Developed in South Africa and a staple in many African countries, biltong consists of strips of cured, air-dried beef or game. Though its keeping properties are the same, it is a finer form of jerked meat than American Jerky. The best biltong has been compared to the Prosciutto of Italy.

Traditional South African dried meat called “Biltong”. Rooibok (kangaroo and Ibok) , Krokkedil (crocodile) Giraffe etc.

It is typically made from raw fillets of meat cut into strips


Other names: South African Dried Meat, Cabanossi, Droë wors, Jerky, Bresaola

Physical Description

following the grain of the muscle, or flat pieces sliced across the grain. It is similar to beef jerky in that they are both spiced, dried meats, but differ in their typical ingredients, taste and production process. The word biltong is from the Dutch bil ("rump") and tong ("strip" or "tongue").

Colors: brown, redish brown, dark brown

Tasting Notes

Mouthfeel: Chewy, Spicy, Salty, Earthy

Selecting and Buying


Preparation and Use

While biltong is renowned for being chewed as a snack, it can also be diced up into stews, added to muffins and pot bread. Biltong-flavoured potato crisps have also been produced.

Biltong can be used as a teething aid for babies. Some retail stores offer a mild form of biltong especially for this purpose which does not contain the spices used for flavouring.[citation

Conserving and Storing

It is typically dried out in the cold air (rural settings), cardboard or wooden boxes (urban) or climate-controlled dry rooms (commercial). Depending on the spices used, a variety of flavours may be produced. Biltong can also be made in colder climates by using an electric lamp to dry the meat, but care must be taken to ventilate, as mold can begin to form on the meat.

A traditional slow dry will deliver a medium cure in about 4 days.

An electric fan-assisted oven set to 40-70 °C (100-160 °F), with the door open a fraction to let out moist air, can dry the meat in approximately 4 hours. Although slow dried meat is considered by some to taste better, oven dried is ready to eat a day or two after preparation.


History: The Dutch settlers who arrived in South Africa in the 17th century brought recipes for dried meat from Europe.

Preparation involved applying vinegar, then rubbing the strips of meat with a mix of herbs, salts and spices. The need for preservation in the new colony was pressing. Building up herds of livestock took a long time. There was native game about but it could take hunters days to track and kill a large animal such as an eland and they were then faced with the problem of preserving a large mass of meat in a short time in a hot climate during a period of history before iceboxes had been invented. Desiccation solved the problem.

Biltong as we understand it today evolved from the dried meat carried by the wagon-travelling Voortrekkers, who needed stocks of durable food as they migrated from the Cape Colony (Cape Town) north-eastward (away from British rule) into the interior of Southern Africa during the Great Trek.

The raw meat was preserved from decay and insects within a day or two, and within a fortnight, would be black and rock-hard after it had fully cured.


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