Bobotie

Bobotie is a baked mincemeat dish and one of the more recognizable foods to come out of South Africa. It’s commonly believed that Bobotie was first derived from the Javanese dish Botok, as Dutch colonists brought the dish to South Africa from their settlements in Indonesia (née Dutch East Indies) in the 17th century. While Botok is made with minced meat wrapped in banana leaves, Bobotie is often seasoned with curry powder and dried fruit and baked with a egg custard topping – a reflection of both local ingredients and European colonial tastes.

This dish joins the ranks of other dishes on my blog, like Mulligatawny Soup and Sukuma Wiki, as exotic-tasting meals that can be created using items you likely already have in your pantry. These are some of my favorite dishes to create and share, as they have a fairly low barrier to entry but can expand your palate and culinary repertoire.


Spice blend

Bobotie (Paleo, Primal, Whole30 adaptable, Gluten-Free, Perfect Health Diet)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy

2 tbsp ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 lbs ground beef, lamb, or mixture
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tsp salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried marjoram (oregano okay)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp golden raisins
6 dried apricots, chopped (about 2 tbsp)

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy cream or chilled coconut milk
1 pinch salt
6-7 bay leaves
toasted almond slivers or slices to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large skillet, heat the ghee over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and soften until softened, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and sauté until mostly browned, about 5 minutes, breaking up the chunks with your spoon; pour off most of the excess oil (leave about 1 tbsp in the skillet).

2. Add the seasonings and dried fruit and sauté until the beef is cooked through and starting to crisp at the edges, about 2 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed; it should taste a bit salty (the rich custard will balance the flavors). Once tasty, transfer everything to a lasagna pan or other baking dish. Beat the eggs and combine them with the cream and salt. Pour the egg mixture over the meat then lay the bay leaves over the mixture.

3. Place in the oven and bake until the custard sets and starts to brown, 30-40 minutes. Broil until brown spots start to form, about 1 minute. Remove and let rest for five minutes before serving with toasted almond slivers or slices.

** Let’s face it – using coconut milk in place of heavy cream, in most cases, feels like a compromise. Not the case with this dish, where the mild coconut flavor elevates the entire dish to another level of delicacy.

The cooked mincemeat mixture. Trust me, it gets a lot prettier once you add the custard on top!

18 thoughts on “Bobotie

  1. So when I saw the first picture it reminded me of this thing called Cheeseburger Pie that my mom used to make when I was a kid (don’t ask ;-)
    Wow this is worlds apart from that – a really interesting mix of ingredients that I can’t wait to try.

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  2. I love bobotie! As a South African I’ve been making it for over 20 years. It’s an easy mid-week go-to meal when you don’t have lots of time. The coconut milk would be interesting, I’ll try that.

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  3. Thanks for the inspiration to make a traditional South African meal. My mother is South African and I spent my childhood summers there growing up. Been feeling homesick, so I believe this will be just what I need.

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  4. Actually Botok made from white leadtree (Javanese, lamtoro/mlanding/petai cina), tempeh/tempe, shredded coconut, coconut milk, chilly, and spices. They wrapped banana leaf and steamed.

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  5. Looks delicious!!! Do you think the recipe would still work if I cut all of the ingredients in half and put it in an 8×8 baking dish?

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