The majority of local Namibians see eating as a means for survival rather than an opportunity for creating culinary taste sensations. This is why, on tourist restaurant menus, you’re unlikely to find the basic foods eaten by locals. Instead, you will find mostly international dishes with some interesting local twists.
Many are German-influenced dishes, due to the colonial history of Namibia. Because Namibia is made up of so many different cultures, there are many different approaches to the dishes that make up this country’s cuisines.
Namibia is also renowned for its game meats. Eland, oryx or kudu are widely available in this region, so meat-lovers are in for a treat. Many of its fruits and vegetables have to be imported from South Africa. So vegetarians might have a harder time of it, but everyone is sure to find some tastiness here.
Top 5 Foods to Try While in Namibia
One of the special elements you’ll experience when eating in Namibia is the outdoor cooking and eating, which is a way of life in this country.
Tip: If this oneness with nature appeals to you, definitely try a Namibian safari tour.
Better yet, enjoy these classic Namibian meals with an ice-cold Windhoek or a Savannah. They’re super popular Southern African drinks for a reason and go perfectly with these dishes. And for dessert, enjoy one of the gifts from the local Marula tree – a delicious glass of Amarula cream liqueur on ice or even over ice-cream.
Now for the top 5 foods you simply must try while on your vacation in Namibia.
Wild Game Meat
Namibian wild game meats are a speciality on their own. There is certainly enough variety to provide something for every palate. Some of these wild game foods include kudu, oryx, springbok and eland.
For those looking to further challenge the palate and be adventurous, there will be plenty to explore. You can look forward to trying ostrich, giraffe, zebra and even crocodile meat.
These game varieties are all traditionally cooked on a braai (an open fire barbeque). They are served in a variety of ways. Other than steaks, you’ll also find popular meat variations in boerewors (sausages), potjiekos (stews) and sosaties (shish kebabs).
This stew-like dish is made from meat and vegetables, stewed on an open fire for around 4 hours. It’s cooked in a potjie pot which is a three-legged cast iron pot. The pot originated from the Dutch oven and was brought from the Netherlands around the 17th Century.
Potjiekos is a fusion of flavours with strong German and South African influences. The secret ingredient to a delicious potjie is alcohol such as beer, sherry or dessert wine. And be sure to keep a glass for yourself.
You will likely be drooling over this dish long after you left Namibia.
While the thought of eating worms might send shivers down your spine, they’re actually surprisingly delicious.
And for those who are looking for even more of a culinary adventure, you’re in for an experience. Mopane worms – large edible caterpillars – are considered a Namibian delicacy. And as an added bonus, an excellent source of protein.
These worms are served in a few different ways. For one, they are eaten dried, making for a tasty and crispy snack. They’re also commonly added to stews like potjiekos. And otherwise, they’re popularly enjoyed seasoned and fried up.
They’re also often fried with tomatoes and onions and eaten with a maize-meal or local porridge. This really does make for a hearty, healthy meal. You can also find Mopane worms sold as snacks in local markets.
Speaking of snacks, biltong is a must try while in Namibia. It could be compared to beef jerky, and is arguably very distantly related. Namibians pride themselves in the high quality biltong they produce so it is definitely worth a try.
This popular snack is made by flavouring meat with natural spices and vinegar before air-drying to produce the tasty end product. It is commonly made from beef but can also be produced from springbok, wildebeest or even ostrich.
While it originated as a well-preserved survival food in South Africa, it is now a widely loved Southern African specialty.
Kapana and Vetkoek
Vetkoek can be directly translated to “fat cakes”. This is unfortunately an accurate name choice for these dough-like, deep fried sensations.
Made from flour, yeast and oil, they may not sound like much. But pairing them with Kapana makes for a mouth-watering combination. Together they make up a popular street food dish. And during your Namibian travel adventures, you should be sure to taste from the delicious street foods for a better all-round eating experience in this country.
Kapana is meat cut offs that have been seasoned and barbecued with vegetables and chilli. This tasty mixture is then placed inside a cut open vetkoek, ready to send you into food bliss.
Traditional Namibian Dishes Eaten by the Locals
There are a few staples when it comes to traditional Namibian food. They might not appeal to your tastes, as they are quite simple and sustenance-orientated. But they’re definitely interesting to learn about! And if you want to eat like the locals, be sure to give these dishes a go.
Some common dishes include oshifima which is a doughlike paste made from millet and usually served with a meat or vegetable stew. A similar basic is mealie pap which is a basic porridge made from maize. Thirdly a traditional dish of spinach and beef is known as oshiwambo.
These dishes can also be used as a base with the dishes mentioned above. That way, you can try the popular tourist cuisines, as well as the local foods.
Final Thoughts on Namibian Cuisine
Namibia’s food is a culmination of many different influences. These include the indigenous populations – namely the Himba, Herero and San. And also European colonial influences – primarily German and British.
So it’s quite a unique experience, much like Namibia itself. You can choose to be adventurous and try some local worms. Or stick with a classic steak, from an animal that wandered the wilderness, instead of one that was reared for the purpose.
For this reason, even though Namibia loves its meat, it’s often more ethically sourced. So you can tuck in with a clear conscience. And whatever you get stuck into, it’s sure to be a fantastic foodie experience.