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Seswaa: A pulled beef recipe from Botswana

Seswaa: A pulled beef recipe from Botswana

Seswaa, also known as "Chotlho" in the Tswana language, is a traditional dish found in Southern Africa, specifically Botswana and South Africa. It is a dish with a rich history deeply rooted in botswana's culinary heritage. It is a slow-cooked meat stew made from beef, goat, or sometimes chicken, and is an integral part of Botswana's gastronomy. The preparation and consumption of seswaa hold cultural and social significance within the local communities.

Historically, seswaa has its origins in the traditional cooking practices of the Batswana people, the predominant ethnic group in Botswana. It was initially a way to make tough cuts of meat tender and flavourful using simple methods and minimal ingredients. The dish was often prepared for special occasions, gatherings, and celebrations, reflecting its importance in communal life.

The process of making seswaa involves boiling the meat until it becomes extremely soft and falls apart easily. Traditionally, a three-legged iron pot called "phutu" was used for this purpose. The meat is then pounded or shredded using two forks or traditionally, by hand. The result is finely textured, shredded meat that's flavourful and succulent.

Seswaa is often served with another traditional staple, "pap" (maize porridge), which serves as a base for the dish. This combination creates a hearty and satisfying meal that sustains and nourishes. The flavours of seswaa are simple yet deeply comforting, allowing the natural taste of the meat to shine.

While seswaa's historical roots are grounded in traditional cooking methods and the resourceful use of ingredients, it remains an enduring symbol of Botswana's cultural identity. Despite modern culinary influences, seswaa continues to be cherished as a dish that pays homage to the past while bringing people together in the present. It's a reminder of the importance of community, shared meals, and the preservation of cultural traditions in a rapidly changing world.


Preparation time

3 hours and 40 minutes




500 grams of beef on the bone, chopped into pieces

Salt to taste

1 Onion, chopped into pieces

Black pepper

3 Bay leaves




Place the meat into a saucepan or slow cooker, season with salt and pepper. Add the onion, black pepper, salt to taste, the bay leaves, and water. Place on a medium heat.

 After 4 hours, check to see if the meat falls off easily from the bone. If still clinging to the bone, give it some more time. When cooked, remove the meat and let it cool to room temperature.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the meat down until it resembles shredded beef. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, you can pull the meat apart with two forks until it is fully shredded.

Serve with cornmeal or rice with a side of greens.