Biltong vs. Beef Jerky: What's the Difference?

Biltong vs. Beef Jerky: What's the Difference?

When it comes to dried and seasoned meats, biltong and beef jerky often dominate the conversation. These two savory snacks share similarities, yet they possess distinct characteristics that set them apart. In this article, we'll explore the key differences between biltong and beef jerky, shedding light on their preparation methods, flavors, textures, and ingredients. 

texas biltong beef  jerky

Origins and Preparation Methods 

Biltong: Originating from South Africa, biltong boasts a rich history. Traditionally, biltong is made by air-drying whole cuts of beef or game meats, such as venison or ostrich. The meat is marinated in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and spices like coriander, pepper, and paprika. After marinating, the meat is air-dried in a well-ventilated space until it reaches the desired texture and flavor.

Beef Jerky: While biltong hails from South Africa, beef jerky has its roots in North America. Beef jerky is typically made by thinly slicing lean cuts of beef, removing fat and connective tissues. The slices are then marinated in a mixture of salt, sugar, spices, and often, liquid smoke for added flavor. The meat is then dehydrated through various methods like smoking, baking, or air-drying.


Flavor Profiles 

Biltong: The flavor of biltong is distinct and complex. The combination of vinegar, salt, and spices gives it a tangy and slightly acidic taste. The spices, often including coriander, pepper, and paprika, contribute to a unique savory and aromatic flavor profile. Biltong tends to have a more pronounced meaty taste due to the longer marinating and drying process.
Beef Jerky:

Beef jerky offers a wide range of flavor profiles, depending on the seasonings and marinades used. It can range from sweet and smoky to spicy and savory. Common flavors include teriyaki, barbecue, peppered, or even exotic options like sriracha or maple bacon. The flavor of beef jerky tends to be more intense and concentrated, with a strong emphasis on the seasoning blend.


Texture and Appearance 

Biltong: Biltong is known for its unique texture. It is typically sliced into thicker strips or chunks, resulting in a more substantial and chewy bite. The drying process gives biltong a firm yet tender texture, with a slightly fibrous quality. The exterior of biltong often has a dark, dry, and wrinkled appearance, while the inside remains moist and succulent.

Beef Jerky: In contrast, beef jerky is thinly sliced into strips, resulting in a thinner and drier texture. The dehydration process removes most of the moisture, making it chewier and more brittle. Beef jerky tends to have a smoother and more uniform appearance, with a leathery texture throughout.


Ingredients and Preservatives 

Biltong: Traditional biltong recipes rely on minimal ingredients. Vinegar, salt, and a blend of spices are the primary components, with no added sugars or preservatives. The simplicity of the ingredients allows for a purer taste and a healthier snack option.

Beef Jerky: Commercially produced beef jerky often includes additional ingredients such as sugars, artificial flavors, and preservatives to enhance taste, texture, and shelf life. While some brands offer all-natural and preservative-free options, it's essential to read labels carefully if you prefer a more wholesome choice.



In the world of dried and seasoned meats, biltong and beef jerky stand out as beloved snacks with their own unique characteristics. While both offer a convenient and protein-packed option, they differ in their origins, preparation methods, flavors, textures, and ingredient profiles. Whether you prefer the tangy and robust biltong or the intense and varied flavors of beef jerky, there's no denying the pleasure of indulging in these delicious dried meat treats.


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