South African cuisine offers a world of flavor marked by a tumultuous history. In spite of that past, Cape Town residents come together in the summer for braai, the country’s communal tradition of round-the-fire barbecue, what with its skewers and smoked meats, hearty sides, and one of the best damn grilled cheese sandwiches we’ve ever tasted.
Over in Durban, South Africa, a South Asian immigrant enclave shaped by both apartheid and colonialism, find such influences in the food. Bunny chow is a curry-meets-bread bowl combination that we’ve sung endless praises about, and that’s just the start. Browse our best South African recipes to see why the continent’s southernmost nation is a bona fide culinary destination.
Braaibroodjie, grilled cheese with sweet and sour chutney. Get the recipe for South African Grilled Cheese (Braaibroodjie) »
Characteristic of the region’s curries, this intensely spicy one from chef Kevin Joseph of Durban’s The Oyster Box hotel gets its heat not from chiles, but pastes made of fresh garlic, ginger, and onions, plus lots of curry powder. Though not cooked long, the sauce is rich and thick thanks to heaps of ground spices and unsweetened coconut cream. Get the recipe for Chicken and Prawn Curry »
Bunny chow, a hollowed out bread bowl with a spicy, meaty curried filling, is as delightfully messy as it sounds. You can eat every last morsel of this version from Hollywood Bets in Durban, including the curry-soaked bread from the bottom and sides. Get the recipe for Mutton Bunny Chow »
“We would go octopus fishing when I was a kid,” says chef Ash Heeger, who grew up in Transkei, a rural area in eastern South Africa. When making octopus for a crowd, she tosses grilled pieces with greens, loads of fennel fronds, and pickled lemons whose rinds are tend enough to eat and add citrusy punch. Get the recipe for Octopus Salad With Pickled Lemons »
The dried fruit in this curried South African meat loaf offsets its cayenne spiciness, while its almond crust adds a crunchy counterpoint to the tender ground meat. Get the recipe for Bobotie (South African Curry Meat Loaf) »
Grilled lamb sirloin served with a vibrant, lemony salsa verde. Get the recipe for Grilled Lamb Sirloin with Salsa Verde »
Uniquely South African, boerewors is a sausage made from ground beef, roasted coriander seeds, salt, and vinegar, thrown on the grill and sometimes served in a bun. Get the recipe for Grilled Farmer Sausage With Pepper Relish (Boerewors Rolls With Chakalaka) »
“I’ll always throw a few halved, stuffed butternuts straight on the coals at a braai,” says chef Ash Heeger of Ash restaurant. She uses buchu, a garlicky everygreen shrub indigenous to South Africa, to season them. You can get close with a combination of thyme and garlic. Buying similarly sized squash, and distributing the coals evenly beneath them, will ensure consistent results. Get the recipe for Grilled Butternut Squash »