Bobotie, or curried “meatloaf” (South Africa)

South Africa is a large country in Southern Africa (well, duh), unfortunately perhaps best known for its apartheid policy. About 80% of the people are of black origin, showing that yes, you can discriminate against the majority. It is also infamous for some other things, like the mind-blowingly high number of rapes and the horribly HIV policy, including a number of HIV denialist politicians. On the good side, it contains some of the oldest archaeological and human fossil sites of the world. It also has very high biodiversity (including many of the animals traditionally associated with Africa) and plenty of beautiful nature.

South African cuisine has drawn influences from the surrounding African countries, the country’s past as a colony of the Netherlands, and other Dutch colonies (like Indonesia and its spices). Luckily the Dutch influences mainly go for desserts, while main dishes are often spicy and flavourful (unlike Dutch food), including curries. Bunny chow is an Indian-style curry stuffed into a hollowed bread. Chicken and sausages are very popular. Other common ingredients and seasonings include e.g. tomatoes, onions, corn, pumpkin, lemon, lime, apricots, garlic, ginger and various spices. Mageu is a popular drink made out of fermented corn pap, often flavoured (similar to fruit yoghurt).

Bobotie is probably the most famous South African dish (which I guess doesn’t say much). It is a kind of spicy meatloaf which usually contains bread crumbs, onion, curry powder, black pepper, mango chutney, raisins (sometimes dried apricots) and almonds, usually baked with an egg custard on the top.

Many recipes also feature lemon juice, lemon leaves and/or lemon rind. Bay leaves are said to be an acceptable but poor substitute and this vegan bobotie recipe from the awesome World Vegan Feast also features them, but no lemon. However, I decided to some lemon zest to that recipe (also, Kaffir lime leaves are often substituted with lime zest, so you’d think that lemon zest could substitute some of the lemon leaf flavour?). I left out the bay leaves and the optional ketchup. I also didn’t make the mock egg custard one is supposed to bake on the top, sorry Bryanna.

Apricots, bananas, walnuts and sambal (chili sauce) are all said to be traditional accompaniments/garnishes. If you want something particularly authentic, you might want to try this apricot blatjang (a kind of chutney). (The stuff at the background of my photo was just random veggie stir fry leftovers I had – it contained curry spices, so it seemed fitting enough.)

This was pretty good, though not as spicy as I was hoping for, and the taste of the tofu was a bit too discernible. Note that the tofu needs to be frozen for 48 hours before making it.

Vegan bobotie

Vegan bobotie

1 1/2 cups/3.6 dl fresh breadcrumbs (can be gluten-free)
1/2 cup/1.2 dl non-dairy milk
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp dark sesame oil
2 cups/4.8 dl minced onion (2 large onions)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tbsp curry powder
1.5 lbs/680 g medium firm tofu, frozen for 48 hours, then thawed
1/4 cup/0.6 dl soy sauce
1/4 cup/0.6 dl raisins
1/4 cup/0.6 dl toasted almonds, ground
(2 tbsp ketchup)
1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp mango, peach or apricot chutney (preferably non-chunky)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp lemon zest
(1 tsp vegan gravy browner)
(4 whole bay leaves)


1/2 cup/1.2 dl soy or nut milk
1.5 tsp nutritional yeast
1.5 tsp Bird’s plain custard powder or cornstarch with a pinch of turmeric
1/8 tsp black salt or normal salt

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Oil a round shallow baking dish (or a loaf pan, as I did) and set aside. Combine the breadcrumbs with the non-dairy milk. Mix well and set aside.

Fry the onion and garlic in the oils over medium heat until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. They have to be very soft, so don’t undercook them. Add the curry powder and cook for a few minutes more, stirring.

Squeeze any excess water from the tofu. Crumble the tofu with your hands as small as you can. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the bay leaves and the custard ingredients. Mix well. Insert the bay leaves into the mixture in a circle, with the points sticking out the top. Bake for 30 minutes.

Whisk the custard ingredients together in a small saucepan until smooth. Heat over high heat, constantly stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour the custard over the loaf and bake 15 minutes more.

Serve hot. Makes 4-6 portions.

One Response to “Bobotie, or curried “meatloaf” (South Africa)”

  1. 1

    Your blog is amazing. I learn so much about the countries…

    Thank you so much for sharing so many vegan recipes, and helping people to try plant-based diet…

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