Food is an essential element of any travel adventure, especially when going abroad. Whether you’re up for trying eclectic game meats or stay in your comfort zone of staple dishes, every country has its spin on universal meals. South African foods are no exception with popular menu items across the country that parallel food experiences across the diaspora.

South Africa’s food scene is intriguing because of the blend of cultures and regional go-to dishes. In a city like Johannesburg, you’ll find street food favorite Kota, a white bread sandwich with a variety of fillings. Durban, on the other hand, is where curry cuisine reigns as the home of the country’s largest Indian community.

The next time you’re planning a visit to South Africa, make sure to find these local food favorites on the menu to give a try.


South African Foods - Chakalaka
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Chakalaka warms the soul, like sweet and savory baked beans at a Southern barbeque. It’s made with beans, fresh vegetables, onions, pepper, and tomatoes. The vegetable is considered a relish, although much heartier, with beans as the base of the simple and flavorful dish.

This side dish often accompanies grilled meats or pap, stews or curries. Although the stories of Chakalaka’s origins begin in Johannesburg, you can now expect to see it on the menu at celebrations and gatherings throughout the country.

Bunny Chow / Curry

South African Foods - Bunny Chow
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Bunny chow, also referred to as Bunny, is a staple fast food dish you’ll find at nearly any restaurant around Durban. This is South Africa’s take on a bread bowl, with the dish consisting of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry. With origins in Durban’s Indian community, bunny chow can be made with beef, lamb or chicken curry. A vegetarian option can be made with butterbeans or chickpeas.

King Klip

King Klip
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Anyone who has ever traveled through Cape Town knows that seafood is superior in the Mother City. The local line fish, or fish caught on the line that day, is usually a flaky, delicious local fare called King Klip. If you happen to land at a restaurant that has it on the menu, it’s a great option for lunch or dinner, along with your desired sides of choice.

Malva Pudding

Malva pudding
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Before closing out the check, make sure to try Malva pudding if you have the chance. Originally a Dutch sweet pudding, Malva pudding is a widely popular dessert in South Africa. The texture is less pudding and more spongy cake, but its caramelized outer layer and notes of vanilla and spice are worth the calories. Apricot jam or a cream sauce accompanies this dish, doubling as both plate decor and a saucy supplement.

Braai Experience

South African Braai
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Although not exactly a single food item, getting an invite to a braai is a display of hospitality, as the signature South African barbecue. What categorizes a braai is that the assortment of grilled meats must be cooked on wood or charcoal. Using gas to grill doesn’t count as a braai.

Meats, like lamb, beef, chicken and pork, is often part of the braai experience. Some menus even have more exotic meats like springbok, warthog, ostrich, and kudu (antelope). Similar to an American cookout, side dishes and desserts round out the meal which can be an all-day affair. Consider it a sign of adoration if a South African native invites you over for a braai.