Bobotie is a traditional South African curry bake, similar to a meatloaf but baked in a savoury egg custard. It has a mild slightly fruity taste and is normally served with a side dish of yellow rice and raisins. Bobotie is quick and easy to prepare and is the perfect dish to serve when you are looking for something different to make for dinner.
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What is Bobotie?
Bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-ti ) is a traditional South African dish, with a mild fruity curry flavour. It is made by frying a mixture of pork and beef mince with onions and a variety of spices before stirring in a few sultanas and almonds. Then the bobotie is placed into the oven to bake. Halfway through the baking time, a mixture of beaten eggs and milk is poured over the dish and it is returned to the oven until it has set.
Bobotie is normally served with a side dish of yellow rice and raisins and a dish of tomato and onion sambal. Some people like to sprinkle a little grated coconut over their bobotie or top it with a spoonful of chutney or a few sliced bananas. I like to serve it with a side helping of peas.
The texture of bobotie is very similar to a meatloaf. The meat is moist and juicy, perfectly complemented by the fruity flavour of the sultanas. The almonds add additional texture, while the spices provide a mild hint of curry. And the creaminess of the savoury egg custard adds a deliciously different element to the overall taste.
Traditionally, bobotie as made by the Cape Malay community in southern Africa, contains chopped dried apricots. I find this makes the bobotie too sweet and for this reason, I substitute the apricots with grated carrots.
Why I think you’ll love it
Quick and easy – bobotie is well known for being a quick and easy meal. From start to finish you can have this dish prepped and in the oven in only 20 minutes.
Unique flavour – bobotie has a unique flavour profile in that it combines savoury mince with the sweetness of fruity curry. Combined with the creaminess of the savoury custard topping, this is truly a ‘meal with a difference’.
Mild or as spicy, the choice is yours – this dish is suitable for all palates, from young children to hardened fiery-curry eaters. You can easily adjust the heat by adding extra chilli – or just leave the chilli out altogether. There’s plenty of flavour in this dish however hot you choose to make it.
Fusion of cultures – this dish has its roots in many cultures. African, Malaysian, Indian and Dutch influences all played a part in the origins of bobotie.
Economical – bobotie only uses a few standard kitchen ingredients to produce a delicious meal, and you can stretch it even further by adding additional vegetables.
There are many variations of bobotie. And as long as you stick to the basic method of frying the mince and onions, and baking the dish with a covering of egg custard, you can adjust the ingredients and spices to your own taste.
What you will need
To fry the meat and vegetables you will need a large frying pan. And for baking the bobotie in the oven you will need a baking dish large enough to take the meat mixture plus the egg and milk mixture that gets poured over the meat. I like this set because it comes in 4 different sizes, so you always have the right-sized dish on hand.
**You can find the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making bobotie on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
This recipe will easily feed 4 to 6 people (depending on appetite).
Mince – I used a mixture of pork and beef mince, but you could use all beef if you prefer. Get mince with a low fat content (10% or less is ideal) because you don’t want too much fat leaking out of the meat into the bobotie.
Onion and carrot – the onion should be quite finely chopped because the mince is finely cut and you want the onion to blend in and you don’t want large chunks of onion in this dish. The carrot should be grated for the same reason.
Bread soaked in milk – this provides a little bulk helps to bind the mixture together. I’ve found that half a cup of Panko breadcrumbs does the job just as well.
Fruit chutney or smooth apricot jam. I like to use my own homemade tomato chutney, but you can use your favourite brand. I you don’t have fruit chutney in your cupboard you can use the same amount of apricot jam.
Sultanas and almonds. The sultanas swell up during cooking, providing little pops of fruitiness in the finished dish. The almonds provide additional crunch and texture, and should be finely chopped. You could use flaked almonds instead and then there’s no need to chop them.
Spices – you could use your favourite brand of curry powder (either mild, medium or hot). I like to mix my own curry powder because then I can adjust the heat. If you would like to mix your own curry powder, see How to make curry powder below.
Lemon juice – which helps to balance the sweetness of the dish.
Eggs and milk – mixed together to form a custard which is poured over the dish prior to baking.
Salt and pepper – to your own taste.
Sunflower oil – used for frying the meat, onions and spices.
Fresh coriander (not pictured) – I like to garnish the finished dish with a little chopped fresh coriander.
What to do
Soak the bread in milk then squeeze out the excess milk and place the bread in a bowl with the meat, lemon juices, spices and one egg.
Mix thoroughly to ensure the spices are well distributed throughout the meat.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and stir fry the onions and carrots on a medium heat until the onions start to turn translucent.
Push the carrots and onions to one side, add the meat mixture and continue to fry until the meat is no longer pink. Break up any large chunks of mince with a spatula.
Stir the meat and vegetables together, then add the sultanas, chopped almonds and chutney. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If there is a lot of liquid in the mixture, simmer on a medium heat until it dries out a little. There should not be too much liquid in this dish.
Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and cover the dish with a lid or a sheet of tin foil. Bake in a preheated oven (180C / 360F) for 40 minutes
After 40 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and pour over a mixture of beaten egg and milk which has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Replace the dish in the oven (without a lid this time) and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes until the custard has set.
Remove from the oven, garnish with chopped coriander (optional) and serve hot with yellow rice and raisins and your choice of vegetables.
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How to make curry powder
If you would like to make your own basic curry powder, this is how to do it. You will need 2 to 3 tablespoons of this curry powder to make this bobotie recipe.
You will need:
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons garam masala
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all the ingredients together and store in a screw-top jar with your other spices.
This is a mild-flavoured curry powder – if you want a bit more heat then add more cayenne pepper.
