asked a lot of questions about my culture especially when I went abroad. Do you often walk along-side lions? Do you know Mandela? Do you eat your young? Is your blood red like mine? Do you sunburn? Okay, I admit some of these were asked however, some actually were not (I will let you guess which).

However, one question I always loved to answer was; what is my favorite South African comfort food? It’s a tie between sticky Malva pudding dripping with home-made custard or a loaded lamb/mutton bunny chow with spicy carrot salad. Both dishes are unique to South Africa, and both of them are absolutely delicious.

If you’ve never had either of them before, you’d be in for a real treat! Keep reading to learn more about these two mouth-watering dishes.

Meaning of comfort food

A lady sitting on a grey couch, holding a plate of comfort food while eating a chocolate donut.

For most people, comfort food is simply food that tastes good. Some comfort foods are hearty and filling, while others are rich and decadent. But there’s more to comfort food than just taste. Comfort foods also tend to evoke positive memories and associations. They may remind us of childhood, of a particular person or place, or of a past success.

In times of stress or sadness, comfort foods can offer a sense of familiarity and reassurance. They can help to lift our mood and give us a much-needed boost.

What is South Africa’s most popular food?

South African cuisine is often described as a melting pot [1], due to the diverse range of influences that have shaped it. These include the native Africans, the Dutch, the British, the Indians and the Malays. As a result, South African food is highly varied and often very spicy. One of the most popular dishes is chakalaka, which is a vegetable curry that is typically served with bread or pap. Other popular dishes include Cape Malay curry, bobotie (a meat pie) and pap (a type of porridge).

In addition to these traditional dishes, South Africa is also home to a number of fast food chains, such as Nando’s and Steers. However, it is worth noting that South African fast food is often quite different from its counterparts in other parts of the world. For example, many fast food restaurants serve bunny chow, which is a bread loaf that has been hollowed out and filled with curry.

Then there is braai. We LOVVVVVEEEE to braai, especially on a warm summer day and we find a reason or excuse:) There’s something about the smell of meat cooking over an open flame that just screams “come eat me!”

It’s the perfect way to spend time with friends and family and of course, enjoy some delicious food.

What is the most popular snacks in South Africa?

A portion of biltong cut into thing slices and served on a red table cloth, with red chilis in front of the biltong.

1. Biltong

Biltong is a type of cured meat that is popular in South Africa. It is made from various types of meat including beef, venison, ostrich and is typically seasoned with vinegar, salt and spices. Biltong is often eaten as a snack or as part of a meal and can be found in most supermarkets and butcher shops.

2. Droewors

Droewors is another popular snack; it is a type of sausage that is made from beef or pork and typically seasoned with coriander and cloves. Droewors is often served with spicy mustard or chutney and can also be found in most supermarkets and butcher shops.

3. Vetkoek

Vetkoek is a type of fried bread that is popular. Vetkoek are typically filled with savory fillings such as mincemeat or cheese, but can also be filled with sweet fillings such as jam or chocolate. Vetkoek are usually sold at street stalls or by vendors at sports events.

4. Gatsby

A Gatsby is a Cape Town specialty and is essentially a ‘sandwich’ made with chips. But it’s so much more than that. For many, the Gatsby is synonymous with late nights, good times and great friends. It’s the perfect snack meal to share after a night out or to soak up any remaining booze from the night before.

5. Koeksisters

Then there is the two types of ‘koeksisters’ in South Africa. The first type is called the ‘Cape koeksisters’, and it is made with deep fried dough. The second type is called the ‘Newcastle koeksisters’, and it is made with baked dough. The first variety is made with a sweet, spongy batter that is deep fried and coated in syrup made from sugar, water and lemon juice then generously doused in desiccated coconut (my husband’s absolute favorite).

The second variety is made with a denser batter that is also deep fried and super sweet. Both types of koeksisters are delicious, and they are often served with tea or coffee. Personally we favor the cape koeksisters and usually indulge in it as a traditional staple on a Sunday morning.

What is the national dessert of South Africa?

A favourite south african comfort food is mulva pudding served with delicious custard.

