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Koeksisters – Traditional South African style

By July 23, 2021December 20th, 2022FinGlobal

Koeksisters – Traditional South African style

July 23, 2021


If you’re looking to amaze your guests with a delicacy dipped in South African heritage, then traditional South African koeksisters are your wow factor! But, before we entice you to make these delectable crispy pastry plaits, let’s quickly take a look at the origins!

If you don’t already know; koeksister’s (pronounced ‘cook-sisters’) literal translation is ‘cake sizzler’ – probably because of the sizzling sound it makes when you fry them. Koeksisters have become a staple in the homes of many South Africans and make the perfect snack for tea-time. A koeksister’s doughnut-like treat is sticky, sweet, and crispy. It’s soaked in syrup and then laced with lemon, ginger, and cinnamon. Yummy!

The koeksister’s journey starts where one might not think. Rumour has it that Dutch settlers brought two recipes to the Cape. One was for a sweet pasta dough shaped like a bowtie, and the other recipe was for a deep-fried treat that resembled a doughnut. Eventually, someone decided to combine both recipes. From the doughnut recipe, instead of creating small balls, the dough was braided. Then a question arose: What should we call it? It had a couple of uncommon names until the 18th century where its name had officially changed to ‘koeksusters.’ By the time we hit the 20th century, the name changed again to ‘koeksisters.’ This is the name by which we go. Complex history, agreed?

The koeksister’s rich history, paired with its difficulty, is what makes this delicacy so unique. We must caution you, though. These treats are not the easiest to perfect, so here’s a foolproof recipe to make sure you succeed.



How do you make koeksisters?

For that unforgettable experience, you may want to make your syrup in advance and let it chill overnight. Why? Drenching hot, fried koeksisters in syrup that’s ice-cold allows for better absorption of the syrup. Here’s what you’ll need.




Ingredients for syrup

  • 4 cups (1 litre) of white sugar
  • 2½ cups (625ml) of water
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) lemon juice
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One (2,5cm) piece fresh root ginger
  • ½ tsp (2,5ml) cream of tartar


Ingredients for dough

  • 4 cups (500g) cake flour
  • 4 tsp (20ml) baking powder
  • Two eggs
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) sugar
  • ½ tsp (2.5ml) salt
  • ½ cup (125ml) milk
  • ½ cup (125ml) water
  • ¼ cup (60ml) unsalted butter (cut into chunks)
  • Oil for frying (use canola or sunflower oil)


What to do

  • For the syrup: put all the ingredients into a saucepan and stir over moderate heat, just until the sugar has melted. Now it’s time to bring it to a boil. After boiling for 1 minute, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. 
  • Once the syrup has cooled, put it in the fridge and leave to chill overnight – this will ensure the syrup is ice-cold.
  • For the dough: Combine all dry ingredients and rub the butter into them until your mixture looks a lot like coarse crumbs.
  • Beat together the milk and the eggs. Now, add these to the dry ingredients. Use a fork to mix the ingredients while simultaneously adding the water – just enough until the mixture becomes a soft dough (almost like a scone dough mixture).
  • Time to turn out your dough onto a floured surface – so that it doesn’t stick. Knead the dough gently for about 2-3 minutes until it’s smooth. Now it’s time to prove; put it back in the bowl and cover it, giving it time to chill for about 30 minutes or up to 5 hours.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a rectangular shape – your dough should be about 0.5cm thick. Cut it lengthways into strips (4cm wide) and then crossways into rectangles (8cm long).
  • Keep about 1cm at the top of each rectangle strip intact – cut into three strips as these will be braided. Loosely plait the strips to allow the dough to rise when frying. Seal the cut ends neatly by pressing them down. Plait the strips (as you would hair), set them aside on a tray, and cover them with a damp cloth.
  • Take the syrup you left in the fridge overnight and pour it out into two bowls – you’ll use the first bowl for the first lot of fried koeksisters, and since the syrup will get warm from all that dunking, you’re going to need a second bowl. Put the first bowl back in the freezer to cool again. 
  • Using a saucepan, pour enough oil until it reaches up the pan’s sides (5cm). The oil should be heated moderately (about 170 º C). Deep-fry a few of the koeksisters until they are golden brown on both sides. Using a slotted spoon, lift the koeksisters out and quickly dunk into the cold syrup – pressing down for about 30 seconds, allowing the syrup to be absorbed fully. Using a set of tongs or a fork, lift the koeksisters out. Be careful not to use the same implements in the syrup and oil.
  • Allow the syrup to drain off by placing the dipped koeksisters on a cooling rack – place the cooling rack over a tray or plate so that excess syrup can be caught and used again if needed.
  • Repeat this process until all koeksisters have been deep-fried and dipped.


Serving suggestion:

Now, it’s time to wow your guests with an unforgettable experience, and most importantly, leave them with a taste so divine, they’ll be begging you for more! Serve on a Sunday afternoon with a steaming cup of tea or coffee. Delicious!




FinGlobal’s Services Change with the Times, Just Like the Koeksister

What the team at FinGlobal loves about the koeksister is that it first started out as something far more humble and merely grew and changed over time to become what we know it as today. That’s dynamic versatility for you, and it’s something we believe in at FinGlobal.

As a young (and we mean ten years young) team, we believe that our services need to change and expand with the times. There’s nothing outdated and antiquated at FinGlobal. Our team is always learning and exploring latest laws, regulations, and legislation to ensure that we can offer you the best possible advice and assistance and never lag behind the law. If there’s a change you need to be aware of, we will be the first to let you know.

That said, we have been working as a team for a decade and gathered a great reputation for providing premier services to SA expats across the globe. We want nothing more than to assist you with your tax and financial emigration, FOREX, and even your retirement annuity withdrawal from abroad too. Whatever your expat services needs are, we’re ready and willing to assist. All that’s left to do, well, make up a batch of delicious koeksisters, and then reach out to us for more emigration-related info. You can give us a call on 028 312 2764 or send us an email at


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