Chakalaka is a South African tomato-based relish that has its origins in the townships of Johannesburg. 10 years ago, I was living in Johannesburg for a year and stayed at a vegetarian bachelor’s house. The fridge was always empty, apart from a few lonely vegetables. But there was always chakalaka in the house. The  jarred version, but never mind. My vegetarian bachelor’s friend was not much of a cook.

For dinner we’d cook some of those lonely vegetables and then drown them in chakalaka sauce. As far as I can remember, we didn’t even have any grains or the otherwise very typical South African pap with it. We ate it more like a vegetable stew.
It is an awesome sauce, very versatile as you could use it as a dip with cracker, as a relish over grilled meat (not in that vegetarian bachelor’s house though) or over pap. I got to taste many versions of it at various BBQs, which the South African claim they are world champions in.

There are versions with beans in it which makes it more a stand-alone meal. I prefer the simpler version with lots of green peppers: they give an otherwise regular tomato sauce (let’s be honest, that’s what it is) a refreshing summer kick. Then spice it up with as much chili as you like. A simple but incredibly delicious relish. Enjoy!

Print Recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 green peppers, deseeded and cut into 1-inch sticks
6 tomatoes, finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)

Serves 6
In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Fry onions for a few minutes, until softened. Add garlic and peppers and fry for another few minutes. Stir in chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with herbs, curry powder, chili and sea salt.
Cover with lid and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Serve hot or cold as a dip with crackers, or as a sauce over grilled meat or pap or polenta.



  1. Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is all about jams, jellies and relishes? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. Cheers

  2. That looks so delicious even though onions are not on my food list anymore but the rest of the family would love it.

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