Most countries have a dish that is considered to be their national dish, something that is unique to their culture and cuisine. South Africa is no different, and their national dessert is a dish called Malva pudding. Malva pudding is a sponge cake that is traditionally served with a sweet sauce made from apricot jam. The cake gets its unique flavor from the addition of vinegar and almond essence.

While it may not sound like an overly exciting dessert, it is one that is beloved by many South Africans. It is often served at special occasions and it is also a popular choice for our holiday meals.

Boeber is another popular South African dessert that offers a comforting and satisfying taste. It is made with spiced vermicelli noodles, which are cooked in milk and sugar. The dish is often served with raisins or cinnamon. Boeber has a distinct flavor that is loved by many. It is sweet, yet subtly spiced, and the vermicelli noodles add a unique texture.

This dessert is perfect for chilly evenings or as a comforting snack. When you are craving something sweet try one of these traditional South African food recipes.

What do South Africans eat for breakfast?

South Africans have a variety of breakfast options, depending on their personal preferences and cultural influences. Some people start their day with a hearty cooked meal, while others opt for something lighter or easier to prepare. Common breakfast foods in South Africa include eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, toast, porridge, and fruit.

Various combinations of these items are typically served with tea or coffee. Those with a sweet tooth may enjoy pancakes or waffles with syrup, while others prefer savory toppings like cheese or chutney on their toast. No matter what they choose to eat, most South Africans agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

What do South Africans eat in a day?

A black bowl of south african curry, placed on a traditional african table cloth, with 2 silver spoons.

South African cuisine is as diverse as the people who live in the country. There is no single “typical” meal, as different families and cultures have their own food traditions. However, many South Africans start the day with a cup of tea or coffee, often with some bread or biscuits. Breakfast may also include eggs, bacon, sausage, or porridge.

Dinner is usually the largest meal of the day, and may include meat, vegetables, rice, or different pasta. A traditional South African dish is “potjiekos”, a stew made with meat and vegetables. For dessert, South Africans often enjoy fruit, yogurt, or Malva pudding. No matter what dishes are served, meals are typically enjoyed with family and friends.

What time is supper in South Africa?

South Africans typically eat supper or their evening meal, around 6 or 7pm. This is later than the average American supper time of 5pm. There are various reasons for this difference. For one, South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, where the days are longer. In addition, many South Africans work later hours than Americans, often not getting off work until 6 pm.

This means that they have less time to prepare a meal (like a delicious curry) and eat earlier in the evening. Supper is typically a larger meal than lunch in South Africa, as people have more time to relax and enjoy a leisurely meal in the evening. It is not uncommon for families to spend an hour or more around the supper table, chatting and enjoying each other’s company.

What do they drink in South Africa?

A cup of Rooibos tea served on a wooden board with some tea leaves on the side.

In South Africa, they drink a lot. Well, I mean not just alcohol of course but everything. We tend to overindulge in pretty much everything. Coffee is my weakness and I can’t life without it. Some do tea but both are beloved for its rich flavor and energizing effects. While some prefer to drink their coffee with milk and sugar, others take theirs black (others being mostly me because coffee is serious business and diluting it is a true crime).

And then there’s rooibos, a traditional herbal tea made from the leaves of the red bush plant [2]. Very popular in South Africa, rooibos is naturally sweet and earthy, and it’s often enjoyed with a dollop of milk plus honey (again now why). I also love to indulge in green tea not because I like it (it tastes like dishwater) but because it is healthy for me. 

In addition, many like to drink beer or wine (pinotage is my wine of choice, thank you very much) with their meals. Whatever the drink of choice may be, it is clear (as you can tell) that we South Africans enjoy a wide variety of beverages.

Wrapping Up South African Comfort Food

If you’re ever in the mood for some comfort food, and by that I mean REAL comfort food, not just a bowl of cereal when you’ve had a bad day, then South Africa is the place to be. From bunny chow to koeksisters, we have a variety of dishes that will make your taste buds happy and your stomach content.

When you feeling down, or homesick, give one of our comfort foods a try, I promise the food (and the memories) will make everything better.

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Charlene Gallant

Charlene is a lover of good food. She enjoys nothing more than cooking up a storm in the kitchen and sharing her favourite recipes with her readers. She also enjoys reading a good book.

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