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Five ways to put a fresh twist on SA’s national dish, bobotie

By stealing inspiration, and a few ingredients from this Cape Malay classic, you can easily turn bobotie into burgers or pies, and make a fish or vegan version

16 June 2021 - 15:30 By hilary biller
Bobotie burgers.
Bobotie burgers.
Image: Craig Scott

Rumour has it the UN Women’s Organisation declared bobotie to be SAs national dish in the 1950s, and although it's hard to find anything to substantiate this claim, there's no denying this Cape Malay classic remains a firm favourite in Mzansi today.

Traditionally bobotie is made by frying beef mince with chopped onions and curry powder before adding bread that has been soaked in milk with apricot jam and dried fruit. This sweet and savoury filling is then topped with a rich egg custard and baked in the oven.

By stealing inspiration and a few ingredients from the original, you can put a fresh spin on it and turn bobotie into everything from pies to burgers.

Here are five ways to do that:


Everyone loves a burger and SAs national dish can easily be turned into one.

All you need to do is make the filling mixture a little firmer using this easy recipe before shaping it into patties and, to help them keep their shape, refrigerate them for 30 minutes before cooking.

To add to these bobotie burgers unique local flavour, serve them topped with a dollop of chakalaka or mango atchar.


Popular food instagrammer and cookbook author Di Bibby knows how to add a creative twist to her recipes.

Her chicken bobotie pie is the perfect example. She uses a few layers of phyllo pastry to create a pie crust for the flavoursome poultry filling, scrunching the edges of the phyllo sheets to give the dish a stylish finish. 

Make this dish your next dinner party dazzler by making individual pies in ramekins. Remove the pies from the ramekins just before serving to show off their golden phyllo pastry crust.

Click here for the recipe.

Sweet potato bobotie pie.
Sweet potato bobotie pie.
Image: Craig Scott
Scrunch phyllo chicken bobotie.
Scrunch phyllo chicken bobotie.
Image: Di Bibby


This simple recipe is a tasty way to use leftover mashed veg.

By adding flour, seasoning and egg yolk to mashed sweet potato — you can also use ordinary potato or pumpkin mash — you can make a melt-in-the-mouth pastry to encase the filling. 

This creates a quiche-style bobotie that is easy to slice and makes a great portable food for a picnic.


Health pundit Mary-Ann Shearer is well-known for taking traditional recipes and giving them a veg makeover.

She has replaced the beef mince in this vegan bobotie recipe with a melange of aubergine, carrot and mushroom, and instead of eggs and cows milk uses soaked cashew nuts to make a creamy custard-like topping.

Vegan bobotie.
Vegan bobotie.
Image: Toby Murphy
Fish bobotie.
Fish bobotie.
Image: Craig Scott


A tasty interpretation of the Cape Malay original, this recipe replaces the meat with cooked and flaked white fish, which marries well with the sweetness of the chutney and the traditional spices in a bobotie.

If desired, you can replace the fish with canned plain pilchards or tuna for a more economical but no less tasty version of this dish. Just be sure to drain the tinned fish well and flake it with a fork first.

If fish is not a family favourite, replace it with the same amount of chicken mince.