South African Chicken Potato Stew

Easy. Healthy. Good.
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Every year when it’s someone’s birthday, my parents will ask what we want to eat (yes, even though my siblings and I are all adults). We often choose our childhood favorites (spaghetti bolognese anyone?), and one of my usual suspects is this South African chicken potato stew. 

There are so many delicious South African chicken recipes, but a stew holds a special place in my heart. It’s something we ate a lot growing up, and was also one of the first things I learned how to cook. 

In fact, I could say that the chicken potato stew in its various forms actually taught me how to cook. It’s easy; it’s adaptable.

It’s decidedly unfussy. 

In other words, it’s a good dish to play around with. 

When you’re low on one ingredient or have extras of another, a chicken potato stew is open to experiment. If you like it spicy, add some chopped pepper with your onion. If you want a curry, add some curry spice and/or a can of coconut milk. 

This stew works with most proteins or veggies you could imagine. It’s basically a delicious base that can be used as a jumping point or happily eaten as is. With only a handful of ingredients, you’ll still have an enjoyable meal—even for kids!

What is a South African Chicken Potato Stew?

In one form or another, chicken potato stew is eaten around the world. This particular stew would be called a tomato (or in Afrikaans “tomatie”) bredie in South Africa. But there’s a catch. A traditional tomato bredie calls for lamb—not chicken. 

Lamb was, indeed, my meat of choice for this stew for many years. However, in an effort to lessen our carbon footprint at home, we opt for the chicken version of many dishes instead. In fact, we usually go for tofu or beans. 

While tofu or beans would work fine in this recipe, that would be getting way too far from the traditional bredie to call it South African. After all, South African culture is pretty heavily meat-based. 

It’s not like you don’t find chicken tomato bredie all over South Africa—you do. But if I had to give the country I grew up in a national meat, it would be lamb. So here, in an effort to please fellow meat lovers who reluctantly but wholeheartedly lean vegan, I offer the “occasional omnivore” chicken stew. The rest of the ingredients are as classic as it gets. 

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Cape Town, South Africa

Ingredients for South African Chicken Potato Stew

The non-negotiables here are chicken and potatoes. Actually, nothing much about a stew is non-negotiable. Still, it helps to have an onion, some garlic and a can of crushed tomatoes, too. You’ll also need a spoon of sugar to cut the tomato acidity, plus some salt and pepper to taste. 

I use water to boil the potatoes, but you’re welcome to use chicken or vegetable broth if you have it. As my dad says, it will only make the stew better. 

Same goes for flavorings like the onion and garlic. If you want to add some chopped bell pepper, or even a jalapeño, go for it. For the season of life I’m in, I like to use as few ingredients as possible to keep it quick and kid-friendly. I throw in a no-prep bay leaf or two, and that’s good enough for me. 

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Health Benefits of South African Chicken Potato Stew

Chicken: High in protein and low in fat, chicken is a great choice when you’re really craving meat. Of all the animal meats, chicken is the most environmentally-friendly with the lowest carbon footprint. Try to buy organic or at least antibiotic-free. Local is even better. 

Onion: Not to be outshined by more exotic ingredients, the common yellow onion is a wonderful source of prebiotic fiber to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. It’s also been shown to reduce blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

Garlic: You can smell the benefits on this one! Societies around the globe have been using garlic medicinally for ages, and for good reason. Much like the onion, it lowers blood pressure, is packed with nutrients, and some studies show it can even prevent and lessen symptoms of the common cold!

Carrots: Everyone’s heard that carrots are good for your eyes, but did you also know they have antioxidants that can prevent cancer? Lycopene is one such antioxidant, as is beta-carotene. Carrots are also super hydrating with their high water volume, and keep you full on fiber which feeds the good guys in your gut. 

Potatoes: The darker your potato, the more nutrients they have. Still, plain old Yukons and Russets have plenty of health benefits, from fiber that keeps you full to a solid dose of vitamin C. These starchy vegetables are an excellent carb choice to round out your meal.

