Traditional South African Bobotie with Yellow Rice

Traditional South African Bobotie and Yellow Rice Recipe

Bobotie. A word that brings many warm memories! In South Africa Bobotie (pronounced: buh-boo-wu-ty) is reserved for a wintry Sunday lunch. This warm, subtly spiced meat dish is traditionally served with yellow rice and a banana salad (although we would eat banana salad on any occasion!).

Origin of Bobotie

Before I started writing this post, I’ve never actually thought about the origin of this wonderfully warming dish. I always thought that it was just a traditional dish that is served on Sunday (but made on Saturday so the flavours can develop). As a child I thought we only have Bobotie when we have guests on a Sunday so it might be a difficult dish to make – I was so wrong. Now that I am making this myself, I can see why it is being made for guests! It is super easy, can be made at least a day in advance, it freezes so well and, bonus, you can make it for a crowd!

Back in 1652 Dutch colonialists came to South Africa in a bid to develop the land. With them they brought enslaved Javanese people with them to the Cape of Good Hope on the Southern tip of Africa. In those times the Dutch had colonised much of the East Indian countries (including modern-day Indonesia). These wonderful people, called Cape Malay, brought with them some delicious dishes, many of which is now considered as traditional South African cuisine. It is little wonder that there are so many Indonesian words that are pronounced exactly the same as in Afrikaans. In this Youtube clip two people (one Indonesian-speaking and the other Afrikaans-speaking) compares some words in the two languages – I was astonished at the similarities!

There are some uncertainty as to where the word Bobotie originates from or what it means, however, it is generally accepted that it is derived from the Indonesian word boemboe, meaning curry spices.

What is Bobotie?

Traditional Bobotie is made from shredded left-over lamb, however, over the years, as we become more health-conscious for one, we’ve been using mince. This could either be beef mince or lamb mince or a combination of the two to give more depth of flavour.

Subtle spices such as cinnamon, turmeric and bay is added along with a dollop of chutney to bring out the sweetness of the meat. It is then covered in an egg custard before baking in the oven.

Some recipes state that if you still have custard on top of the dish after baking, you didn’t do it right. Traditionally the egg custard will sink into the meat, binding it. Personally I do like a nice eggy layer on top as it brings different textures in one bite.

Bobotie is traditionally served with yellow rice (geelrys in Afrikaans), banana salad (Piesang slaai) and sambal (a subtly spiced tomato and onion salad).

Top tips and substitutions to make your best Bobotie

We are not created equally. If we were life would’ve been very boring! It is for this reason that I include some variations and substitutions on the traditional Bobotie recipe – especially for those with allergies and intolerances.

  • Bobotie is probably one of the most versatile dishes ever! I always make a huge batch of Bobotie, but since it is just my hubby and I we never manage to eat it all. Therefore I ensure to make up smaller portions in oven-freezer-safe dishes. This way, I will partially cook it to just set the egg before freezing. Be sure to fully defrost before placing covered in a moderate oven for about 25 minutes. Bobotie reheats very well in the oven, however, the microwave will also work for a small portion.
  • Traditionally Bobotie is made a day in advance and then kept in the fridge. Not only will this save you a heap of time on the day your guests arrive, but it will also ensure that the flavours mingle and develop to give you an even better taste-sensation!
  • Traditional bobotie is cooked with raisins to add a subtle sweetness to the dish, however, if you are not keen on raisins you can either leave these out or substitute it for sultanas (like I do) or even dried cranberries.
  • You will definitely need some milk to make the custard, but this can be substituted for coconut milk or soy milk if you would like to make it dairy-free. I think the coconut milk will complement the warm spices wonderfully.
  • My grandmother sometimes added almonds to decorate the top. Not only did it look beautiful it also gave a nutty flavour to the dish once it had been roasted in the oven. If you do want to decorate your bobotie with almonds, ensure they are unsalted and peeled as the skins could turn bitter in the oven.
  • Can’t find the original Mrs Ball’s peach chutney to make this dish? Why not try chunky applesauce or some apricot jam?
  • Although I’ve never tried this with Bobotie, I am sure you can substitute the meat with either a plant-based mince like quorn or even lentils. I’ve made many lentil bolognese’s successfully and I’m sure it will work just as well in this dish.
  • Bobotie is not gluten-free as it is using a small amount of bread, however, in order to make it gluten-free you can use a slice of gluten free bread as substitute.
  • If you don’t like the idea of yellow rice, just serve the Bobotie with normal basmati rice. You can find my easy recipe here.

