Traditional koeksisters recipe

How to make South African-style doughnuts

These much-loved South African doughnuts have occupied an honorary place at many a tea-time table, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a dessert more distinct to the nation’s Western Cape. Derived from the Dutch word for ‘cookie’(koekje), a good koeksister is crunchy and sticky on the outside, and moist and syrupy in the inside.

Although this koeksister recipe may not be the easiest to master, practise makes perfect…and you can be guaranteed a very delicious series of practise sessions in the least.

Ingredients for koeksisters

For the syrup:

  • 530ml water
  • 800g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2,5tsp cream of tartar
  • 1tsp ginger
  • 1 tblsp lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick

For the dough:

  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 200g corn flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 25g baking powder
  • 1\4 cup sugar
  • 200ml milk
  • 50ml cream
  • 2 eggs


For the Syrup (prepare the syrup the day before for best results)

In a pan, heat up the water. Add the sugar, salt, cream of tartar, ginger, lemon juice and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally. Simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Transfer to the fridge.

For the Dough:

Add the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix them together. Add the milk, butter, eggs and cream, mixing it all together. Knead with your hand for a couple of minutes. Wrap in cling film, and store in the fridge for 30 minutes. Roll out to a 1 cm thickness. Cut into strips thin strips and then short strips. To plait, tuck three strands together at the top. Fold the outer strips over into the middle, repeating until you reach the end and tuck them together.

To Fry:

Heat up half a pot of oil on a low flame. Place the bowl of syrup in a larger bowl of ice to keep it well chilled. Deep fry the koeksisters, don't put too many in at once. When golden, transfer to the syrup using a slotted spoon, draining off as much oil as you can. Leave to soak in the syrup for a while. Transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before eating.


Find more uniquely South African recipes


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