South African dhal meal prepared and served in a small indian styled bowl.

Traditional South African Food Recipes – My Top 6 Favorites

South Africa is known for its rich and diverse culture, which is celebrated in its food. Each cultural group has their own recipes, which have been passed down from generation to generation. These recipes are often full of flavor and spice, and are definitely not for the faint-hearted!

When I was younger I spent a lot of climbing trees and stuffing my face with plump mulberries. However, the kitchen was where I spent most of my quality time with my family, cooking up a storm and learning all I could about the foods I loved.

In this article, I will share some of my favorite traditional South African food recipes. Hopefully, you will be brave enough to give these yummies a try! 😉

1. Cape Malay boeber recipe

A brass bowl filled with cape malay traditional boeber dessert, dashed with cashew nuts and some raisins.

As anyone who has ever tasted it will attest, Cape Malay Boeber is a delicious and uniquely flavored dessert. Originating in the Cape Malay community of South Africa, this sweet treat is made with milk, sugar, spices, and vermicelli noodles. The result is a rich and flavorful pudding that is perfect for special occasions.

Cape Malay Boeber is traditionally served in small bowls or glasses and is often garnished with dried fruit or nuts. It can be enjoyed as is, or topped with a dollop of cream or ice cream. Regardless of how you enjoy it, one thing is for sure, Cape Malay Boeber is a truly delicious way to end any meal.


  • 1 liter (4 cups) x milk
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x sugar
  • 10 x cardamom pods
  • 1 stick x cinnamon
  • 3 x cloves
  • 1 tsp x rosewater
  • 2 tbsp. x corn flour
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x coconut milk
  • 250 g (1 cup) x vermicelli noodles
  • 3 tbsp. x butter
  • To serve:
  • 1 x can of condensed milk


  1. Add the milk, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and rosewater to a saucepan and heat until just before boiling point.
  2. In a bowl, mix the corn flour with a little cold water to form a paste, then add this to the milk mixture and stir until thickened.
  3. Add the coconut milk and vermicelli noodles and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked.
  4. Add the butter and condensed milk, to taste.
  5. Serve hot!
  6. Garnish with raisins or slivered almonds.

2. Potjiekos recipe

One the famous traditional south african food recipes is the potjiekos meal. Commonly prepared with beef, lamb or chicken.

In South Africa, potjiekos is a traditional Afrikaner stew that is cooked in a three-legged pot over an open fire. The dish is typically made with meat, vegetables, and spices, and it can be slow-cooked for hours to allow the flavors to meld together. Potjiekos is often served at outdoor gatherings and celebrations, and it is a popular way to entertain guests.

Cooking potjiekos is an art, an art that my hubby has mastered and perfected over the years. There are many different ways to prepare the dish, some cooks like to add a bit of color by using different types of meats or vegetables, while others prefer to keep it simple. The most important part of making potjiekos is to take your time and enjoy the process.


  • 1 kg x mutton or lamb, cubed
  • 250 g x bacon, diced
  • 2 x onions, chopped
  • 3 x cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 cups of mixed country veggies or your selection of root vegetables
  • 2 x tomatoes, chopped
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x red wine
  • 500 ml (2 cups) x beef stock
  • 1 tbsp. x paprika
  • 1 tbsp. x rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. x thyme
  • 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil


  1. In a large potjie pot (as per the picture above) add 2 tbsp. of olive oil fry the bacon until crisp.
  2. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. In the same pot, fry the onions and garlic until soft.
  4. Add the meat and fry until browned all over.
  5. Add mixed or root vegetables with stock mixture.
  6. Add the tomatoes, wine, paprika, rosemary, and thyme, and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is tender.
  8. Add the bacon back in towards the end of cooking.
  9. Serve with rice or bread of your choice.

3. Bobotie recipe

Traditional South African Bobotie meal prepared in a copper pot, garnished with bay leaves.

Bobotie is a Cape Malay dish that has become popular in South Africa. It is made with minced meat, spices, and fruit, and is usually served with rice. The dish is believed to have originated in the 17th century when Dutch settlers arrived in the Cape Colony [1]. Bobotie was likely influenced by Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, as well as Dutch and French cooking.

Over time, it has come to be regarded as a national dish of South Africa. Bobotie is usually made with beef or lamb, but chicken or fish can also be used. The meat is seasoned with curry powder, turmeric, ginger, and garlic, and then cooked with onion and green peppers.

Once the meat is cooked through, it is placed in an oven-proof dish and topped with a mixture of eggs and milk. This gives the bobotie a custard-like topping that browns beautifully when baked. The final step is to add a layer of chutney or fruit preserves on top of the custard. This adds a welcome sweetness to the rich and savory flavors of the bobotie.

When served, bobotie is typically garnished with chopped nuts or raisins.


  • 2 slices x white bread, soaked in milk
  • 1 kg x minced beef
  • 1 x onion, chopped
  • 1tsp x mixed herbs
  • 3 x cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp x curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. x chutney
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x beef stock
  • 1/2 cup x raisins or cranberries


  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x milk
  • 3 tbsp. x apricot jam bay leaves for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356° F)
  2. In a bowl, mix together the soaked bread, beef, onion, garlic, curry powder, chutney, herbs, and beef stock (and raisins).
  3. Pour the mixture into an oven-proof dish and spread evenly.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the egg and milk. Pour this over the bobotie.
  5. Garnish with bay leaves then bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and spread the apricot jam over the top.
  7. Serve with rice and a side salad.

