South African Haddock – We’ve All Been Duped

South African Haddock
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When I offer South African recipes, I usually try not to offer too long of a story. After all, you’re not here for the story – you’re here for the recipe. However, with South African Haddock, I have to add my five cents.

I personally love the Haddock I grew up with in South Africa. When I left, I tried to find it in the USA. I searched high and low. I went from fish store to fish store, but the Haddock they offered did not look at all like the Haddock in South Africa.

My search didn’t end there. I researched online.

Same story. It did not look at all like what we have come to know and love in South Africa.

It’s white, not orange!

Steamed Haddock
In fact, the Haddock the world knows is not the same version South Africans know.

Turns out – South Africans have been duped!

The fact of the matter is, South African Haddock is actually Hake that has been colored (orange) and smoked! In fact, it says so on the box! This is a clear case of “what the big print giveth” (Prime Haddock Steaks), “the small print taketh away (wood-smoked folded hake steaks).

South African Haddock

According to Sea Harvest, (a producer of South African Haddock,)

The fish specie Haddock (Melanogrammus aegle nus) is caught in the North Atlantic Ocean and found in European and American homes. “Haddock” in South Africa, however, is a traditional name for naturally dyed, brined and smoked Cape Hake!

South African ex-pats, the point of this rant is that you’ll never be able to find the Haddock that you know anywhere but South Africa. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can make it yourself.

It does take time (because you have to brine your fish, which is easy), and you do need to invest in a smoker to smoke it for several hours.

South African Haddock

Prep Time: 15mins | Smoke Time: 4-8hrs | Servings: 12 | Difficulty: Easy


  • 6 lbs White Fish fillets (your favorite white fish will do)
  • Orange food coloring (Optional. (We don’t add it. If you choose to use it, pour a few drops of food coloring into half cup of water. The more food coloring you add, the deeper your orange color will be. Use a food brush to brush the color onto the top of the fish. ))


  • 1 cup Salt
  • 1 gallon Water
  • 1/4 cup Brown sugar (Optional (add it if you like a sweet taste to your fish. We never add it.))
How to prep and smoke your fish
  1. Mix the water, salt (and brown sugar, if you’re using it) into a bucket or large jar. Make sure the ingredients are completely dissolved. (I usually pour the salt in first. As I pour the water, I twirl my hand around in the bucket to dissolve the water.)

  2. Add the fish to the brine.

  3. Cover it and let it brine in your refrigerator for approximately 12 hours.

  4. Once brined, remove the white fish fillets and pat it dry as best as you can.

  5. Prepare your smoker. (We usually use apple wood in our smoker, but you can use any kind of wood you like.)

  6. Place your brined, white fish fillets into the smoker and allow it to smoke for 4-8 hours. The thinner your fillets, the less time it will need to smoke.

    I realize 4-8 hours is a big difference in time. However, because I don’t know what fish you will be using, I cannot know how long you will need to smoke it. We used Tilapia once at it was done in 4 hours. If we use thicker white fish, it takes longer.

    Check your fish sporadically. If it’s flaky, it’s ready.

  7. Once your fish is flaky, it is cooked and ready to be eaten. Enjoy

Why we love this recipe

The fish tastes great! It takes me right back to South Africa.

However, because we never use orange food coloring, our Haddock never looks the same as the South African version. Truthfully, it looks kind of bland. I suspect this bland look is precisely why they started putting the food coloring on South African Haddock in the first place. 

In the recipe, I said that we used Tilapia once. However, Tilapia is on the thin side and if you’re trying to get the true South African Haddock experience, I would not recommend Tilapia. Instead, I’d go for a thicker white fish like Cod. 

Is the cost of a smoker worth it?

If you love Haddock and you plan to eat it regularly, I think it’s worth the cost.

You can get a smoker for as little as $99, or as much as $300. Yes, I too cringed at the initial cost but I reminded myself that it’s a one time expense and that by making this purchase, we could have our own smoked fish for years to come.

We went ahead and invested in a smoker. Since we had it, we tried smoking other things in it too! We smoke chicken, bacon, burgers, steak! One year my husband had the bright idea to smoke our Thanksgiving turkey in the smoker, and now we have a smoked turkey every year!

So yes, I think it was well worth it.




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About The Author

Hi. We’re the Chelten’s. We visit South Africa 1-2 times per year, so we want to share our experiences with you so that you may make educated decisions when you plan your next trip to the rainbow nation.

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