Note – this is just a basic curry powder which uses ingredients that are normally found in most curry recipes and I haven’t added other aromatics such as ginger, mustard, cardamom, cinnamon and fennel etc.
What do I serve with bobotie?
Bobotje is normally served with yellow rice and raisins (see next section), or if you prefer you can serve it with plain white rice. See my recipes for rice baked in the oven or microwave rice if you are unsure of how to cook rice. For a deliciously different dish why not try serving bobotie with spicy mushroom rice.
Traditionally bobotie is served garnished with any (or all) of the following:
- top with 1 teaspoon fruit chutney and/or a few slices of bananas
- sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated coconut
- a side dish of tomato and onion sambal, made by mixing the following ingredients:
- 1 large fresh tomato (finely chopped)
- 1 small onion (peeled and finely chopped)
- a sprinkling of salt and pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon white spirit vineger. You can use white wine vineger, but don’t be tempted to use brown malted vinegar, the taste will be wrong.
Bobotie goes well with a sweet vegetable such as peas or mashed sweet potato, but you could serve with your vegetable of choice.
How to make yellow rice with raisins
If you would like to make your own yellow rice with raisins to go with the bobotie, here’s how to do it. If your family doesn’t like raisins then you can leave these out. I normally use basmati rice, but you can use any long grain rice.
Use your favourite method of cooking rice, but add approximately 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric to the rice with the water. Stir to mix through. If you are using raisins, add approximately 1 tablespoon raisins per cup of rice.
Be careful when adding the turmeric. If you add too much you will end up with orange rice instead of yellow rice. You are looking for a nice pale yellow colour.
If you are cooking rice on the stove, place one cup into a pan, add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon raisins and 1 teaspoon salt (or to your own taste). Cover with 2 cups cold water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a tightly-fitting lid and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve.
I would not freeze the finished dish as the egg custard would be inclined to split on defrosting.
However, you can freeze the cooked mince mixture (before it goes into the oven) for up to 3 months.
To use, defrost in the fridge, then place the meat in a baking dish and follow the recipe instructions
Store any leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
You can reheat the leftovers in the microwave and have them as a quick lunch.
Bobotie makes a delicious filling for a toasted sandwich, or you could use it as a filling for curried dough balls.
There are many variations of bobotie. Here are just a few of the ways you can vary this dish.
– Add 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce when you add the almonds and sultanas.
– Substitute the carrot with grated apple, or use a mixture of the two.
– For a richer custard use half milk and half cream beaten with the eggs.
– Add 1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut along with the sultanas.
– Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the spice mix.
Save for later
If you would like to try bobotie yourself, why not pin this recipe to one of your Pinterest boards so you can find it easily?
Alternatively, you can save the recipe by clicking on the floating heart icon on the right-hand side of the screen.
Other curry recipes
If you enjoy curry, here are some of my other curry recipes you may enjoy:
- Chicken tikka masala – a mild chicken curry served with buttered garlic naan bread
- Lamb keema – Moroccan-flavoured minced lamb curry topped with a fried egg.
- Butter chicken – tender chunks of chicken in a spicy buttery sauce
- Bunny chow – a traditional South African spicy curry served in a hollowed-out bread roll.
- Vetkoek and curried mince – another South African favourite made with spicy curried mince served in a vetkoek (or fried dough ball)
Traditional South African Bobotie
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 8 ounce 225 grams beef mince
- 8 ounce 250 grams pork mince
- 1 large onion peeled and finely diced
- 1 large carrot grated
- 2 slices bread soaked in
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 large egg to add to mince
- 2 – 3 tablespoons curry powder or mild, or medium, to your own taste
- ½ small lemon juiced
- 2 tablespoons fruit chutney (or smooth apricot jam)
- 2 tablespoons sultanas
- 2 tablespoons almonds (chopped) or flaked almonds
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil for frying meat and onions
- 1 tablespoon chopped coriander optional – for garnish
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C / 360°F
- Soak the bread in milk for a few minutes until the milk is absorbed, then squeeze out the milk.2 slices bread, ¼ cup milk
- Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add the squeezed out bread. Add the curry powder, lemon juice and the egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well to combine. Set aside.8 ounce 225 grams beef mince, 8 ounce 250 grams pork mince, 1 large egg, 2 – 3 tablespoons curry powder, Salt, Pepper, ½ small lemon
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and stir fry the diced onions and grated carrots on a medium heat until the onions start to turn translucent.1 large onion, 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, 1 large carrot
- Add the mince mixture to the onions and carrots and continue to stir fry until the mince is well separated and no longer pink. Break up any clumps of mince with a spatula.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (except the egg and milk) and stir thoroughly.2 tablespoons fruit chutney, 2 tablespoons almonds (chopped), 2 tablespoons sultanas
- Let the mixture simmer with the lid off until most of the liquid has evaporated. The meat mixture should be quite dry when it is placed in the baking dish.
- Taste for flavour and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Transfer the mixture to a deep baking dish and press down evenly.
- Place the baking dish in the pre-heated oven, cover with a lid or a sheet of tin foil and bake for approximately 40 minutes.
- Mix the egg with the milk, season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove the dish from the oven and pour in the egg and milk.2 large eggs, 1 cup milk
- Replace the dish in the oven (without a lid this time) and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the custard has set.
- Remove from the oven, garnish with chopped coriander (optional) and serve hot with yellow rice and raisins and your choice of vegetables.
- Use 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots in place of the carrots
- Use an equivalent amount of smooth apricot jam in place of the fruit chutney
- Use mild, medium or hot curry powder (to your own taste)
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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