traditional koeksisters

Traditional koeksisters: Delightful bite for the sweet tooth. Image: Adobe

Traditional koeksisters: Syrupy South African sweet treat

Enjoy a burst of sweetness exploding in your mouth as you bite through these traditional koeksisters. This recipe is worth a try.

traditional koeksisters

Traditional koeksisters: Delightful bite for the sweet tooth. Image: Adobe

Every South African knows the intoxicating sweetness of traditional koeksisters. These fried dough delights infused with a heavenly sweet syrup are a firm favourite among South Africans.

In a nutshell, how do you make koeksisters? Deep-fry the braided dough in oil, then dip them into an ice-cold sugar syrup. Did you know that In South Africa, we have two kinds of koeksisters? We have the Afrikaner koeksister which is the one most of us know and then also the Cape Malay version. The Cape Malay koeksister is a ball of fried dough rolled in desiccated coconut. Both versions are delicious but this recipe focuses on the first one.

The secret to getting your traditional koeksisters perfectly crunchy on the outside with a burst of sweetness when you bite it is that they should be dipped in the ice-cold syrup immediately after frying. It is very important to keep the syrup ice-cold, so have a look at our tips below to ensure that your traditional koeksisters come out perfectly.

Traditional koeksisters recipe

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Lichelle Hawthorne Course: DessertCuisine: South AfricanDifficulty: Easy
Prep time


Cooking time


Total time




  • Syrup
  • 1 kg 1 sugar

  • cups water

  • 1 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 piece 1 ginger peeled and sliced

  • juice and zest of one lemon

  • Dough
  • 2 cups 2 cake flour

  • 2 tablespoons 2 baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon ½ salt

  • 1 large 1 egg lightly beaten

  • 4 tablespoons 4 butter/margarine

  • ½ cup ½ buttermilk, milk or water

  • oil for frying


  • Syrup
  • Over low heat, dissolve the sugar in the water, stirring frequently.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture to a boil, then add cinnamon, ginger, lemon juice and zest.
    Reduce the temperature and simmer the syrup for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from stove and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. Refrigerate, preferably overnight.
  • Dough
  • Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together.
  • Rub in the butter to create a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Mix in the egg, then add the milk a little at a time until the dough comes together. Add more flour if the dough feels too sticky.
  • Knead the dough until smooth.
  • Rest in a bowl covered with clingfilm at room temperature for 2 hours.
  • Twisting the koeksisters
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 5 mm.
  • Cut the dough into 2 cm x 10 cm strips.
  • Cut each strip in half through the length, keeping one end intact. Twist the two strips around each other and then pinch the ends together.
  • Keep the dough covered with a damp towel to prevent it from drying out.
  • Fry the koeksisters
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry until golden brown, turning them halfway.
  • Drain the koeksisters on kitchen paper for a few seconds and immediately dunk them into the cold syrup.
  • Remove and transfer to a rack to cool and dry for an hour before serving.


  • Split the syrup into two containers, that way the other half stays cold in the fridge. Or put the container with syrup in a bowl with ice when you dip the koeksisters.
  • Experiment by adding orange or naartjie zest and juice to the syrup when heating.

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