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5 South African foods you need to try

10 April 2015 ( 20 October 2016 )

South Africa is dubbed the Rainbow Nation for its varied ethnicities, languages, and cultures, and its cuisine has benefited widely from this diversity.

A platter of Biltong and homemade crisps, served with mayonnaise
A platter of Biltong and homemade crisps, served with mayonnaise

Influenced by Europe, Africa, Indonesia and the Indian continent, the food and drink on offer here provide a little taste of lots of different parts of the globe. 

If you really want to dine well in South Africa, here are some of the dishes we think every visitor to this wonderful country should try at least once.

Related: The best South African foods recommended by you.


Biltong is similar to the American roadside snack, jerky, but instead of being smoked, the meat is salted, spiced and dried. It's usually shredded and used as a snack on long trips, like traditional game hunting excursions and safaris. 

Beef is the most popular variation but you can find biltong made from ostrich, kudu or springbok in South Africa.


Perhaps the most famous on this list and one of the most flavourful foods on the South African menu, Boerewors is a type of spiced sausage made using pork, beef or mutton and flavoured with everything from thyme and coriander to mint, cloves and fennel. 

When translated, Boerewors literally means ‘farmer’s sausage’ but it is sometimes known as the snake sausage because of the way the meat is set in a spiral shape. The name Boerewors comes from the Afrikaans language and it’s usually cooked on the BBQ.


This dish has Cape Malay roots, originating from slaves brought to South Africa by the Dutch East India Company. It is made with spiced minced meat, baked with an egg topping and usually served with a sweet accompaniment, like banana or fruit chutneys. 

Sometimes you will find bobotie rounded off with a popular South African dish called pap, made from ground maize.

Bunny Chow

South Africa is home to a large Indian population, and it shows in this popular dish from Durban. A hollowed out half-loaf of bread acts as a bowl, and it is stuffed with curry. 

The bread from the centre is placed on top and used to dip in and scoop out the flavourful, spicy filling. Recipes usually recommend making the curry with mutton, chicken, mince or lamb, but vegetarians shouldn’t despair! 

There are versions made with kidney beans served up in restaurants around the country that are just as delicious.

Related: Essential things to do in Cape Town.


We couldn’t leave out dessert and, as the name suggests, this is a milk tart to end your meal. Similar to a custard tart but with a lighter filling, Melktert is usually made with a sweet pastry crust, filled with a flavoured milky custard and then sprinkled with cinnamon. 

You won’t be lacking for choice if you have a sweet tooth in South Africa – try koeksisters (doughnuts) dipped in syrup to accompany a cup of tea, or a cold peppermint crisp tart, perfect for summer!

If you’re thinking of going on holiday to South Africa, plan to try some of these famous Rainbow Nation cuisines washed down with a glass of fine wine during your stay.

Saga offer a range of holidays to South African, so why not try these delicacies for yourself?

It may be be landlocked, but Zimbabwe puts on one of the most spectacular water displays on the planet. Find out more here.



The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.