Making Traditional South African Biltong – A Recipe

biltongBiltong is still seen as a South African classic. Although many individuals compare South African Biltong to American Jerky, it is simply not the same.

Whereas American jerky is usually made from slim strips of meat that consist of very little fat, traditional South African biltong are manufactured using large cuts of meat, often having a third of the cut consisting of fat.

The meat cuts are normally thicker than other dried-out meat cuts and the moisture differs greatly depending on the cook’s preference.

I personally favour my biltong to be moist and have a slightly pinkish colour in the middle, including a thick strip of fat on the side, whilst my better half enjoys the biltong without any fat and much-much drier.

Some folks argue that venison biltong ought to be really dry – almost to the point of falling apart, while others like it really soft. There are several different inclinations as there are South Africans on this planet.

We think the real shame is that many people cannot afford this South African delicacy, or even more depressing, have absolutely no idea how to make it for themselves.

Please check the biltong recipe below and afterwards you can enjoy this awesome treat watching the local rugby game on television or enjoy it as treat if you are peckish. You can always pop a few pieces in your youngster’s lunch box; they will enjoy it immensely. It’s not a difficult recipe and quite simple to make, so let’s give it a try.

A Typical South African Biltong Recipe

  • 5kg sirloin/rump meat (normally use silverside or topside)
  • A cup of brown sugar
  • 500 grams of coarse salt(not normal table salt)
  • 2 tablespoons of bicarbonate soda
  • 1 cup of broken up coriander seeds
  • 1 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cracked up black pepper

Just what is the procedure in making your first batch of biltong?

Begin by cutting your meat into strips; remember to only cut on the normal grain of the meat. I definitely prefer our end product to be a little moist on the inside, so if you enjoy a bit of pink in the middle, try to keep it 5cm wide. If you like it dry, you can make them a bit thinner.

Now you need to mix up the salt, coriander, pepper, bicarbonate of soda and the sugar together to make rubbing mixture. You now need to use a large glass container; wipe and rub some of the mix into each item of meat. Place a solitary layer of the mixture in the bottom of this container. Spray some of the red vinegar over meat strips then continue the exact same procedure till all the meat is layered and there is no more vinegar left. You need to remove the access salt from the meat otherwise you may produce really salty biltong.

You now have to cover the container with some cling wrap and leave it to marinade for at-least 12 to 24 hrs depending on the thickness of the meat and the strength of the flavour you want.

At this point you should find a cool completely dry and well-aerated location to hang your meat (we normally hang it high it in the garage area and cover it up with a net to keep the bugs and flies away). If you live on the beach front or in an area where it’s not always dry, you may want to invest in a biltong-maker-ventilation-system. Not everybody likes it moist, so for those that don’t want the biltong to be moist you can leave it for longer to dry out more completely.

Get some galvanized wire hooks to hang your meat. You can hang them until the exterior is dark. Try some of the biltong after 2 days. You will then be able to do a taste test to determine if it is working for you or whether you need to leave it hanging for a while longer.

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  • Thanks Saffa Traders. I’m curious to hear what people think of this biltong recipe.
    From our experience, if you can’t find galvanised wire to make hooks (try your local hardware store), plastic-coated paper clips work well as biltong hooks too.

    • I soak good quality wooden skewers in vinegar and skewer meat on and tie string to hang with. A bit like a coat hanger. Works a treat.

    • Hi my name is corrie i am a south african and live in south africa,,i do make traditional biltong for years,,,,,to spice the can use any plastic container like a butcher crate,,now to make your biltong,,,,ad worchester sause a 50/50 with the vinegar in plastic container…dip the meat strips in the vinegar/worchester sauce ,,spread some spice in the crate take out the meat strip from vinegar mix lay it down on the spice in container..with your hand take some of your ready mix spice and sread on top of the meat when the meat cover the bottom of the crate do so till all the meat is used…cover with a net or thin pastic to rest 12hours ..hang then with hooks 2cm apart and start your fan/blower…will be ready after 3 to4 days..greetings please waiting for comment

  • We use plastic biltong hooks that we bought on Amazon. It makes it a lot easier, as we can wash and reuse them each time. That looks like a nice biltong recipe, Do you ever add Worcester Sauce in your biltong recipes?

  • I’ve just built a biltong box and am ready to try it. Problem is I just can’t stand coriander because of too much time spent in India. I know everyone says that biltong requires coriander but maybe someone could share a coriander free recipe anyway?

