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The Irresistible South African Koeksisters: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making These Delectable Donuts


There's nothing quite like the taste of a deliciously sweet, sticky, and deep-fried treat to satisfy your cravings. Enter the koeksister, a traditional South African donut that has been delighting taste buds for generations. These twisted, syrup-soaked pastries are a beloved dessert in South Africa and a must-try for anyone looking to explore the diverse world of donut variations. In this article, we'll take you through a step-by-step guide on how to make your very own koeksisters at home.


For the dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk

For the syrup:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Oil for frying

Step 1: Prepare the Syrup

The secret to a perfect koeksister is its syrup, which should be prepared in advance. Combine the sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, ground ginger, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and bring the syrup to a boil. Let it boil for 10 minutes before removing from heat. Allow the syrup to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Chilling the syrup is crucial, as it will ensure that the koeksisters soak up the syrup more effectively.

Step 2: Make the Dough

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cold cubed butter to the dry ingredients and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until a soft, pliable dough forms. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Step 3: Shape the Koeksisters

Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm). Using a sharp knife or a pastry cutter, cut the dough into rectangles approximately 3x1 inches (7.5x2.5 cm) in size. Slice each rectangle into three equal strips, leaving one end intact to hold the strips together. Carefully braid the strips, pressing the ends together to seal. Set the braided koeksisters aside on a tray lined with parchment paper.

Step 4: Fry the Koeksisters

Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan to 350°F (180°C). Fry the koeksisters in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook each side for 2-3 minutes, or until they are golden brown and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the koeksisters from the oil and let them drain on paper towels for a few seconds.

Step 5: Soak in Syrup

While the koeksisters are still hot, dip them into the cold syrup, making sure they are fully submerged. Let them soak for a few seconds, then remove them from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place them on a wire rack or a plate to drain off any excess syrup. Be sure to work quickly, as the hot koeksisters will absorb the syrup better. Repeat the frying and soaking process for the remaining dough.

Step 6: Serving and Storing

Koeksisters are best enjoyed fresh, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. You can also freeze them for longer storage. To serve, simply arrange the koeksisters on a platter, allowing your guests to indulge in their irresistible sweetness.


While the traditional koeksister recipe calls for a spiced syrup, there are many variations you can try to suit your taste preferences. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Add a pinch of ground cardamom or nutmeg to the syrup for a unique flavor twist.
  2. Experiment with different citrus zests, such as orange or lime, to give your koeksisters a refreshing tang.
  3. For a chocolatey twist, drizzle melted chocolate over the koeksisters once they've been soaked in syrup and allowed to drain.
  4. Coat the koeksisters in desiccated coconut after soaking them in the syrup for an extra layer of flavor and texture.


The South African koeksister is a delectable treat that offers a unique combination of flavors and textures. With its crispy exterior and soft, syrup-soaked interior, it's no wonder this dessert has become a favorite among sweet-toothed individuals worldwide. By following this step-by-step guide, you can now create your very own koeksisters and share the delightful taste of this South African treasure with friends and family. Happy baking!