Traditional South African Food and Recipes to Make Them

Words: Jess Spiro

With South Africa celebrating Heritage Day this month, it’s no wonder we’re feeling a little nostalgic about all the great local dishes we have in the country. 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 South Africa 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


Don’t be calling this a doughnut, because it’s so much more than that. This traditional fried dough can be stuffed with nearly anything – sweet or savoury – but there’s something about the plain dough tossed in a cinnamon syrup that sets our hearts racing.

Try this Vetkoek with Cinnamon Syrup recipe, or for a savoury contemporary take try this Vetkoek Steak Slider with Horseradish Mayo.

Traditional South African Food Vetkoek Cinnamon
Traditional South African Food vetkoek slider


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

Get this Traditional Skilpaadjies recipe or try our stuffed Seriously Lekker Skilpaadjies

Traditional South African Food skilpaadjies
Traditional South African Food skilpaadjies


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.

Try this delicious Boeber recipe.

boeber ice cream Traditional South African Food

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.

Get the recipe for this Peri-Peri GatsbyTraditional South African Food Gastby


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.

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

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

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

TYraditional South African Food Peppermint crisp cake
Traditional South African Food 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 skool regular Lamb Bunny Chow.

Traditional South African Food Chicken Korma Bunny Chow
Traditional South African Food Lamb & apricot curry bunny chow


‘Umgquasho’ 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.

Try this Samp and Beans recipe.

Traditional South African Food Samp-and-Beans


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 pate. 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.

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

Traditional South African Food Smoorsnoek
Traditional South African Food Braaied Whole Snoek 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. Oh, and it’s deep-dish. Sorry not sorry.

Try this Recipe for Coconut Condensed Milk Tart

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

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

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