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions for Bobotie

Step 1

Get everything ready. Measure out the ingredients, chop the onion and bread and turn on the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Also take out your oven-proof dish and have it ready on the side. Take out a large saucepan for the meat and a smaller one for the rice.

Step 2

Place the bread in a pudding bowl and pour over half of the milk. Let this soak.

Step 3

Put the swig of oil in the bigger saucepan and place on a high heat. Add the onions and sweat until it is translucent in colour, but not browned. Add the mince and stir gently until it is browned.

Step 4

Add the minced garlic, turmeric, curry powder, peach chutney and lemon juice to the bread and milk mixture. Give it a good stir before adding to the mince. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes.

Step 5

Add the sultanas (if using) to the mince mixture and cook for a further 5 minutes before seasoning the meat with salt and pepper.

Step 6

Transfer the mince into your ovenproof dish and place into the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Now beat the eggs together and combine with the remaining milk.

Step 7

After 20 minutes, carefully take the Bobotie out of the oven and pour the eggy milk over the top. Decorate with bay leaves, lemon leaves or almonds. Lower the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius and bake for another 40 minutes until the egg is set and the top is golden brown.

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions for Yellow Rice

To make yellow rice using Basmati rice you will need to use a ration of 1 measure of raw rice to 2 measures of water. To make rice for two people, I use ½ raw rice to 1 cup of water.

Step 1

Pour 2 measures of water into your smaller saucepan and let it come to a boil. Add salt.

Step 2

Add in turmeric, sultanas, cinnamon stick and mustard seeds and one measure of rice before lowering the heat to the lowest setting and placing a lid on top.

Step 3

Once the water has almost completely evaporated switch the stove off and leave the rice to steam for at least 10 minutes.

Step 4

Just before serving fluff the rice with a fork, remove the cinnamon stick and serve with the Bobotie and Banana Salad.

Bobotie with Yellow Rice

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 500g Lamb or beef mince
  • 1 cup of milk, separated into two halves
  • 1 slice of day old bread, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • swig of oil
  • 2 heaped tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 heaped tablespoon turmeric
  • 3 heaped tablespoons peach chutney (preferably Mrs Ball’s)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 80g sultanas
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bay, lemon leaves or almonds to decorate
  • Yellow Rice

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup raw basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 40g sultanas
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • cinnamon stick
  • salt to taste


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  2. Soak the bread in half the milk.
  3. Sweat the onions in the oil, then add the mince until nicely browned.
  4. Mix together the soaked bread mixture with the garlic, turmeric, curry powder, lemon juice and chutney. Mix this with the mince and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Mix in the sultanas, season to taste and place in an ovenproof dish and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Mix eggs and remaining milk together. After 20 minutes pour the egg mixture over the baked mince to form a soaked-in custardy layer. Lower the temperature to 180 and bake for another 40 minutes uncovered until set.
  7. Yellow Rice

  8. Pour the water into a saucepan along with all the spices and salt. Bring to a boil.
  9. Once the spicy water came to a boil add in the rice and lower the temperature to the lowest setting. Cover with a lid.
  10. Once water has evaporated, switch the stove off and let the rice sit for ten minutes.
  11. Fluff the rice with a fork and remove cinnamon stick before serving.

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8 Comments on “Traditional South African Bobotie with Yellow Rice

    • Bobotie really is the best thing – I cannot get enough of it! I’m really glad that you may be able to substitute the mince – if you do try it, please let me know how it turned out 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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