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What do South Africans consume the most?

What do South Africans consume the most?

South Africa's diverse culinary landscape reflects its rich cultural heritage and varied demographic, influencing what South Africans consume daily. From staple foods to popular beverages, the diet in South Africa is as vibrant and colourful as its people.

Staple Foods

Maize stands out as the cornerstone of the South African diet. Mealie meal, made from maize, is the primary ingredient in pap, a type of porridge that is the quintessential staple for many South Africans. Pap is versatile and can be served at any meal, paired with savoury sauces, meats, or vegetables. It can be prepared as a smooth porridge for breakfast or a stiffer version that complements main dishes during lunch and dinner.

Besides maize, rice and bread also play significant roles in daily consumption. These starches form the backbone of many meals, serving as the perfect base for rich, flavourful South African curries and stews.


When it comes to proteins, meat is a prominent feature in South African cuisine. Beef, chicken, and lamb are widely consumed, often braaied (barbecued) which is a popular social activity across the country. South Africans also enjoy a variety of sausages, including the well-loved boerewors, a traditional sausage made from a mix of beef with either lamb or pork and spices.

In coastal regions, fish and seafood are prevalent, with hake being the most commonly consumed fish due to its availability and versatility. Dried and salted fish, such as bokkoms made from mullet, is also a favourite among locals.

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables are an essential part of a balanced diet in South Africa, with butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and spinach being particularly popular. These vegetables are often used in traditional dishes like stews and soups.

Fruits are abundantly consumed due to the favourable climate that allows for a variety of fruits to flourish. Apples, bananas, and oranges top the list, with mangoes and avocados also widely enjoyed, particularly when in season.


Tea and coffee hold a special place in the hearts of many South Africans. Rooibos tea, indigenous to the Western Cape region, is a national favourite, cherished not only for its unique flavour but also for its health benefits. South Africa's wine industry also contributes significantly to what locals consume, with the country being renowned worldwide for its high-quality wines.

Fast Food and Snacks

The fast food culture is prominent in urban areas, with international chains and local eateries providing a wide array of options. Among the local offerings, vetkoek (a deep-fried dough bread filled with meat or jam), and biltong (dried, cured meat) are particularly popular as snacks or quick meals.

South Africans enjoy a diverse palette that includes everything from traditional dishes like pap and boerewors to international cuisines, making their dietary habits a mirror of the country’s multicultural makeup. Whether through hearty meals prepared at home or the convenient choices available in cities, the eating habits in South Africa are a testament to its rich, culinary diversity. This blend of traditional and modern, local and international, creates a unique dietary landscape that continues to evolve, shaping what South Africans consume the most. View our shop to get your own South African groceries!

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