Biltong: the high protein South African snack

biltong South African dehydrated beef jerky

If you’re a carnivore or looking into eating more varied forms of protein, you may want to consider biltong, a South African dried, seasoned and air-dried meat snack. The word biltong comes from the Dutch words bill (strip) and tong (strip). It is probably one of the oldest forms of drying and preserving meat.

How was biltong invented?

Biltong was invented over 350 years ago when early Dutch settlers in South Africa were unable to get hold of beef during the journey from Europe, they slaughtered their cattle when they arrived in Table Bay and air-dried the meat. The strips were not only dried in order to preserve them for later consumption but also to make them palatable and easily digestible, due to meat being scarce and expensive. Over the centuries, it developed into a popular food that is commonly savored by South Africans.

The age-old recipe was developed by the early Dutch settlers in South Africa Historical records show that the Dutch settlers of the day not only invented this now-famous South African snack but also droëwors (droewors), dried sausage with or without meat, according to an old Afrikaans cookery book written in the mid-1800s.

How is biltong different from beef jerky?

Biltong is often confused with beef jerky since they, in essence, are both pieces of dried beef. However, there are clear differences between the two products.

Jerky does not include vinegar, while biltong may contain vinegar to tenderize and flavor it. Biltong tends to have a greater range of fat content and flavor than beef jerky. Most importantly, jerky is a highly processed food that contains additives, nitrates and sugar. Biltong is not highly processed and does not contain any of the aforementioned ingredients.

ernie els biltong South African
by South African professional golfer Ernie Els

Is biltong illegal?

Due to the curing process of the meats, importing biltong to the United States is illegal. Also, the production of this South African dried beef without a license is a violation of several acts and regulations. However, biltong itself is not illegal since there are no laws prohibiting it from being produced and sold (with proper licenses) within the United States.

What are the different brands of biltong?

There are many different companies that make this dehydrated South African treat. They include:

stryve biltong

Where can I get biltong?

You can get this South African snack from any of the purveyors listed above either from their respective sites or on Amazon here.

How can I make biltong?

You can make biltong yourself if you have a dehydrator and the right ingredients. In the preparation, only the best quality lean cuts from steaks are used. The beef is trimmed of all fat and cut into long thin strips (approx. 5mm x 30cm). A marinade or dry rub containing salt, vinegar, coriander and spices is applied to the meat. The marinade contains salt, vinegar which acts as a natural preservative, coriander and spices such as black pepper, chilies and garlic. The beef is then left for anything from three hours (for a wet marinated version) up to three or more days (for the dry-rubbed or cured version). During this time the meat is massaged with the marinade and then left in a safe cool place to dry. In curing the meat, once you have prepared it, there is no need for further refrigeration until after you’ve eaten it! Enjoy!

Hello! I'm Kristina

Kristina Reynolds is the Founder & CEO of Glutto and an alumna of the University of California, San Diego. She writes articles & posts for Glutto Digest with insights from fellow industry experts. Furthermore, she is the author of The Fittest Food Lovers: How EVERY BODY Can be Incredibly Fit and Still Enjoy Food, a collaborative philanthropic book with proceeds going to charities that fight world hunger.