Braaibroodjies are the South African version of grilled cheese sandwiches. These golden brown sandwiches with gooey melted cheese, sliced tomato and onions are a traditional side dish for any South African barbecue, or braai.
Braaibroodjies are toasted sandwiches grilled on the ‘braai’, which is a South African (Afrikaans) word for barbecue. However, South African braaibroodjies are not just another grilled sandwich that you have as a quick lunch. They are an integral part of the whole South African braai culture. In fact, it is one of those iconic South African foods that is usually served as a side dish on a lot of South African braais.
Ingredients for grilled cheese sandwich, South Africa style
This barbecue grilled sandwich can be made with either white or brown bread, however, traditionally white bread is used. The rest of the ingredients are simple; cheese, tomato and onion. Use a nice melting cheese, like cheddar or Emmental to make the inside gooey and creamy when you bite in to it.
There is one thing that makes a South African braaibroodjie so different for me and that is the addition of some fruit chutney or apricot jam spread on the inside of the bread to give it a nice hint of sweetness. In South Africa, most people will use the brand ‘Mrs. Balls Chutney’, which is made from dried peaches and apricots, but it’s not always easy to find elsewhere. As an alternative, you can use apricot jam, which is what I have done in Europe and it tastes just as good.
How to make grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches
Note: All the exact quantities of the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Take the slices of bread, butter one side and flip them over with the buttered side downward. Spread the apricot jam on the other side of the slices. Take the tomato and onion and thinly slice them in rings. Layer half of the bread slices with the tomato and onion rings then cover with the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper and put the other half of bread on top of it with the buttered side on the outside.
Now they are ready to place on the grill. When having a barbeque with charcoal, cook the sandwiches last on the grill when the coals aren’t too hot any more or they will be cremated. If using a gas grill, turn it down to its lowest possible temperature setting. You can either place the sandwiches straight on the grill or put them in a closed hinged grid which makes them easier to handle. In order not to burn the sandwiches they need to be turned regularly so both sides are nice and toasted but not burnt to a black crisp. Otherwise use 2 wide metal spatulas to get a better grip on the sandwiches so they don’t break apart. You don’t want to have to dig for your tomatoes and melted cheese fillings in the coals. Grill the braaibroodjies until each side is golden brown and the cheese is melted and creamy.
How to serve South African braaibroodjies?
Braaibroodjies or grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches are usually served as a side dish with a South African braai or barbecue. Since it’s a side dish, count on one cheese sandwich per person. Serve it alongside the grilled meat or fish and together with some other barbecue side dishes, salads and dips like:
Braaibroodjies – Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato
- 8 slices white bread
- 2 tomatoes thinly sliced
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 125 g (1 cups or 4½ ounces) grated cheese Emmental or Cheddar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons apricot jam
- freshly ground pepper
- Lay out the 8 slices of bread and spread butter on one side of each slice. Flip the slices over with the buttered side downwards. Spread the apricot jam or fruit chutney on the non buttered side.
- Thinly slice the tomato and onion. Layer the tomato and onion rings on 4 of the bread slices. Cover well with the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. Cover with the remaining 4 slices of bread, buttered side facing out.
- Carefully place the sandwiches on the grill over medium to low heat coals or gas flame. They should be ready in a few short minutes when the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Turn them over regularly to avoid burning the sandwiches to a blackened crisp.
- Traditional South African braaibroodjies can either be made with apricot jam or Mrs. Balls Chutney (South African chutney made from dried peaches and apricots).
- When turning the sandwiches on the grill make sure they don’t fall apart. The best way to avoid this is to use a closed hinged grid so as to make it easy to turn them. Or place them directly on a standard grill and use a wide metal spatula to turn them carefully. Turn frequently to avoid burning. How quickly has your kitchen toaster burnt your bread?
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