Chakalaka – what's in a name?

Alana Bailey July 7, 2010

Inspired by a question from Jeffrey Myers from Germany… “I am interested in learning more about the origin of the name “Chakalaka”. Could you please explain the origin (etymology) of the name of this delicious dish from South Africa?  Thanks so much for your time and help!”

Chakalaka, what's in a name

Photo credit: iphilipp

We asked our resident know-the-answer-to-everything person – Alana Bailey – and received this reply on her behalf:

Dear Jeffrey

We contacted the Department of African Languages at the University of Stellenbosch to get an answer to your question about “chakalaka”.

Apparently it is a made-up name (not from a specific language). The “ch”-sound comes from the Nguni languages.

The dish probably originated among mine workers, who took the recipe home, and so spread the dish, which is now so popular that you can buy it in cans.

Kind regards

Tanja Harteveld

And here are links to three variations of the recipe just in case you would like to try this at home…

But wait, there's more!  Here is a recipe for delicious Chakalaka bread from Alana:

Chakalaka bread


2    cups cake flour
3    teaspoons baking powder
4    large eggs (beaten)
1    tin Chakalaka
1/3 cup Cheddar cheese (grated)
1    teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper


1.    Heat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).
2.    Grease small bread tin.
3.    Sift dry ingredients together.
4.    Add eggs, cheese and chakalaka and mix thoroughly.
5.    Pour into tin.  Sprinkle more cheese on top if you like.

6.    Bake for 45 minutes until it is golden brown.


About Alana Bailey, the author

Alana is the Deputy CEO of AfriForum, a civil rights initiative established by Solidarity in order to activate minority communities outside the realm of party politics in order to become involved in the public debate. AfriForum is responsible for a broad range of campaigns aimed at the protection of civil rights, including lobbying for language rights, opposition against crime and continued support for remigrating South Africans via the Come Home Campaign.