The Biltong Breakdown: Understanding South African Cured Meat

The tried and true classic beef jerky is a popular snack we’re all familiar with, but have you tried South African Biltong? This type of cured meat is a traditional delicacy but is now making its way to other parts of the world. While it has some similarities to jerky, traditional flavoured biltong does have a unique flavor profile and sports some differences in preparation. This article will take a look at biltong, so join us as we dive into this iconic South African delicacy.

The History and Origin of Biltong

Biltong emerged from the tribes of South Africa who had to use a method to store and preserve meats during their time; while they had an abundance of animals to hunt, there were still times were food was scarce, or they had an abundance of meat. They then turned to ways of preservation that meant they could keep meat for longer periods of time since they, unfortunately, didn’t have refrigeration back then. This method of drying meat was adopted by the Dutch colonists when they began to settle in Southern Africa, and it eventually became known as the biltong we know and love today.

How Biltong is Prepared

Biltong can be made from pretty much any kind of meat but is usually prepared with beef or other types of wild game. It is often marinated in vinegar or spices before being air-dried. This helps, giving it its softer mouth-watering texture compared to other dried meats. Keep in mind that it is also usually minimally processed and thinly sliced to maintain its authentic flavors.

Gather the Spices

Generally, coriander, black pepper, salt, and vinegar can be used as the primary flavors that help to create the unique taste of biltong. But there is still room for some variation, and if you’re feeling like something different, you can always customize the spice blend to some degree. Chucking in some paprika or chili flakes can work if you enjoy spicy flavors, or you can take away the coriander and black pepper if it’s a little too much.

Prepare the Meat

Now that we covered the spices, you’re going to have to get the meat ready; make sure you buy fresh cuts of beef or game and choose the fattiness depending on preference. Generally, biltong is slightly more fatty than jerky, but anything works. You’ll then need to cut the meat into thin strips, add the spices, salt, and vinegar, then let it set for a few hours so the flavors soak overnight.

Dry the Biltong and Serve

Once the marinating is complete, it’s time to get the best dried and ready for consumption, possibly the most exciting part! To find the right location, you’ll need to go somewhere cool and airy, basements or attics work, or even some people dry their meat outdoors in warmer climates. You then need to hang the pieces of meat up on strings and let them dry out for anywhere from 5-10 days, depending on preference. Then once it reaches the right dryness, you can enjoy your creation.

The Benefits of Biltong

Just like most meats, biltong is a very nutritious snack high in protein as well as all the vitamins and minerals that come along with it; if you’re a fitness fanatic and tired of eating protein bars, then it could be a wonderful addition since it’s not cooked in oil or any fats its fewer calories and doesn’t contain any carbohydrates. It can not only be eaten by itself but also added to salads or other foods that for that extra protein boost. Aside from the nutritional aspects, it can also work for long hiking or camping trips since it doesn’t need refrigeration.

How to Find Quality Biltong

Now, let’s establish the fact that not all biltong is equal, and if you want to enjoy this delicacy properly, you should know how to spot the real stuff from the low-quality versions. There are a few factors that can determine this, but the most important thing is to make sure that the beef is high-quality and fresh, as well as ensure that the moisture levels are just right. You don’t want something that is too moist or too dry, as this will affect the flavors. It’s always a good idea to source locally homemade biltong instead of the overly processed type you might find at gas stations or supermarkets. With these tips in mind, you’re sure to find quality biltong, so enjoy!


In summary, biltong is a dried meat snack that is popular in South Africa as well as in other parts of the world. While it has a richer, more distinct flavor than jerky, it sports a similar nutrient profile and is also great to try to make yourself or take out on camping and hiking trips. If you’re yet to try this wonderful delicacy, then we encourage you to give it a go; you won’t regret it.


Una is a food website blogger motivated by her love of cooking and her passion for exploring the connection between food and culture. With an enthusiasm for creating recipes that are simple, seasonal, and international, she has been able to connect with people around the world through her website. Una's recipes are inspired by her travels across Mexico, Portugal, India, Thailand, Australia and China. In each of these countries she has experienced local dishes while learning about the culture as well as gaining insight into how food can be used as a bridge between different cultures. Her recipes are often creative combinations of traditional ingredients from various different cuisines blended together to create something new.