Celebrate Heritage Day with these proudly South African recipes

On Friday, 24 September 2021 it’s time to grab your flags, dress up in traditional cultural garb and get ready to celebrate Heritage Day! Heritage Day is a public holiday in South Africa. The country enjoys a day off work and Heritage Day allows us to celebrate the diverse cultures and traditions that come together to make up the beloved “Rainbow Nation”. On the day, many people across the country wear traditional clothing that displays their culture, listen to some South African tunes and get together to enjoy a braai and some good food!

South African Flag
Traditional Dress

To celebrate Heritage Day, we have put together a list of classic South African dishes along with some excellent recipes for you to try out.

If you are a local or have visited South Africa, you will know that food plays a huge part in our traditions, cultural practices and everyday life. It’s how we socialise, celebrate and come together as family and friends. A great shared meal can connect people from different races, religions and social backgrounds. South African cuisine is a fusion of influences; from Dutch and French flavours to the hearty dishes characteristic of India and Malaysia!

Around this time of year, you may see references to “National Braai Day”. In 2005, South Africans started celebrating Braai Day on Heritage Day as it was seen as a great way to bring people together. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the spokesperson for National Braai Day when it first launched as he loved the idea of togetherness! Today, we continue to throw some meat on the grill and enjoy a good ol’ braai!


Are you ready to create a few tasty South African classics of your own? Take a look at these 8 delicious South African recipes and get started:

1. Braai & Sides

A braai is a quintessentially South African way of eating! This iconic South African tradition translates across languages and cultures. You could enjoy “braaivleis” or “shisa nyama”. At a braai, meat is generally cooked over coals (similar to a barbeque). Boerewors (a long, wound up sausage made from beef mixed with lamb or pork and spices), lamb chops and steak are popular braai meat options! Learn more about becoming a “braai master” here!

Take your braai to the next level with some delicious sides! Samp and beans (soaked samp and sugar beans), chakalaka (a spicy vegetable and tomato relish) and pap (a ground miele meal similar to Italian polenta) are great sides for a braai). Try your own samp and beans and chakalaka at home with this recipe.


2. Vetkoek

Vetkoek, also known as amagwinya, are deep fried balls of deliciousness! The name translates to “fat cake” and the dish is dough that is deep fried and filled. You can enjoy them either sweet or savoury and apricot jam, chutney and mince are popular filling options. Make your own vetkoek using this recipe.


3. Bobotie

This traditional Cape Malay dish is made using spiced mince meat (usually beef or lamb) and raisins topped with a savoury egg custard which is then baked. You could imagine it as being similar to a Greek moussaka. Make this dish at home and enjoy the enticing mix of sweet and curried flavours!


Photo courtesy of Olga Ernst

4. Bunny Chow

This intriguingly named meal started as a “travelling lunch” many years ago in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The province enjoys cultural Indian influences found in much of the food. A bunny chow is made using a half loaf of white bread that is hollowed out to become a “bread bowl” of sorts. It is then filled with curry (usually mutton) and enjoyed. There are a variety of stories about how the name came around, but whatever the origin, the tasty meal has stood the test of time and become a local favourite! Take a look at how to make your own version of a bunny chow.

Bunny Chow

Photo courtesy of Elsee de Villiers/Cape Town Tourism

5. Milktart/Melktert

This dessert is a South African favourite that is definitely for the sweet lovers! A milktart (called “melktert” in Afrikaans) is a sweet pie crust topped with a sweet custard-like filling complete with a hearty dusting of cinnamon. You can bake a delicious milktart at home or find one at a local South African bakery.


Photo courtesy of Jon Mountjoy

6. Koeksisters and Koesisters

Koeksisters are a traditional Afrikaans dessert that are absolutely moreish! Dough is plaited, fried and drizzled with sweet syrup or honey. Similar to koeksisters are koesisters which are the Cape Malay version. These are dough balls that are fried and rolled in desiccated coconut.
Check out this recipe to make your own koeksisters or try out home-made koesisters.

Enjoy one and you’ll find yourself reaching for more!


Photo courtesy of Gesant Abed/Cape Town Tourism

Foodie tip: Enjoy your milktart (and more desserts) with a cup of rooibos tea! Rooibos is a widely loved favourite in South Africa! It is a herbal tea that means “red bush” made of plants that grow in South Africa’s fynbos.

7. Malva Pudding

Malva pudding is the stuff dessert dreams are made of! This baked pudding is sweet and sticky with a sponge-like texture; it is crafted with apricot jam and covered in creamy sauce and served with custard or a dollop of ice cream. It is a sticky toffee-like pudding with Cape Dutch origins that is perfect to warm up with on cold evenings! Warm up with home-made malva pudding of your own.


Photo courtesy of Charmaine Zoe

8. Amarula Don Pedro

While they may boast an exotic sounding name, the Don Pedro was created in South Africa! This dessert can be described as a “boozy milkshake” as it is a combination of sweet liqueur/hard tack such as whiskey, ice cream and cream. Amarula, Kahlua, amaretto and Frangelico are popular alcoholic additions! Sip through a straw and enjoy! Here’s how to make you own don pedro at home!


By now your mouth should be watering! Make the most of the Heritage Day 2021 long weekend and whip up a few of these recipes at home. You are sure to feel proudly South African!