Recipe: South Africa’s Bobotie


Are you ready for a big bite of everything, ever?

South Africa’s Bobotie (ba-boor-tea) reminds me of when I was a little girl, playing in the kitchen next to mom. I’d dump every possible ingredient into my little inventions, hoping they’d come out amazing. While chopped apples and pickles didn’t pan out when I was a kid, bobotie most decidedly does.

But don’t worry – there’s no apple or pickle in it.

So what is in it?

Landscape scenery in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo by Nicolas Raymond.

Landscape scenery in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo by Nicolas Raymond.

Some people call Bobotie South African Moussaka, but I’m not convinced that gives the dish enough credit. My friend Janine says Bobotie is from the Cape Malay region and belies much more Indian influence.

At her most basic, Bobotie is a spiced meat casserole topped with egg custard and a few bay leaves. Inside, you’ll find everything from rich curry power, to garlic, ginger, lemon juice, raisins, and almonds. There’s even a scoop of chutney.

While this all sounds incredibly overwhelming, the ingredients mellow as they cook. Still not sure? Trust years of history: there’s a reason South Africans love this dish so much.

Traditionally, the meat is cooked over a charcoal grill, then placed in an underground oven to bake out the custard.

Like this:

Now a days, bobotie is more often made in regular ovens.

Either way, it tastes like happiness. Times a hundred.

Fills one cast iron pan or small casserole


1 slice white bread
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 Tbsp butter
1 lb ground beef
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 lemon, juiced & zested
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in a little warm water
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 spoonful mango chutney (in a pinch, apricot jam may be substituted)
salt & pepper

For the topping

milk (from soaking bread)
2 eggs
1/4 tsp turmeric

Bay leaves


First find a gorgeous vista to cook by. Let it be your muse.

Chapman's Peak is a mountain and famous drive on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, 15 km south of Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Hein Waschefort.

Chapman’s Peak is a mountain and famous drive on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, 15 km south of Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Hein Waschefort.

Then, preheat the oven to 350F.

Soak the bread in milk. Set it aside.

Meanwhile, fry onion, ginger and garlic in butter until softened and beginning to brown.

Now you have a choice to make.

You can just keep adding ingredients to the pan, frying and cooking and stirring until it’s a happy mess…

… or do what I did, and treat it like meatloaf.

It’s a little unconventional (a.k.a. not traditional), but I tried it both ways and found the flavors got into the meat better with this method (and it makes the almonds a bit softer).

It’s really easy… In a large bowl, mix beef, curry, lemon juice, zest, raisins, almonds, chutney, salt, pepper, and the soaked bread (squeeze it dry first and be sure to reserve the milk). You can add in the cooled onion mixture, too.

Use your hands to really mash it around, until everything is evenly distributed.

Now fry it up in a hot pan, using more butter as needed. Give it a taste and adjust seasonings. I added a little extra chutney… just because.

Once you’re happy with the flavor, prepare the custard. Simply whisk the eggs into the reserved milk with a bit of turmeric, salt,and pepper. Pour over the meat mixture.

Dot with bay leaves …

Bake about 20 minutes, or until the egg is set.

Meanwhile, take a stroll in your garden (or any garden) and listen to the birds.

They might have a secret to tell you.

Let cool for about 15 minutes, then slice and serve with yellow rice and a smile., yum.


Have you ever made anything like bobotie? What did you think of it? If not, do you see yourself making this in the future? Why or why not?

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  1. That sounds so yum! Really wish I could eat eggs again, I am missing so much goodness!

  2. I make bobotie and I think it is more like meatloaf that moussaka (a really good meatloaf). However my recipe calls for serving it with rice and mango chutney and it is night and day better with the chutney. We had the leftovers and forgot chutney one time and I couldn’t fathom why it was so different.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Do you fry it or press it in the pan raw, then bake? Just curious. I saw one recipe where it was pressed in raw which seemed interesting, but there weren’t enough other people doing that method for me to feel confident in trying it.

  3. This looks AMAZING and a must make for one of our future GTA’s. Does it have to have the raisins? Hubby HATES them…

    • aunty eileen says:

      I myself would definetely make it without the raisins. My stomach rejects warm mushy raisins. Same thing with mushrooms. My stomach is only able to handle my stuffed mushroom.

  4. That looks like the perfect dish for my family’s tastes, I will definitely try this!

  5. Thanks for the wonderful video and recipe. I sent the video to my parents who are near 90 and traveled to South Africa in 1975. Thought it would be a great trip down memory lane now that it’s impossible to get back there at their age. Also showed the video to my husband who hitchhiked his way across Africa in 1973 as a 19 year old (before I met him). He and I loved the video and will try the recipe. It looks delicious. Thanks for the Global Table Adventure!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      How wonderful – I’m so glad your parents will be able to see it. I hope you all enjoy the recipe. Cheers and happy stovetop travels! :)

  6. You ask a good question at the end of the blog. I’ve made Greek Moussaka and Pastitsio. Both, like this dish, are a little light on veggies for my taste. I’ll probably not stick to the authentic version, but add a bit of kibbeh techniques from the Middle East by adding cooked bulgar and sauteed veggies. I think it will lighten it, although I know it won’t be authentic.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      That’s an interesting idea – Janine told me it’s often served with carrots, peas, etc on the side.. so that’s what I did when we ate it as a meal, to round things out.. but I love the idea of adding some sort of veggie in it, too. Just make sure it doesn’t clash with the raisins and chutney. Let us know how it goes! :)

  7. I have made it before and am doing it again right now. I will (and have before) bake the raw meat. I will serve it with oven roasted carrots that I will just chop in big chunks, coat in olive oil, curry and cinnamon and put on a rack underneath the Bobotie. When travelling Southafrika they always served Bobotie with boiled cinnamon carrots. But I think putting them in the oven when it is on anyway is just so much better for the environment. Plus they are amazing and I use them in many many Dishes now…
    I really like your blog and your idea of travelling through cooking. I will join you on your cooking journey again!

  8. It’s amazing to pay a visit this site and reading the views of all friends on the topic of this paragraph, while I am also eager of getting familiarity.

  9. Kate Bakker says:

    I’ve been making this recipe for my South African husband for the past year and he loves it! We just returned to the U.S. from Cape Town where my husband is from- one of the most beautiful places on earth and delicious food! It is definitely the melting pot of flavor and unique spice blends and marinades… South African’s know how to season and cook their meats! I first experienced SA Bobotie in the form of a meat pie, while grabbing lunch from a convenience store in Betty’s Bay (Western Cape), where my husband spent many of his holidays. I ate it with a side of Mrs. Balls chutney flavored potato chips! :)


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