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The 8 best South African street food dishes you must try before you die

South Africa is a beautiful country with stunning natural landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich history. It’s a great place to explore nature, see some incredible wildlife and visit some of the most unique cities in the world where you can an about the troubled history of the country. On top of all that, South Africa has some incredible cuisine. Braai, the South African barbecue is probably the most famous thing when it comes to food. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many delicious South African street food dishes that you simply must try when you visit and this article is about the best of them!

The Main South African Street Food Hubs

We’re starting this guide to South African street food with quickly going through a few of the country’s main street food capitals.

Joburg: Imagine sizzling boerewors rolls, fat and juicy sausages snuggled up in fresh-baked bread, dripping with caramelized onions and drowned in your choice of sauce (hot dhania, anyone?). This is the city’s symphony for the starving, a chorus sung from dusty corners and hole-in-the-wall joints. But Joburg’s not just about meat sweats. Amagwinya, deep-fried dough balls stuffed with savory surprises like curry mince or bobotie, will have you humming a different tune – one dipped in chutney and sprinkled with laughter.

Durban: Buckle up, spice lovers, because Durban’s your new culinary crush. Bunny chow, a half-loaf of bread transformed into a fiery curry vessel, is the undisputed king. Dive into bunny heaven with mutton, chicken, or even veggie options, each one a kaleidoscope of flavors dancing on your tongue. And wash it down with a creamy glass of buttermilk, Durban’s secret weapon against spicy meltdowns. Don’t leave without trying a samoosa, either – these triangular parcels of golden pastry hold secrets of potato, peas, and fragrant spices, guaranteed to leave you wanting more.

Cape Town: Forget fancy finger sandwiches, Cape Town’s got Gatsby in its corner. This monster sub, overflowing with meats, chips, cheese, and whatever else the vendor fancies, is a meal in itself (and maybe for your bestie too). But Cape Town’s not all about sharing. Koeksisters, the city’s sweet sirens, are best enjoyed solo. These deep-fried, braided beauties, glazed with sugary syrup, are the perfect reward for conquering Table Mountain (or just surviving rush hour).

Now that we covered some basics about South African street food, let’s see which are the most popular street food snacks.

Bunny Chow

bunny chow

Street food in South Africa is incredible and there are all sorts of things to try but if you only try one dish, it should be Bunny Chow. This street-food staple was brought to the country by Indian immigrants in Durban but has since spread throughout the country. It was originally designed as a lunch for workers but these days it’s loved by everyone. Bunny Chow is a hollowed-out bread roll filled with delicious pork or chicken curry.

There’s also a vegetarian option filled with beans or lentils. It’s a perfect dish for eating on the go because you can tear chunks of bread from the top to dip in and then eat the bread bowl once you’re done. Street food is a great option if you’re traveling on a budget because it’s a lot cheaper than eating out at restaurants and the quality is just as good.


gatsby sandwich

One of the most loved snacks in South Africa is the Gatsby. This one-foot-long local take on the classic sub sandwich is filled with fish, chips and an amazing peri-peri sauce. Gatsby is made for sharing, hence it’s usually divided into few pieces and it comes in a few variations. You can choose between chicken, steak, calamari, and viennas. However, street food is not for everyone and many people don’t feel safe eating it.


Biltong South African street food

You’ve probably tried Biltong at home (it’s called beef jerky over here) but it’s nothing compared to the stuff you’ll find in South Africa. You wouldn’t think that there’s much skill in drying out some beef but there really is. Biltong is a lot different to the beef jerky you might be used to. It’s thicker, a lot chewier and it’s nowhere near as sweet as the western version. Most of the time it’s made from beef but they also make Chicken, Ostrich, Buffalo Biltong and they even have a bacon version.


south african street food

Boerewors is to South Africa what hot dogs are to the US, just better! The world famous South African Braai isn’t complete without the Boerewors. Also known as Boerie Roll, this amazing spicy sausage is arguably the most iconic South African street food. This delicious snack is a companion to every sports game and every vibrant local festival, just like the hot dog. The Boerewors consist of a farmer’s sausage that’s a delicious mix of beef combined with ground pork and fat, fried onions, and tomato-sauced boerie in a soft white roll.

However, what makes the Boerewors so rich in flavor and aroma are the spices added to the ground meat. Coriander, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg are all added while the Boerewors are being cooked over the coles, creating the characteristic, intense and saliva-inducing aroma that you won’t be able to resist.

Enjoying this article? Also, check out my street food guide to Taiwan

Amagwinya (Vetkoek)


If you like to eat well while traveling, this is one street food dish in South Africa you have to try. And you simply haven’t fully experienced life in South Africa until you’ve had a freshly fried golden Vetkoek. South Africa is a country of many different ethnic groups and religions but Vetkoek is absolutely loved by everyone, from Cape Town to Durban. No matter whether you’re young or old, sober or drunk, rich or poor, if you’re South African, this is probably your favorite.

You can find Amagwinya stalls on literally every corner, with shops opening as early as 6 o’clock in the morning so children can have their breakfasts before going to school. Like most other street food dishes, you can choose what you want in your Vetkoek. It comes as a mince-and-veggie curry, polony, bobotie-spiced mince, or a simple butter spread version.

Are you planning to visit Cape Town? Check out this list of unique things to do in Cape Town.



