Koeksisters: the delicious recipe for traditional South African doughnuts

Total time: 150 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 6 people
By Cookist
for the spicy syrup
Granulated sugar
2 cups
Cream of tartar
1 1/4 tsp
chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp
juice from half lemon
cinnamon stick
1 cup
for the dough
1 cup
All-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups
Baking powder
2 1/2 tsp
3/4 tsp
2 tbsp
1/2 cup
Large egg
butter, melted
25 g
oil for deep frying

Koeksisters are one of the most popular pastries in South Africa, thanks to their irresistible cinnamon, lemon, and ginger flavor and sticky but crunchy texture. These easy-to-make doughnuts are soaked in a sticky sweet syrup, and they're a much-loved treat at breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

Pronounced “cook sisters,” koeksisters are a wonderful treat that requires little effort to make and are ideal when you want to make a flavorful, zesty, indulgent sweet that will put a smile on everyone's face.

Tips for Making Traditional Koeksisters

Use a sharp knife to cut the dough.

If desired, you can add vanilla or orange extract to the syrup.

To make dairy-free koeksisters, use plant-based milk. Vanilla-flavored soy or almond milk would be delicious options and add a little more flavor.

Use a thermometer to know when the oil is at the right temperature to fry your koeksisters. About 350F is ideal.

Fry the koeksisters in batches – you don't want to overcrowd the pot, otherwise, they won't fry properly.

Keep the syrup as cold as possible. This will keep the koeksisters crispy on the outside and soft and syrupy on the inside.

How to Store South African Koeksisters

Place koeksisters in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

How to Make Koeksisters

To make the syrup, pour the lemon juice, sugar, salt, ginger, cream of tartar, and cinnamon stick into a saucepan. Let the mixture come to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, making sure to stir periodically. Remove from the heat, then place in the fridge.

Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add in the milk, eggs, and butter. Knead to combine, then cover and leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to about 1-inch thickness. Cut it into long thin strips. Take three of the strips and braid them, then pinch the end to seal.

Pour 3 inches of oil into a deep pot. Once the oil is hot, lay the koeksisters in the pot. Fry for a few minutes, until golden brown, then flip and cook for a few more minutes.

Remove the koeksisters from the oil and place them on a kitchen towel to drain, then place them into the syrup. Let them soak in the syrup, then put the koeksisters in the fridge to cool before serving.


Use a neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point like canola oil, grapeseed oil, or sunflower oil.

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