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How to make the world’s best biltong

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There are a few things, we as South Africans hold dear to our hearts, and eating well is near the top of the list. Thankfully, we know our way around the kitchen and the rest of the world agrees. This is evident in that, around the world, our uniquely home-grown foods routinely take home the trophy when it comes to quality, taste and diversity.

And as much as the rest of the world tries to imitate our vetkoeke, biltong, droëwors, bobotie, koeksisters, melktert, beskuit, pap and sheba – and let’s not forget our braaivleis – it’s never as good as our oumas made it!

If you have a chat with South Africans living abroad, one thing they will all tell you is how much they miss our beloved national meals – with biltong being one of the items always mentioned. And please don’t compare it to American jerky – the height of all insults!

Gave Carimi himself, a former American football player and now the CEO of Stryve Biltong – the company that is bringing biltong to the US – says that biltong is “what jerky wants to be.”

If we agree that South Africans make the world’s best biltong, then this is the world’s best biltong recipe.

The World's Best Biltong




Remove any tendons from the meat but leave the fat. Slice the meat in strips of about 2cm thick, cutting with the grain of the meat. Place the strips aside in a large plastic or ceramic bowl (no metal containers, as this can affect the taste and colour of the meat). 


Sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce over the meat and work it in well. Allow to stand for an hour while you grill the coriander. 


Mix the grilled coriander with the brown sugar, salt, bicarbonate of soda, pepper, paprika and sumac. Sprinkle the spice mix over the meat and turn over, repeating until all the meat has been salted and lie on top of one another in layers. 


Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep cold in the fridge for 16 hours. After 8 hours, turn the meat so that the salt can be spread evenly. 


Hang the strips of biltong up far enough from one another in a room with good ventilation that doesn’t receive any direct sunlight. Cover the meat with netting, and if necessary, use a standing fan for optimal drying conditions. The drying period will cover approximately 5 days with a fan. If you’re using a drying machine of about 70℃, it should take around 12 hours, depending on your preference for how dry the biltong should be. 

Did you know?

You probably love biltong – what self-respecting South African doesn’t? – but we’re betting you don’t know how far it goes back in our country’s history. 

It’s a fact that biltong is as South African and nearly as old as Table Mountain itself, tracing its origins back to the first indigenous people, like the Khoikhoi and the San. They enjoyed the first known version of biltong by cutting their meat into strips, only rubbing it with salt to cure, and then hanging it up to dry. 

The European settlers who arrived in South Africa in the early 17th century – and later the Voortrekkers – were required to travel great distances and had little access to food storage facilities on the road. Both groups quickly saw the value of the dried meaty snack – it could stay fresh for a long period of time, packaged easily and was a tasty bite on the road. Their curing process looked a lot like ours today – in the wintertime, when the air was cold and dry, they spiced their meat with vinegar, saltpetre and spices like coriander, cloves, and pepper, and hang it up to air-dry. Once dried, they would package it into breathable cloth bags to prevent mould from setting in. 

Many stories and folklore tell of meat strips dangling from the roofs of the Voortrekkers wagons, while soldiers were known to drape venison strips under their saddles so that the movement and chafing could tenderise the meat and the horse sweat would give it flavour. 

Why do we love biltong so much?

It’s a healthy, low-fat and high-in-protein snack without which any proper braai is rendered lacklustre 

It’s high in Vitamin B12, which is important for the maintenance of healthy blood and nerve cells 

Biltong is a natural teether for babies with sore gums 

It’s a great post-workout snack that restores energy and essential nutrients 

Biltong can be made from a variety of meat sources, from beef to ostrich 

It goes fantastic with basically everything, from salads to savoury muffins 

In addition to a revamp on the original recipe format that’s been passed on for hundreds of years, these people also gave the snack the name we still use several hundred years later. Voilà – the birth of biltong.