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Food Influences

Find out about the different influences on the food and ingredients found in South Africa...

From the seventeenth century onwards South Africa was settled by colonialists from a variety of different countries and cultures.

Europeans and Afrikaners

The 1600s saw European colonialists from the UK, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany and France settle in the country, bringing a variety of different cooking styles with them. Cuisine evolved to suit the climate conditions, and foods such as biltong, rusks and droewors (dried, spiced sausages) became popular with many settlers.

  • Biltong - Cured meat originating in South Africa. Made from a variety of meats from beef to game such as springbok, it is cured using salt, vinegar, sugar, pepper and coriander. Other ingredients can also be added
  • Bokkoms - Biltong made with fish. Shark biltong can be found in certain areas
  • Boerewors - From the Dutch verse worst, it is made from coarsely minced beef and spices
  • Cured fish - Usually made from angelfish or snoek (a large, oily game fish)
  • Droewors - Dry sausage related to the Dutch droge worst. It is made by curing thin, beef, frying sausages in warm, dry conditions
  • Frikkadel - Baked or fried meatballs
  • Gatsby - A soft, foot-long roll stuffed with a choice of fillings such as meat, fried potatoes, fish and achar (pickle) sauce. It originated in the Cape Town area, where people used the sausages to serve leftovers
  • Malva Pudding - A sweet sponge pudding with a caramelised texture, made with apricot jam. Usually served with custard or ice-cream
  • Mealie bread - Sweetened bread baked with sweetcorn
  • Melktert - Pudding with a creamy filling in a pastry crust similar to custard tart
  • Potbrood - Bread first made by Boer settlers. Baked in a cast iron pot
  • Potjiekos - A traditional stew prepared outside in a round pot. Ingredients include meat, vegetables, rice or potatoes with Dutch-Malay spices
  • Vetkoek - Deep-fried dough. Can be served savoury stuffed with minced meat and vegetables, or sweet covered in syrup, honey or jam


The Dutch East India Company imported large numbers of slaves to South Africa from Malaysia, Indonesia and the surrounding areas. Although adapted by Afrikaner settlers, many foodstuffs today originate from the South Asia area.

  • Bobotie - Spiced, minced lamb or beef baked with an egg-based topping. Other ingredients include spices, curry powder and dried fruits
  • Koeksister - Deep-fried, syrup-coated doughnut
  • Tomato bredie - Slow cooked mutton stew with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves
  • Sambal - Chili-based condiment often served with bobotie


In the 19th century thousands of Indian labourers were brought to South Africa, and the legacy of curry remains since its adoption into mainstream South African culture. A number of popular curry dishes include:

  • Bunny Chow / Kota - Hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with traditional local curry. Usually served as fast food in Durban
  • Samosa - A stuffed pastry snack containing vegetables and/or meat with a variety of spices
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