Traditional South African Food & Recipes to Make Them

Words: Jess Spiro

With South Africa celebrating Heritage Day this month, we’re feeling a little nostalgic about all the great local dishes we have. And, considering what a melting pot our rainbow nation is, it is to be expected that traditional South African food is varied and different. In honour of what makes our country great, here are some recipes for our favourite traditional South African food, as well as recipes for you to master at home.

Traditional South African Food

From amagwinya to bunny chow, we’ve listed all the local faves.


Don’t be calling this a doughnut, because it’s so much more than that. Whether you call it ‘amagwinya’ or ‘vetkoek’, this traditional fried dough can be stuffed with nearly anything – sweet or savoury – but there’s something about sweet fillings that sets our hearts racing.

Try this Amagwinya with Chocolate Crème Pâtissière with Cherries version or these simple, yet equally delicious Vetkoek with Cinnamon Syrup recipe.


South Africa has two types of ‘koeksisters’. This one is the traditional Afrikaans version and is a deliciously braided delight, from the crispy exterior to the syrupy interior. Best served a cup of moerkoffie or hot tea.

traditional south african recipes

Try this Traditional Koeksisters Recipe. Read all about this South African Dessert’s Origins and the difference between koeksisters and koe’sisters.


Possibly one of the more dividing traditional South African food out there, but when a skilpadjie – calf’s liver wrapped in caul fat – is made properly, there’s nothing quite like it.

Traditional South African Food skilpaadjies
Traditional South African Food skilpaadjies

Get this Traditional Skilpadjies recipe or try our stuffed and Seriously Lekker Skilpadjies.


We’re almost certain there isn’t a more comforting local dessert out there. Softly spiced vermicelli noodles and almonds come together to form what only can be described as a ‘hug in a bowl’. Our version takes all the love of a traditional boeber and churns it into ice cream.

boeber ice cream Traditional South African Food

Try this delicious Boeber recipe.

The Gatsby

Possibly the furthest thing from the sophisticated literature character of the same name, a Gatsby is the best thing when you’re starving, drunk, hungover… well, you get the idea. You can pretty much sandwich anything with chips and call it a ‘Gatsby’, but we’re particularly fond of this peri-peri-inspired version. Read about the where to get the best gatsby in Cape Town right here.

Traditional South African Food Gastby

Get the recipe for this Peri-Peri Gatsby


Sure, curried mince topped with a savoury custard doesn’t really sound that appealing but a bobotie is one of those dishes where you just have to let it do the talking. All you really need is blob of Mrs Balls Chutney and you’re A-for-away.

Traditional South African Food Easy Bobotie Recipe
Traditional South African Food - Bobotie Pancakes

Try this Classic and Easy Bobotie recipe, or if you looking for a LCHF version try these Bobotie Pancakes.

Peppermint Crisp Tart

Almost needs no introduction, but we’re going to give it the proper respect it deserves. If your family thinks Peppermint Crisp tart is a little too lowbrow, this gussied-up cake version will win them back over. If you’re banting don’t be left out with our minty crisp snack.

TYraditional South African Food Peppermint crisp cake
Traditional South African Food Peppermint Crisp Stack

Try this Peppermint Crisp Cake and for a LCHF version try this Peppermint Crisp Stack.

Bunny Chow

If you’re from Durbs, bunny chow is almost a religious entity. And seriously, who wouldn’t worship perfectly spiced chicken curry stuffed into a squishy bread roll?

Try this Recipe for Chicken Korma Bunny Chow or an old-school regular Lamb Bunny Chow.


Umngqusho is a traditional dish of the Nguni culture. Served in this recipe with chakalaka, a traditional spicy vegetable relish. Even more delicious with Karoo lamb chops done on the braai.

Traditional South African Food Samp-and-Beans

Try this Samp and Beans recipe.


If ever there was a fish to sum up traditional South African food, it’s snoek. While highly versatile and easy to cook, we love it smoked and folded into a delicious chunky pâté. Another favourite way to prepare this that just speaks to our South African souls, is whole snoek braaied on the coals with apricot jam basting.

Traditional South African Food Smoorsnoek
Traditional South African Food Braaied Whole Snoek Apricot Basting

Try this recipe for Smoorsnoek or if you’re looking to feed a crowd this classic Cape Malay Braaied Whole Snoek With Apricot Basting.

Milk Tart

A custard tart has never EVER tasted so good. Milk tart is the epitome of hearty, sweet treats in South Africa. Our version pays homage to tradition, but ramps up flavour in the form of toasted coconut and condensed milk. Oh, and it’s deep-dish. Sorry not sorry.

Traditional South African Food Coconut-Condensed-Milk-Tart-

Try this Recipe for Coconut Condensed Milk Tart.

Check out our suggestions for braai mains and sides and salads.

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