Objective To explore if and how female adolescents engage in shared eating and joint food choices with best friends within the context of living in urban Soweto, South Africa. Design A qualitative, exploratory, multiple case study was conducted using semi-structured duo interviews of best friend pairs to ascertain their eating patterns, friendship and social interactions around dietary habits. Setting Participants were recruited from three high schools in the urban township of Soweto, South Africa. Subjects Fifty-eight female adolescents (twenty-nine friend pairs) still in high school (mean age of 18 years) were enrolled. Results Although overweight rates were high, no association between friends was found; neither did friends share dieting behaviours. Both at school and during visits to the shopping mall, foods were commonly shared and money pooled together by friends to make joint purchases. Some friends carefully planned expenditures together. Foods often bought at school were mostly unhealthy. Availability, price and quality were reported to affect choice of foods purchased at school. Preference shaped joint choices within the shopping mall environment. Conclusions Food sharing practices should be investigated in other settings so as to identify specific behaviours and contexts for targeted and tailored obesity prevention interventions. School-based interventions focusing on price and portion size should be considered. In the Sowetan context, larger portions of healthy food may improve dietary intake of fruit and vegetables where friends are likely to share portions. © 2012 The Authors.