Traditional South African Koeksisters Recipe
A South African koeksisters recipe that shows you how to make traditional braided doughnuts that are sweet and literally oozing in sweet spiced syrup. A favorite sweet treat that you can commonly buy in South Africa, and a special taste of home for ex-pats around the world.
Last week a South African friend shared the below koeksisters recipe on Facebook. Seeing as I was going to a Braai (BBQ) at her house, I decided I would try my hand at making some as a special surprise. I’ve never made Koeksisters before but I’ve tried them at another South African party and loved them. They have a crisp exterior and literally sopping wet with sweet spiced syrup. Pronounced ‘cook-sisters’, these treats are a traditional South African dish that no doubt originates with the first Dutch settlers to the country.
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They were definitely a hit with my friends, as I suspected they would be. When I’d tried them at another function, they were swooped on by the South African ex-pats and I barely got one in time! They’re a nostalgic sweet that I think reminds South Africans of their youth and happy days back home.
Make Koeksisters the day before
This koeksisters recipe isn’t difficult in my opinion but the syrup should be made the day before to give it time to thicken slightly and it needs to be very cold. After that, the rest is a breeze and this recipe will give you about three dozen donuts which are perfect for sharing at any party or gathering. They’re similar but also unlike American-style doughnuts and are truly a sticky, sweet, and deliciously messy experience.
Another thing to be aware of is that it’s easy to roll and cut the dough too thick. The doughnuts bulk up after you braid them together, so be conservative. Thick dough creates thicker doughnuts that may take longer to soak the syrup up, and might not be the right consistency. If you’re not sure about rolling the dough out in the right way, I can also recommend my funnel cake recipe.
South African Koeksisters Recipe
- Large bowls
- Deep frying pan
- Rolling pin
- Pizza cutter
For the koeksister syrup
- 4 cups White sugar 800 g
- 17.9 fl. oz Water 530 ml or 2¼ cup
- 1 TBSP Lemon juice
- 2½ tsp Cream of Tartar
- 1 tsp Ginger Grated or as a knob about that size
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- Pinch fine sea salt 1/8 tsp
For the koeksister dough
- 4 cups Self-raising flour 500 g
- ¼ cup White sugar 50 g
- 3½ TBSP Butter 50 g
- 5½ tsp Baking powder 20 g
- 6.75 fl. oz Milk 200 ml or ¾+⅛ cup
- 1.7 fl. oz Cream 50 ml or ¼ cup
- 2 Eggs
- Pinch fine sea salt 1/8 tsp
- The day before, make the syrup. Heat the water until warm and then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes, stirring to make sure that all the ingredients dissolve. After ten minutes, take the syrup off the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature before placing the syrup in the fridge. Leave the cinnamon stick and ginger floating in the syrup.
- The next day, make the dough. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Then add the butter and either rub it into the dough with your fingers or cut it in with a pastry knife or two knives crisscrossed together.
- Next add the milk, cream, and eggs and mix well. Roll the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.
- Roll the dough out to between a 1/2-1 cm in thickness and then cut into strips about 1cm in width and 6cm in length. Take three of them and press the ends together on one end before plaiting it. When the plait is finished, press the other ends together.
- Heat a pan with about an inch of vegetable oil on low until it starts sizzling when you place a tiny piece of dough in the oil. In the meantime, place your pan of syrup into another pan filled with ice water so as to keep it cold. The syrup needs to be kept very cold from this point on.
- Fry the Koeksisters until golden brown on both sides. Scoop them out of the hot oil with a slotted spoon and transfer them immediately into the syrup and let them sit there as long as you can. Keep frying the Koeksisters and once you've run out of room in the pan take out the ones that have soaked the longest and place them on a wire rack to cool.
- The Koeksisters should literally be oozing with syrup, inside and out. Once all your donuts are made, eat them immediately or refrigerate them until needed. Enjoy!
I made the syrup last night! This afternoon I will complete the recipe and take them to book club. The book we are reading is an autobiography about a South African, so this recipe is perfect. Thank you
Thank you so much for posting this recipe!!! I was blessed to have lived in South Africa when I was in primary school. I had been talking to my husband about things I remembered and missed…this was one of them. It has been over forty years since I was there. Thank you again. I can not wait to make these for my family.
You’re so welcome Bonnie :) I hope they’re as good as you remember!
@lovelygreens, can you eat the cold
I think you’re asking if you can eat them cold? They’re meant to be eaten cold :)
What type of ginger did you use?
Fresh or ground?
I used fresh ginger for this recipe
Thanks for the recipe! Going to try making them for the first time :)
Sounds easy – thanks. I've never eaten a koeksuster – maybe my first taste should be of a homemade one ;)