Traditional South African food
Trying some delicious traditional African food should be part of every visitor’s itinerary. A number of specialised restaurants in South Africa do an excellent job of serving both modern and traditional African food. Each dish reflects one or more of the different cultural influences found across the continent.
Traditional African food is generally cooked over an open fire or in a three-legged pot (or potjie), so meat tends to be served in either stewed or grilled form. A starch usually accompanies the meat: mieliepap (maize porridge), potatoes or rice. Beetroot, carrots, cabbage and pumpkin are the vegetables most commonly served. Typical South African dishes include tripe, morogo, chakalaka, amadumbe, and the ubiquitous boerewors roll.
Tripe is a traditional treat favoured by most Africans. In the Cape it is considered a regional delicacy and is often served lightly curried with small new potatoes and fried onions.
Morogo is a type of wild spinach. Combined with butter-braised onions and tomato or mixed into maize porridge, it is a rural ingredient with mainstream appeal. Amadumbe is a sweet potato and peanut mash. A tasty restaurant variation of the dish is to cook sweet potatoes, mash them with butter and sprinkle them with roasted peanuts, topped off with a drizzle of honey.
Chakalaka is a spicy relish served alongside a main course and consists of grated carrots, green peppers, sliced onion, vinegar, chilli and that secret ingredient that will distinguish it from anyone else’s.
The boerewors roll is pure South African cuisine – our tastier answer to New York’s hot dogs. At a roadside stand, boerewors (a variety of spicy sausage) is char-grilled over an open-flame then placed into a bun and covered in mustard and tomato sauce. Delicious!
Other local favourites include a wide variety of delectable Cape Malay dishes, biltong and sweet delicacies such as the koeksister and melktert.
Grilled chicken feet and heads – known as walkie-talkies – are a popular dish in rural South Africa.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0) 72 918 8824
Address: Cnr Queens and Langerman Streets, Kensington, Johannesburg, Gauteng
Tel: +27 (0) 72 756 2057
Address: 223 Schoeman Street, Arcadia, Pretoria, Gauteng
Tel: +27 (0) 27 341 1606
Address: 44 Hope Street, Calvinia, Northern Cape
Tel: +27 (0) 11 838 6960
Address: Market Theatre Complex, Bree Street, Newtown, Johannesburg, Gauteng
Tel: +27 (0) 31 561 7609
Address: 9 McCausland Crescent, Umhlanga, KwaZulu Natal
Tel: +27 (0) 21 638 1355
Address: Shop 3 NY115 & NY108, Gugulethu, Western Cape
Tel: +27 (0) 11 487 0885, +27 (0) 82 743 6537
Address: 8 Francis Street, Yeoville, Johannesburg, Gauteng
Addis in Cape:
Tel: +27 (0) 21 424 5722
Address: 41 Church Street, Cape Town CBD, Western Cape
Tel +27 (0) 11 684 1477
Address: Shop 5, The High Street, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, Gauteng
The Cape Malay Restaurant:
Tel: +27 (0) 11 684 1477
Address: 93 Brommersvlei Road, Constantia, Cape Town, Western Cape
How to get here
You will find traditional African and South African restaurants in all major cities and most larger towns across the country.
Best time to visit
Anytime. Like food traditions the world over, African food changes with the seasons: open-air grilling is popular in summer; hearty stews and soups in winter.
What will it cost
Most restaurants serving traditional African food are very reasonably priced. Traditional street food, such as boerewors rolls, is even cheaper.
What to pack
An open-mind; traditional African food may not always sound, or even look, that good, but it's all delicious.
What to eat
Start your African food experience with a boerewors roll or some grilled meats; then move on to the more challenging dishes.