4. Sosaties lamb recipe

5 strings of lamb sosaties prepared and served with a side bowl of dipping sauce.

Sosaties are a type of South African skewer, typically made with lamb or mutton that has been marinated in a mixture of spices. This fair borrowed its likeness from the Souvlaki, the Greek meat on a stick however, that is where the similarity ends.

Our marinade usually includes things like vinegar, Worcestershire sauce [2], and apricot jam, which give the sosaties a sweet-tangy flavor. The skewers are then braai/grilled over hot coals, resulting in tender, juicy meat that is absolutely delicious. Sosaties are typically served as part of a braai (barbecue), along with other meats and veggies.

However, they are also great on their own and make an excellent appetizer or main course.


  • 1 kg x lamb, cubed
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x red wine
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. x brown sugar
  • 2 tsp x salt
  • 1 tsp x black pepper
  • 1 tsp x cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x pineapple juice
  • 250 ml (1 cup) x apricot jam
  • Plenty of bamboo skewers


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the lamb, red wine, white vinegar, brown sugar, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, and onion.
  2. Cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.
  3. Preheat the grill or braai (barbecue) to medium-high heat.
  4. Thread the lamb onto the skewers and grill or braai for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.
  5. In a saucepan, mix together dipping sauce: the pineapple juice and apricot jam. Cook over low heat until heated through.
  6. Serve the sosaties with the dipping sauce on the side.

5. Dhal recipe

Traditional dhal curry prepared and served in a small bowl, and garnished with coriander, and naan bread.

Dhal is a type of stew or soup made with lentils as the primary ingredient. They can be used whole, split, or crushed, and are usually cooked with spices and other vegetables. Dhal is a staple dish in many parts of the world, particularly in India where it is often served with rice or flatbreads. It is also a popular vegan and vegetarian option as it is hearty and filling.

The word “dhal” is derived from the Sanskrit word “dal”, meaning “to split”. This refers to the process of splitting the Lentils before cooking them. Dhal can be made with different types of Lentils, but the most common variety is toor dhal.

There are many regional variations of dhal, so it can be difficult to provide a definitive recipe. However, the basic ingredients are typically lentils, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and spices such as turmeric, cumin, and chili powder. The proportions of these ingredients can vary depending on personal preferences, so it is important to experiment until you find a balance that you like.

When made my way, dhal should be thick and creamy with a slightly spicy flavor. It can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a larger meal.


  • 1 cup x split yellow peas, soaked overnight
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. x ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp x cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp x turmeric
  • 1 tsp x ground coriander
  • 2 cups x water
  • 1 can (400 ml) x coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. x lemon juice Salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. Drain the split peas and rinse well
  2. In a saucepan, fry the onions, garlic, and ginger in a little oil until soft
  3. Add the cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander, and split peas and fry for 1-2 minutes
  4. Add the water and coconut milk and bring to the boil
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the split peas are soft
  6. Add the lemon juice, salt, and black pepper, to taste. Serve hot with akni and biryani

6. Chicken curry recipe

A chicken curry prepared in a silver pot, and placed on a striped red cloth, with ginger and herbs around it.

When it comes to curry, there are endless possibilities. You can go traditional with a classic Indian-style curry, or spice things up with a Thai-inspired dish. This dish has its origins in the Indian subcontinent, where the intense heat and spice of the cuisine are a perfect counterbalance to the tropical climate.

Over the centuries, chicken curry has become a staple of South Asian cuisine, and it is now enjoyed all over the world. Whether you prefer your curry mild or fiery hot (like I do), there’s no doubt that this dish is delicious. And thanks to its simple ingredients and straightforward recipe, it’s easy to make at home – don’t worry this recipe below is the mild one 🙂


  • 1 kg x chicken, cubed
  • 2 tsp x garam masala
  • 2 tsp x ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp x ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. x red curry powder
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp. x oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. x ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp. x tomato paste or 2 x medium  fresh tomatoes
  • ¼  cup x coconut milk
  • 1 cup x chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup x chopped fresh cilantro leaves or coriander


  1. In a bowl, mix together the chicken, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, curry powder, salt, and black pepper – set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan or potjie pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Fry the onions until soft.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and fry until browned all over.
  5. Add the tomato paste/ tomatoes and fry for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Stir in the cilantro leaves/coriander and serve hot with rice or flatbreads or a hollowed-out loaf of bread (aka bunny chow). You can experiment with your bread & different curries until you find the best ‘bunny chow’ combo!

Wrapping up the traditional South African food recipes

There are so many memories associated with most South African comfort food that I take a trip down memory lane with each glorious and delicious bite. So, if you do decide to cook up a storm with some of my recipes, be sure to include your loved ones (I mean, cook along side them not put them in the food) and let me know how it goes!

I always love hearing about people’s culinary adventures and how they felt making it.

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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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