Botswana Cuisine: 10 Traditional Foods to Try

Everything you need to know about Botswana cuisine, including its history, customs, and the top traditional Botswana foods to try.

Traditional Botswana foods

History of Botswana cuisine

Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa that is one of the most sparsely populated in the world. The specular Kalahari Desert makes up 70 per cent of the country’s terrain, making it the largest stretch of sand on the planet. These untouched landscapes and the abundance of wildlife make Botswana a dream location for a Safari.

Botswana is not just rich in nature. The country is also rich in the traditional cuisine it has to offer. At first glance, South African and Botswanan cuisine appear very similar. While many dishes are popular among both nations, Botswana has many of its own unique culinary aspects.

What is Setswana food?

Botswanan cuisine is often referred to as ‘Setswana’ food, which is named after the language that is predominately spoken across the country.

Typical foods in Botswana

Traditional Botswana foods: Botswana cuisine

MEAT + FISH: Most of the food eaten in Botswana is grown locally. The country has a lot of hand-raised livestock, so high-quality meat, particularly beef, is integral to the cuisine. Goat, mutton, chicken and river fish are also abundant.

MAIN CROPS: The main crops of Botswana are maize and sorghum, and many people will eat one of the two for breakfast as porridge. Beans, legumes and a large range of vegetables are also grown. As for fruit, watermelon is said to have originally come from Botswana, so is plentiful throughout the country.

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES: Most of the fruit and vegetables in Botswana are seasonal; they are often preserved through different methods such as drying or salting. As a result, you find some interesting ingredients and cooking techniques in Setswana food.

Traditional Mealtimes in Botswana

Traditional Botswana foods: Botswana Cuisine

Interestingly, in Botswana, the main meal is generally eaten at lunchtime, and then leftovers or bread are eaten at dinner. Although not a native crop, wheat flour has been imported into the country for many years. As a result, various types of bread have become a part of the national food.

What is the national dish of Botswana?

National Dish of Botswana Seswaa
Kalanga, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The official national dish of Botswana is Seswaa, which is a slow-cooked beef stew made using every part of the cow. The most popular food in Botswana is traditionally prepared in a three-legged cast iron post and is cooked for over five hours! It is often served at weddings, funerals and other big celebrations.

10 Popular food in Botswana

1. Pap

Traditional Botswana foods: Pap
Craigfraser, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pap is a very common accompaniment to almost every meal in Botswana. Ground maize is made into a porridge that comes in different textures- soft and smooth, dry and crumbly or a thick consistency.

2. Morogo

Traditional Botswana foods: Morogo
Runjiv, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Morogo is a side dish that is often served with pap, also known as wild spinach. It generally combines at least three different dark green leafy vegetables and provides a lot of nutrients. It is either eaten plain or with onion, tomatoes and butter.

3. Mogatla

Traditional Botswana foods: Mogatla
Image Source: International Cuisine

Mogatla is one of Botswana’s most popular comfort food. It is an oxtail stew that is slow-cooked with tomatoes, onions, broth, and bay leaves. Similar to Seswaa, it is often served at special occasions.

4. Diphaphatha

Diphaphata | Traditional Botswana Food

These circular flatbread rounds are another popular food in Botswana. They closely resemble English muffins, however, are made on the stovetop with no yeast.

For an easy Botswana food to make at home, try my recipe for DiphaphataNo-yeast English Muffins!

5. Segwapa

Traditional Botswana foods: Segwapa
Jamsta at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as biltong or beef jerky, segwapa is a popular snack in Botswana, used as a way to preserve meat. Strips of meat are dipped in vinegar and covered with a variety of spices and salt, then are dried out.

6. Mogodu

Traditional Botswana foods: Mogodu
Image Source: Taste

Mogodu is a traditional Botswanan food made with tripe. The tripe stew is flavoured with chilli, ginger and garlic and served with potatoes and peas as an accompaniment.

7. Matemekwane

Traditional Botswana foods: Matemkwane
Image Source: World Quality Food

Matemkwane is another popular Botswana food. It is a seasoned dumpling often stuffed with meat and vegetables. They are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, usually served with hot soup or a dip.

8. Vetkoek

Traditional Botswana foods:
Image Source: Daryl’s Kitchen

Vetkoek is a fried dough bread that is eaten with various fillings or toppings. It’s either served sweet with honey or jam, or as a meal filled with curried mince. It’s a traditional food in Botswana and South Africa.

9. Madila

Botswana Drink: Madila
Jpatokal, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Madila is a traditional Botswana drink made from fermented milk. It’s one of the most popular drinks in Botswana among locals!

10. Dikgobe

Traditional Botswana Food: Dikgobe
stu_spivack, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Served as either a main or side dish, dikgobe is a combination of peas and beans with sorghum or maize meal. This savoury porridge is served as a main meal or a side dish.

Have you tried any traditional Botswana food? Let me know in the comments!

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I am on a mission to discover the BEST destinations & dishes from around the world. Whether it’s hopping on a plane or into the kitchen, come join the adventure!

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