It’s sure scary to look at a sheep’s head and yet alone eat it but after you taste the juicy cheek meat known as ‘Smiley’ your perception about what’s eatable and what’s not will completely change. This street food dish became popular during the apartheid when the butchers would get the prime cuts of the meat and the township residents would get the heads of the dead animals. Working with what they had, township residents came up with the Smiley.

Sheep heads are boiled in large drums and the fur is removed with heated metal rods. Finally, the chef presents the smiley on a piece of newspaper and it’s your turn. The meat is surprisingly tender and juicy and is to be consumed with your hands. If you’re not sure how to eat it, ask the chef- he’ll be happy to show you.  This is one dish you obviously won’t find in most ‘Western’ venues. If you want to try it, you’ll have to venture into the townships, where you’ll find plenty of Smiley stalls.

Braaied Mielie

Braaied mielie

We can’t speak of the best South African street food dishes without mentioning the braaied mielie. Forget fancy finger food, this cob of golden goodness is comfort personified, held lovingly in sweaty hands and devoured with gleeful abandon. Think of the cob as a blank canvas for culinary creativity. Drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt for a purist’s delight. Coat it in melted butter and chili flakes for a fiery fiesta. Roll it in garlic and herb butter for a fragrant tango. Heck, go full-on gourmet with parmesan, truffle oil, and a squeeze of lime – the possibilities are as endless as the summer sky…



Salomie is a thick, flaky roti, like a golden hug for your tastebuds, cradling a simmering symphony of curry. Every bite bursts with flavor, a kaleidoscope of spices dancing on your tongue – a Cape Malay masterpiece wrapped in doughy goodness. But Salomie is more than just a flavor bomb. It’s a chameleon, transforming with every filling. Mince curry, rich and savory, is a classic crowd-pleaser.


walkie talkie

South Africans refer to this combo of chicken feet and chicken head as Walkie Talkie. This is another dish that sounds disgusting to all modern standards but is surprisingly delicious. The Walkie Talkie comes in two variations, boiled or roasted (braaied) with both of them being well-seasoned, crispy, and surprisingly delicious. I know the thought of it isn’t really appetizing and it doesn’t even look great when you see it but once you try it, you won’t be able to have enough of Walkie Talkie.

Together with the Smiley, this is one of the scariest-looking street food dishes in South Africa but if you want to fully experience the South African cuisine and culture, trying both at least once is a must.



Bobotie is a South African casserole dish with Asian origin that quickly became one of the country’s most popular street food dishes. Think of it as a cross between a meatloaf and a curry, but way more exciting. The base is a savory blend of minced meat (lamb is classic, but beef or veg versions are just as delish), seasoned with a whole choir of spices – turmeric, coriander, cloves, the works. Then comes the creamy custard layer, a luxurious counterpoint to the spicy base. Eggs, milk, and a touch of apricot jam (don’t judge, it works!) get baked to creamy perfection, creating a golden roof that’s just begging to be pierced with your fork.

Johnny’s Roti

Johnny’s Roti

Mostly popular among students but loved by everyone, Johnny’s Roti is one of Durban’s most famous street food snacks. This mouthwatering chip and cheese roti stuffed with (mostly mutton) curry is known as the local hangover dish. And there’s a good reason for it. If you can finish one whole Johnny’s Roti at once you probably had a really rough night.

So unless you did have an extremely rough night, one of Johnny’s rotis will be enough to provide an entire meal for a small family. This delicious snack is only available at a place that locals call Johnny’s Roti in Durban and unfortunately, has just one more branch in Mowbray.



If you have a sweet tooth, don’t worry, street food in South Africa isn’t just about wraps, sandwiches, and savory snacks. There’s also melktert – the most popular sweet South African street food. In its essence, this is a buttery, flaky-crust pie with a very light yet hit-the-spot satisfying velvety custard with a flavor that’s just sweet enough to hit the spot.

South Africa is such a great country with so much delicious food to try. These are some of the best but there’s always something new to discover so get out there and get eating. What do you think about this list? Have you tried some awesome South African street food dishes I didn’t mention? Which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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8 best south African food you need to try
south african street food


Monday 11th of July 2022

Hi Such an amazing article regarding planning a meal, it was very delightful. Really loved it.

Passport Symphony

Thursday 28th of July 2022

Thanks Lisa, I appreciate your comment.


Wednesday 30th of May 2018

Your post makes me hungry and you have taken very beautiful shots of food. Jonny's Roti look like Indian style of food. Thanks for sharing!

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 30th of May 2018

Thanks, Yukti- I'm really glad you liked it. Agree, roti sounds Indian and it kinda looks like Kathi rolls :)


Tuesday 29th of May 2018

I am vegetarian, so I could not quite appreciate the food variety. The only ones I could identify were the ones around Roti and Bun-Chai (which resembles the Pav bhaji). I have been to JoBurg and Pretoria once, but managed to stick to veggie food somehow :-)

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 30th of May 2018

Oh yes, it's gonna be rather difficult for vegetarians, maybe I should have added that to the Title :D Anyway, I'm glad to hear you managed


Tuesday 29th of May 2018

Amazing, I have never read about these dishes before, most of them would on my plate if I ever go to SA. Thanks for the post ?

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 30th of May 2018

Thanks for your comment. Indeed, they are all delicious :D


Tuesday 29th of May 2018

Ok I’m seriously hungry after reading this! Another reason why I need to go there