South African Food Terms You Must Know

south african food terms

Interested in exploring South African cuisine? Then you’ll want to learn some basic South African food terms. Although many people in South Africa speak English, the most popular language spoken by South Africans is Zulu.

South Africa is a country located on the southern tip of the continent of Africa. It is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Eswatiti to the north; the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest and the Indian Ocean to the southeast.

South African cuisine

South African cuisine is full of flavor and spices. It has been heavily influenced over the centuries by explorers from Portugal, Britain and India who brought with them a variety of crops, herbs and spices. Without these explorers, corn and meat curries would not have become staple foods in South Africa.

The large coastal area of South Africa lends itself to plenty of access to seafood. One of the species of fish unique to South Africa is snoek, which is most often enjoyed as fish and chips.

However, meat is central to South African cuisine. Beef, goat, chicken, mutton and other meats are the cornerstone for most South African dishes. At least once a week, many families in South Africa have a braai or shisa nyama—a large meal focused on grilled meats that often includes pap en vleis, grilled meat and maize meal. 

South African food terms (Zulu)

Expand your international dining vocabulary with these basic food-related words translated from English to Zulu.

meat – inyama

  • pork – inyama yengulube
  • beef – inyama yenkomo

poultry – izinkukhu

  • turkey – igalikuni
  • duck – idada
  • chicken – inyama yenkukhu

seafood – ukudla kwasolwandle

  • fish – inhlanzi
  • shrimp – imfanzi
  • oyster – ukhwathu
  • shellfish – izimbaza

meatless/no meat – engenanyama

  • vegetables – imifino
  • fruits – izithelo
  • eggs – amaqanda
  • tofu – tofu
  • nuts – ikinati
  • vegetarian – imifino
  • vegan – vegan

drinks – iziphuzo

  • water – amanzi
  • alcohol – utshwala
  • beer – ubhiya
  • wine – iwayini

other eating/dining-related terms

  • yes – yebo
  • no – cha
  • good – kuhle
  • yummy – okumnandi
  • eat – udle
  • cook – pheka
  • I’m hungry – ngilambile
  • I’m full – ngiyisilima
  • more – okuningi
  • less – ngaphansi
  • only – kuphela
  • please – ngiyacela
  • thank you – ngiyabonga
  • baked – kubhakwe
  • fried – okuthosiwe
  • grilled – eyosiwe
  • roasted – yosiwe
  • steamed – kushubile
  • hot – kushisa
  • warm – kufudumele
  • cold – kubanda
  • bitter – okumunyu
  • salty – usawoti
  • spicy – okubabayo
  • sweet – mnandi
  • allergic – iguliswa
  • bathroom – indlu yangasese

Watch this video to hear how letters and words sound in Zulu.

South African food to try

  • biltong – thin slices of cured air-dried meat
  • droewors -thin slices of air-dried sausage
  • bobotie – spiced ground beef with herbs and dried fruit covered with a custard crust
  • boerewors – lamb or pork sausage shaped into a coil
  • pap en vlais – grilled meat with corn meal
  • bunny chow – bread bowl filled with curry and meat or vegetables
  • potjiekos – a small pot of meat and vegetable stew

Interested in learning about other cuisines around the world? Discover food terms from other countries here.

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.