Lentil Bobotie Recipe from South Africa

11 Min Read

Brief history and description of the dish:

Bobotie is a South African dish which has been in existence since around the 17th Century and was well known in the Cape of Good Hope (the original name for the colony).

I would love to go into the history of the Cape Colony and how it’s very existence and purpose lent itself to the birth of this recipe, but that will take far too long. However a bit of history often enhances appreciation, so I’ll keep it brief.

The modern version of this recipe has changed slightly from the original.  It is a meat dish and whilst it was believed to have originally been made with a mixture of mutton and pork, it is more commonly made with beef or lamb.  The recipe has been taken to the far reaches of the African continent by migrating farmers and it can even be found in regions of Patagonia where a group of Afrikaans speaking South Africans relocated after the Boer War at the turn of the last century.

For my own purposes I use this particular version which I have modified to my own taste and needs, I eat it as a vegetarian dish.  If you wish to eat this as a meat dish, you can replace the lentils in this recipe with 600grams of ground beef or mutton, or even a mixture of the two, browned in oil or ghee over medium heat and then incorporated into the recipe in place of the lentils.

I think the main reason I enjoy this dish so much, aside from my love of curry, is because it is so versatile and you can incorporate so many alternatives into the recipe to suit your taste or diet.

Lovely example of Bobotie as seen on the Boschendal.blat.co.za web site

This is a curry dish, but rest assured it is very mild, for those who like hot spicy food you can add stronger curry powder and/or chilies’ to your taste.

Serving suggestions:

If you use this as a main course I recommend that you serve it with rice, chutney, coconut and chopped tomato and onion sambal.

My veggie version can be served either hot or cold.  It is great as either a hot main course or as a cold side dish.  In summer I often serve it as a type of spicy legume salad and it makes a great accompaniment to a barbeque for those meat eaters out there.

Lentils provide plenty of protein, so along with the suggested rice and sambal side dishes, you can have a healthy well balanced meal and best of all, for those who are on a budget the lentil version is a great cost saving meal.



Quantity Ingredient
200g / 250ml / 1 cup Uncooked brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
pinch Salt
3 slices brown (or white) bread, crusts removed
125ml / ½ cup Milk
2 Onions, sliced
2 Cloves garlic, crushed
45ml / 3 tablespoons Oil  or Ghee
15ml / 3 teaspoons (or 1 level tablespoon) Mild curry powder
5ml / 1 teaspoon Turmeric
5ml / 1 teaspoon Ground coriander
3ml / ½ teaspoon Ground cumin (Jeera)
45ml / 3 tablespoons White grape vinegar
60ml / 4 tablespoons Chutney
15ml / 3 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon) Worcestershire sauce
60ml / 4 level tablespoons Seedless raisins(I don’t like cooked raisins, so I leave them out & add 1 tspn of brown sugar instead. You could replace them with currants or sultanas if you prefer.)
7ml / 1 ½ teaspoons Salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pre-heat your oven to 180 C / 350 F Grease or spray the inside of a 5cm / 2inch deep, 20cm / 8inch diameter oven proof dish.

Place lentils into a pot with enough water to cover them about 2.5cm / 1 inch. Add pinch of salt and boil the lentils until they are soft, be careful not to let them get mushy.  Once cooked, drain and rinse and put them into a large mixing bowl.

While the lentils are cooking I do the following:-

Soak the brown bread slices in the milk (you can use water if you prefer). Mash it up with your hands or a fork.

Saute the chopped onions and crushed garlic in the oil or ghee, until they are soft then add the curry powder, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin (jeera) to this and fry for about one minute over a medium heat, stirring constantly.

Add the remaining ingredients, the vinegar, chutney, Worcestershire sauce, raisins (or currants / sultanas), salt and ground pepper.  Stir them together until warmed through, no more than a couple of minutes.

By the time you have finished this mixture, the lentils may be done, if not, simply remove this from the heat and put to one side until the lentils are cooked.

(Side note: If you wish, you can go ahead and mix the topping. If you are anything like me and prefer to get all the preparation done as quickly as possible.)

When the lentils are done and you have rinsed, drained them and put them in a large mixing bowl; add the mashed bread and the curry mixture to the lentils and stir everything until it is well mixed.

Turn this mixture into the oven proof dish.

So, that’s the main body of the dish.

NOW…. to make the topping, there are two versions here; the non-vegetarian egg version or the full vegetarian version.  I am writing out both so you can choose.

Topping ONE
Egg Topping:
Quantity Ingredients
1 Large egg
1 Banana, halved lengthways
60ml / 4 tablespoons Milk
1 or 2 Bay leaf
Beat egg and milk together.Pour over bobotie mix in the baking dish.

Arrange the banana halves on top of this with the bay leaf in the middle.

Put dish into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Make certain that the milk/egg mixture has set and it looks great with a few golden brown tinges here and there.

The second topping is a bit longer to make, but it serves as a time saver in the long run if you were thinking of making rice to serve with this, the polenta or maize meal is a great alternative to rice.

Topping TWO (alternative to Topping ONE)
Golden Polenta (or maize meal) Topping:
Quantity Ingredients
125ml / ½ cup Polenta or Maize Meal
1ml / ¼ teaspoon Salt (or a pinch, as you please)
500ml / 2 cups Water
100g Finely grated strong cheddar (or a similar cheese of your choice)
½ teaspoon dry OR
2 teaspoons fresh chopped Rosemary (this really is just something I like because I love rosemary and it is so good for you. You can happily leave this out of the mix.)
Bring 1 ½ cups of water with salt to the boil.

Mix the ½ cup of polenta or maize meal with the remaining ½ cup of cold water until you have a creamy consistency.

When water is boiling, pour the creamy polenta mix directly into the boiling water, whilst stirring to avoid it from going lumpy.

Keep stirring for about 3 or 4 minutes, then allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes and remove from heat.

Leaving enough of the grated cheese to sprinkle on top of the bobotie, add the rest to the cooked polenta with the rosemary and combine it well.

Spoon this on top of the bobotie mix and smooth until it covers the bobotie mixture.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of this and place it in the oven for 30-40minutes or until it is golden brown on top.

You can let the dish stand for a few minutes to cool, or serve it hot, or leave it to cool overnight to be served as a cold side dish to another main course.


You may still add the banana to the polenta topping if you wish, either mashed and mixed into the polenta (I haven’t tried this myself) or placed on top.

You could finely chop or grate an apple or dried apricots and put that into the bobotie mixture in place of raisins.  Apricots and curry make great ‘bed fellows’.

I do not use bay leaves with the polenta topping because of the rosemary, but if you don’t use the rosemary you can use the bay leaves, only I suggest placing them on top of the bobotie before covering with the polenta / maize meal mixture.

Please feel free to ask any questions or provide feedback.

Workaholic. Computer geek, artist, blogger, story teller. Lover of Africa, her people, her landscapes, fauna, flora and music. Cancer survivor, mother, friend. Secret adventurer, seeker of all things beautiful and head pot stirrer.Tea maker extraordinaire.

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