Old-fashioned deep-fried koeksisters, a traditional South African sweet treat

If there was ever a koeksister fanatic, it is my Mother. She has a permanent stock of koeksisters in her freezer (she believes they taste better when kept really cold), and she is on personal terms with all of her suppliers. She likes her koeksisters to be hard and crispy on the outside, and really syrupy on the inside. Me, on the other hand, like koeksisters to be a bit softer, but still very syrupy – nobody likes a dry koeksister!

OK, so for those who are still asking: what the heck are these golden brown plaited stuff? They are a traditional South African deep-fried sweet delicacy: plaited dough, deep-fried to perfection, dropped in lemony sugar syrup while still piping hot, then cooled and eaten chilled at teatime or for dessert. I remember when I was still at school we had a  woman in our neighbourhood, Tannie Doepsie, who made the best koeksisters around. She would keep dozens of bags filled with koeksisters in her chest freezer at home, and you could buy directly from her. My Mom would send us over regularly to buy a few packets at a time, devouring a packet on our way home and saving the rest for tea time.

Obviously we didn’t even think of counting kilojoules back them. These days koeksisters are NOT for the feint hearted, health conscious, or anyone watching their sugar intake. But if you like to indulge every now and then, koeksisters are the ULTIMATE old-fashioned South African treat.

This was my first attempt at making koeksisters. I used a recipe from Sasko’s fantastic little cookbook: “Show your goodness with recipes from Sasko”. Each recipe has step-by-step pictures, making it very easy to follow. The book is available at most book stores in South Africa.

Ingredients for the syrup:

  • 500 ml white sugar
  • 375 ml water
  • 15 ml lemon juice

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 375 ml Sasko Flour
  • 30 ml baking powder
  • 1 ml salt
  • 20 g cold butter
  • 150 ml milk
  • 750 ml cooking oil


  1. Put the sugar and water into a small pot over medium heat. Stir to dissolve.
  2. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 7-8 minutes. Take the pot off the stove and stir in lemon juice. Set aside while you make the dough.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Cut the butter into small blocks and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Pour the milk into the flour mixture. Use a table knife to gently mix the ingredients together to form a dough.
  5. Roll the dough out, cut into narrow strips and plait koeksisters into familiar shapes.
  6. Deep fry the koeksisters on medium heat in batches of 3-4 untill golden brown.
  7. Lift the koeksisters out with a slotted spoon and drop immediately into the lukewarm syrup.
  8. Allow koeksisters to drain on a wire rack. Serve cold. (they keep very well in the freezer)

Tip: Brush the koeksisters with more syrup when they are completely cooled. This way they look very shiny and beautiful when you serve them to your friends!

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  1. My mom also keeps her koeksisters in the freezer and they must be crispy and syrupy, she’s very serious about it! Thanks for the recipe, definitely going to give it a try.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Aliza! Sounds like your Mom and my Mom should get together over a cup of tea. 🙂

  2. Ilse, unfortunately watching my sugar intake for the next 3 weeks, my mouth is watering after this read! my treat after the 3 weeks will definitely be koeksisters with tea! I also like them hard,crispy and cold like your mom…

    1. Oh no Edith, 3 weeks? That’s way too long! But I promise I’ll keep some for you if you come by tomorrow. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Caylee! It was taken this morning, and is completely untouched. Just the way you see it. 🙂

  3. OMGoodness! So happy to have a koeksister recipe!! Miss those good old SA foods living here in the States, so I am definitely going to give these a try! Thanks so much!

    1. It’s my absolute pleasure, Sadie! Enjoy!

  4. And if you have a decent melktert recipe, that would be great!!!

    1. Hi Sadie, I’ve been thinking about doing a melktert recipe for some time now, so it’ll feature soon. I love foamy, fluffy melktert, and if it comes without a crust I’m even happier. Watch this space… 🙂

  5. […] the dreamy milk tart. Being a huge fan of traditional South African dishes, I have written about koeksisters, malva pudding, hertzoggies and peppermint crisp tart. But surely the queen of all traditional SA […]

  6. […] generations in SA. There are hundreds of different recipes available (same with melktert and koeksisters), some even containing soft lard and sweet wine. I found this beautiful recipe many years ago in a […]

  7. […] older generations in SA. There are hundreds of different recipes available (same with melktert and koeksisters), some even containing soft lard and sweet wine. I found this beautiful recipe many years ago in a […]

  8. How do you make them so that they are SOFT & JUICY – really dom’t like the crispy ones?

    1. Hi Tracey, I’ve never made the soft ones, most people prefer the crispy ones! I suppose you’ll have to cook them on a slightly lower temp and see that they cook through but don’t get too dark. Then just leave them in the syrup for a really long time, like maybe overnight. Hopefully they’ll be a lot softer! Good luck and let me know. x

  9. […] were also treated to a surprise local snack, Koeksisters. The fried dough confection gave us a nice sugar rush to start the day and made the beginning of […]

  10. PS. Approximately how many does your recipe make?

    1. Hi Sue, that recipe makes approximately 36 medium size koeksisters!

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