Everything you need to know about Botswana cuisine, including its history, customs, and the top traditional Botswana foods to try.
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
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
These circular flatbread rounds are another popular food in Botswana. They closely resemble English muffins, however, are made on the stovetop with no yeast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Madila is a traditional Botswana drink made from fermented milk. It’s one of the most popular drinks in Botswana among locals!
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.