    • Henrik, all the biltong recipes I have ever seen, include coriander. Perhaps you should experiment? How about taking a standard recipe and substituting the coriander for something else that you think might work? Start with small batches to test. I know people take this approach with boerewors all the time. If you find a recipe that works for you, feel free to post it here. Good luck!

    • Hi HendriK! In the case of the making of Biltong we use mowed coriander seeds which (I toast a little before mowing) and it produces a different taste result other than fresh coriander. Besides, Biltong without coriander wouldn´t be nothing but jerky… Punt in die wind!

    • Hi Hendrik – just drop the coriander! No big deal! You could try a little sumac but be careful it can be hot. It is a middle eastern spice. Living in zindia younwouldn’t add a little dried red chilli?

    • Henrik
      Leave out the coriander and use a third of a teaspoon on paprika and three tablespoons of garlic salt.
      Try that

  • I may be the odd one out here as I’m English who used to live (6yrs) in Mafikeng, what used to be Bophuthatswan until 1994 as it was reincorporated in to South Africa.
    I love Biltong and that was the first bit of South Africa ?? I missed when I returned to the UK ??.
    Summer is here now, so it was time to dust down and clean up my plastic 30lt storage Biltong box which I acquired from any hardware store. I have adapted the storage box by adding 2x computer fans, one on the lid, the other on the side, then a 60 watt light bulb and finally, 5x wooden dowels for my Biltong to hang from produces a good amount for your personal consumption. By the way, I too use the plastic coated paper clips.

    I do like to experiment with my Biltong recipe and found that Worcester sauce works well although, I didnt have any yesterday so I just used Dark Soy sauce mixed with the vinegar.

    Here’s a thumbs up ?? to the best beer snack ever.

    Andy B

    • Thanks for sharing your biltong experiences, Andy. I agree… it is the best beer snack ever! Nothing like biltong, a good beer, and some rugby to watch!

  • I may seem like dopey Aussie here however you say to remove the excess salt prior to leaving overnight won’t this remove the spices as well any advice much appreciated

    • Some of the spices are removed as well. This is not a problem as usually the biltong is coated in so much spice, that it can afford to lose a little. The recipe I use says to briefly pull each piece of seasoned meat through a bath of vinegar….. which will rinse off a bit of the salt/spices, and then hang up directly with the wire hooks.

    • Myra, that is difficult to say because it depends on the hydrator. You will have to experiment. I would just keep it on a low temperature setting, and then test each day.

  • This is a great forum, thank you all for the info. I live in Vermont in the North East U.S. and it is quite humid 55 – 70% the past 3 weeks. Will this affect the Biltong? Also is the meat ever refrigerated after being seasoned? I make a lot of jerky and I will let it cure with nitrates in the fridge before smoking at a low temp as do all my buddy’s and to be honest I’m getting sick of all the smoke!

    One other thing, anyone have pics of their Biltong drying boxes?


    • Hi Jim. Some people add a bulb in the bottom of their biltong boxes. The heat helps to dry the air out a bit. If your house is air-conditioned, that will remove enough moisture from the surrounding air. The meat is not refrigerated after being seasoned. Most biltong recipes include vinegar, which acts as a preservative. Here’s our article about biltong boxes: We use the cardboard box at the bottom of the article.

  • I have a question about biltong. I have it in the fridge marinating for the past 12 hours, is it supposed have liquid in the container or does the meat suppposed to absorb it

    • There will be liquid in the bottom. That’s normal. As long as you put your meat in layers into the container and spices and vinegar for each layer as you went along, you’ll be fine.

  • Just a question on why you recommend course salt and not table salt. I’ve seen recipes that grind the salt. What’s the difference?

    • Yes, I would recommend coarse salt. If a recipe calls for “2 tablespoons of salt” it typically refers to coarse salt. If you use table salt, you run the risk of over-salting the biltong due to the granules being so much smaller.

  • After years of making beef and turkey jerky, I’m trying biltong for the first time. We live in South Florida/Miami where outdoor temps are usually 80-95 degrees F in the summer, but maintain indoor temp around 77F and humidity around 55-60%. I have a dehydrator (for jerky etc.) that can provide air flow but lowest temp is 90 degrees F. Is that too warm to safely make Biltong in this humidity? Thanks!

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