Biltong is one of South Africa’s most loved snacks.  It is dried meat (Beef, Kudu, Springbok, Impala, Eland, Wildebeest, Blesbok, Ostrich, Pork, Chicken, etc), which has been flavoured with herbs and spices. Biltong has a long history in South Africa and it’s thought that the indigenous Khoikhoi people used salt as the main ingredient, to cure meat hundreds of years ago. When the Dutch settlers came to South Africa in the early 17th century, they encountered the hot South African climate which made meat go off faster than the cooler European climate.  Biltong was thus introduced to South Africa out of necessity. By using salt, herbs and vinegar the Dutch settlers were able to preserved meat helping it last longer.


The meat was hung out to dry which lead to it becoming dry on the outside but still perfectly pink in the centre, which created a whole new eating sensation, with intensified flavour, texture and nutritional value.  In fact many say that it is the best-tasting gluten-free, Paleo, low-carb snack you could ask for!


While many South Africans may have inherited a secret recipe, which has been past down from generation to generation, in general biltong is made with:

  • Black pepper
  • Coriander
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or malt vinegar
  • Other spices include chilli, nutmeg, garlic, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce and saltpetre

Recent developments

Over time, biltong has become one of South Africa most celebrated snack.  Biltong has even been introduce into restaurants across the country, in salads and mains. So whether you like your biltong red-blooded and wet, with a healthy amount of fat running down the edge or dry with a darker finish without any fat whatsoever, this simple but diverse food has become part of the South African identity.

Images from Jonty Jacobs – www.jontyjacobs.com

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