Whether you’re dreaming of eating your way around South Africa, or if you’re looking to create an amazing South African meal at home, you’re in luck! South African foods are tasty, steeped in the country’s complicated history, and a great way to experience the tensions and beauty of the country all on one plate.
Here are our favorite South African dishes, but don’t fret. If we left off your favorite, leave it in the comments!
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The Best South African Foods
In no particular order…
Okay, I know I said no particular order…but…if you can only try one South African dish, make it chakalaka! You can use our Chakalaka recipe to make your own, or you can try it in Johannesburg, where it was invented by workers from Mozambique.
This spicy bean salad is a mix of fresh vegetables, canned baked beans, and Chakalaka spices. The flavors meld together beautifully, making it a great dish to eat at a restaurant or as a takeaway. Of course, we’re partial to our own homemade version!
Named for the colorful dishes on the plate that combine to display seven colors, this meal is a feast cooked for large gatherings. While you will want seconds, there are never leftovers as enough people are always on hand to finish it in one go.
Considered by some (ahem…us) to be the most delicious sausage in the world, Boerewors is beef, lamb, and pork sausage cooked in a famous swirl pattern over an open flame and is commonly served at braais.
One of the most important foods in the region, pap is a corn porridge similar to polenta. It can be served in almost any circumstance and as part of almost any meal.
Amagwnya (Fatcooks or Vetkoek)
Similar in shape and taste to a doughnut hole, Amagwnya (from Xhosa) are fried yeast balls served with jam, butter, or even savory sauces.
Everyone who’s been to South Africa knows Nando’s chicken and its famous sauce, which is based on Portuguese cuisine. You can make it at home or you can order it straight from the source if you find yourself near a Nandos.
This South African drink is a cream liqueur that can be drunk on its own or mixed into a cocktail.
Brought to South Africa by the Indian migrant workers who came over during the British Empire, artchar are pickled fruits and vegetables. In Africa, it has become common to eat artchar with bread.
This Southern African take on beef jerky is a cured and dried meat that you’ll find all over the southern part of the continent. However, biltong can be made from anything chicken to beef to fish to even ostrich.
This sweet treat makes the perfect light-yet-decadent snack, plus it comes in rainbow colors! Coloured popcorn is a fun South African snack for all ages.
Shisa Nyama (Braai)
Known more often outside of South Africa as a barbeque, shish nyamas or braais are gatherings of friends or family coming together to enjoy grilled meat that was cooked on an open flame. It also refers to the meal itself.
Kota (Bunny Chow)
While you’ll often find this listed under the English name “Bunny Chow,” this is actually a dish created by Indian South Africans living in Durban consisting of curry in hollowed-out white bread.
Kota is what Black South Africans use to call any dish made from a quarter loaf of bread, including just curry and bread though also including ones made with chips (french fries), cheese, bologna, and atchar.
If you’re looking for something hearty to warm you up during South Africa’s winters, grab a bowl of Mogodu. This tripe stew is paired with pap, making it both warming and filling, giving you enough energy to bounce back into the cold.