Tomatoes: Cooked and raw tomatoes have different health benefits, but both are important. Raw tomatoes are high in vitamin C, while cooking tomatoes releases some of their very strong antioxidants. Lycopene is one of them, and it’s been shown to drastically increase as tomatoes cook. It’s also been shown to decrease rates of cancer. 

How To Make South African Chicken Potato Stew

Back To The Basics

Start the stew by heating coconut oil in a cast iron (or stainless steel) pot on medium. While it’s heating up, chop the onions. When the oil is warm, brown the chicken on all sides. After removing the chicken, toss the onions in (with more oil if necessary). You may need to deglaze the pan with a little water or sherry first if pieces of chicken are sticking.

While the onions are getting soft, mince the garlic, peel and chop the carrots, and wash the potatoes. If you have large potatoes, cut them into halves. Once the onions are almost starting to caramelize, in goes the garlic for a few seconds. (I’ve ruined dishes by burning garlic, so I’m pretty conservative here with the time.)

Boil It Up

As soon as you smell the garlic (about ten seconds), throw in the potatoes, carrots, browned chicken and a bay leaf or two. Fill the pan about a quarter of the way with water—enough so it won’t evaporate, but not so much that it will make your stew watery. Not everything will be covered by water, but you can stir it periodically so all the potatoes get a little swim. The lid will stay on the pot.

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Simmer Til It’s Done

After about 20-25 minutes you should be able to slide a fork through the potatoes. At this point you can remove the bay leaf and add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper. Tomatoes prevent potatoes from cooking, so make sure your spuds aren’t hard when you do this last step. 

Once everything has simmered for another half hour, it’s ready! Traditionally, it’s served with rice, which is delicious and highly recommended. Pro tip though: this is one of those dishes that is better served the next day. The flavors do extra well marrying in the fridge overnight.

Don’t Forget A Side Of Rice!

In this recipe/investigation, learn how to reduce arsenic in rice (and a little about why it’s there in the first place).

My favorite type of rice for this chicken stew is Indian basmati, but jasmine works great, too!

View How To Reduce Arsenic In Rice Recipe

Love All Things South African?

Finish your stew with a serving of tea and rusks for dessert. Rusks are crunchy, sweet baked goods (similar to biscotti) packed with whole grains and dried fruit.

Dipped in sweet rooibos tea with (almond) milk and sugar? Simply delicious.

View South African Rusk Recipe

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5 from 1 vote

South African Chicken Potato Stew

With a poultry twist on the traditional South African tomato bredie, this chicken potato stew is easy, delicious and highly adaptable. It's suitable for kids and experimental chefs alike. 

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Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 1 hr Total Time 1 hr 10 mins Difficulty: Beginner Servings: 8



  1. Warm the oil in a dutch oven or stainless steel pot on medium heat. When warm, add chicken and brown on all sides. 

  2. While the chicken is browning, chop the onions, mince the garlic, and peel and cut the carrots into coins. If you have Yukon gold potatoes instead of the smaller gold variety, chop them in half (no need to peel). 

  3. Remove chicken from the pot and deglaze if there are any pieces left sticking. You can use a little water or sherry to scrape the pieces off. 

  4. Add extra oil to the pot if necessary, then add the onion. Saute until onions are soft and translucent. 

  5. When the onion is ready, add garlic and stir for about ten seconds to release the fragrance without letting them burn. 

  6. Add the chicken back to the pot, along with carrots, potatoes and bay leaf/leaves, and add water about a quarter of the way up the pot. Everything does not need to be completely covered, as you can come back and stir once or twice. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until you can easily slide a fork through a potato. 

  7. Once the potatoes are ready, remove the bay leaf/leaves and add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. 

  8. Simmer on low for 30 minutes so the sauce has some time to reduce and thicken up. Serve with rice. It's even better after a day in the fridge. 

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