Biltong vs Jerky: The Detailed Comparision

Biltong vs Jerky: The Detailed Comparision

In the world of protein-packed snacks, beef biltong and jerky are two meaty contenders. 

Other than the fact that both are derived from meat, there is not much similarity between the two. Both have different histories, preparation methods, nutrients, and taste experiences. 

Biltong, with its origins deeply rooted in South Africa, carries a rich cultural heritage spanning centuries. The traditional method of making biltong involves marinating strips of fresh beef in a blend of vinegar, salt, and spices like coriander, pepper, and paprika, and air-drying them slowly. This process results in a tender texture and a robust flavour profile, reflecting the culture of its birthplace.

Jerky, in contrast, traces its origins to North America, where indigenous tribes pioneered the art of preserving meat through drying and smoking. Modern jerky is typically made by slicing lean cuts of beef, marinating them in a variety of sauces, and then drying them quickly using a low heat and smoking process. This process results in a dried-but-juicy texture and flavour. It’s important to note that this process results in a technically ‘cooked’ state of meat, as opposed to the dry-cured state of biltong.

Before going into detail about the key differences between them, one other thing they are famous for is that they are both loved equality by Brits!

The Difference Between the Ingredients

What Does Beef Jerky Contain?


Like biltong, which is made from very few ingredients, the simplest jerky only contains dried meat. Common ingredients include salt, black pepper, and garlic. Salt is common in all jerky as it serves three purposes: improving flavour, enhancing storage life, and removing moisture. 

One other non-meat ingredient prevalent in beef jerky is potassium sorbate, preservative. Its primary function is inhibiting mould, yeast, and bacteria growth. It extends the shelf life of the jerky and maintains its freshness and quality over time. 

The addition of potassium sorbate to beef jerky not only helps manufacturers meet food safety standards and regulatory requirements but also significantly enhances the product's convenience and shelf stability, providing a reassuring guarantee of quality and safety. 

What Does Beef Biltong Contain?

Biltong contains few ingredients alongside the traditional meat. Biltong is made by marinading strips of beef in vinegar, which is used to cure, tenderise and preserve the meat.

Another important ingredient used to make biltong is salt which is used to draw out moisture and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria acting as a natural preservative. 

In addition to this, biltong can include various spices that are used to season the biltong and enhance the flavour. Some popular flavours include garlic, coriander, nutmeg and black pepper.


Are Both Made From Only Beef?

No, biltong and jerky can both be made from different types of meat. Biltong can be made from different kinds of meat; some South African variations are made from springbok, kudu, and ostrich. Whereas jerky is known in the United States to be made from lamb, beef, and Yak.

The Preperation Method


Biltong is prepared through an air-dying process, which makes its texture tender and enhances the flavour. Jerky is prepared through rapid dehydration through low heat or smoking, which makes it chewier. 

Biltong is commonly marinated with vinegar and simple spices and contains either no or very small amount of added sugar (0-1 gram). Beef jerky contains higher amounts of sugar and preservatives in comparison to the Biltong, normally (2-4 grams). 


Both meat products differ significantly in taste, primarily because of the method of production and the ingredients used. 

Biltong has a rich, meaty flavour. The natural flavour of the beef shines through every last bite, and the spices and seasonings further enhance this flavour. Biltong can also have a tangy flavour compared to jerky because of the vinegar used in the marinated process. The tanginess also balances the richness of the meat. The tender texture—obtained mainly due to marination and the air-dying process—makes it very delightful to bite and chew.

Jerky, on the other hand, provides a more savoury and sometimes sweeter taste. It is also saltier than biltong as it contains more salt than biltong. Like biltong, the flavour can be enhanced by various spices and seasonings. Typical spices used in jerky marinades include black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and chilli powder. 


Nutrients- Which is More Beneficial for the Health?


Both of these dried meat products contain a wealth of health benefits because of their micronutrients.Their nutrition is affected by factors like the cooking process of jerky which breaks down certain amino acids within the proteins. 

Both have high protein density with Biltong typically containing 60% protein and jerky containing 40-50% which makes them excellent sources of protein. Both provide a convenient and portable way to boost protein intake. 


Biltong has less fat content than jerky as it is made from lean cuts and has undergone minimal processing. (Although, in some instances, the fat is retained providing a fatty biltong alternative). Jerky may contains additional oil and fat in its marination process. 

Both are extremely low in carbs, too, which makes them great for low-carb and ketogenic diets.

Biltong is enjoyed as a staple snack in South African homes, where people enjoy making it themselves. It’s common to see biltong machines (wooden boxes with a light, fan and drip tray) in people’s garage, or even kitchens. Everyone has their own seasoning style and drying process. The difference in product between drying for 2, 3, 4 & 5 days is quite astonishing; you could compare it to how you like your steak cooked: Blue, Rare, Medium Rare, Medium, or Well-done.



Sodium is also major difference when it comes to nutritional value. Though both contain salt, jerky contains higher levels of salt and other sodium-containing ingredients such as soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce in its marination process. Individuals with hypertension or those monitoring their sodium intake may prefer biltong for its lower sodium content.

Whichever you decide to enjoy, a product authentically made with natural ingredients and sustainably sourced meat will provide the best quality.

 Biltong and jerky are both beloved, protein-rich snacks with distinct origins, preparation methods, and nutritional profiles. Biltong, hailing from South Africa, is air-dried and marinated in vinegar and simple spices, resulting in a tender texture and rich, tangy flavor. Jerky, originating from North America, is quickly dehydrated using low heat or smoking and often contains more salt and sugar, yielding a chewier, savory taste. Nutritionally, biltong tends to be higher in protein and lower in fat and sodium compared to jerky, making it a slightly healthier option for those mindful of their intake. Both snacks offer a convenient, portable way to boost protein intake, catering to various dietary preferences and cultural tastes.

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