Cookbook | Ingredients | Recipes | Cuisine of South Africa | Confections


A koeksister is a piece of dough, usually in the shape of a plait, that is deep fried in oil and then dipped in a cold syrup mixture. If you keep your oil hot and the syrup very cold you get the perfect koeksister - crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft, moist and syrupy on the inside. Koeksisters are very rich and are usually served as a special treat or kept for festive occasions. Making koeksisters is time-consuming and labour-intensive (another reason why it is not often made in modern day homes), so plan ahead to set a night and day aside for making this delicious treat. The syrup is made the night before to chill in the refrigerator in two containers. While making the koeksisters one of the containers is kept chilled in the refrigerator, to replace the other container of syrup when it heats up after a few batches of the fried dough have been dipped into the first container of syrup. If the syrup isn't cold the dough won't soak up the syrup and you will end up with a dry koeksister.



  • 1 kg sugar;
  • 500ml (2 cups) water;
  • 3cm long piece of fresh ginger (peeled and bruised) and a few slices of lemon, or;
  • 2-3 sticks of cinnamon;
  • 1ml (pinch) cream of tartar;
  • pinch of salt.

2 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice


  1. Put into a saucepan and bring to boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
  3. Cool the syrup to room temperature.
  4. Divide it into 2 saucepans and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.




  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt.
  2. Rub in butter.
  3. Add buttermilk.
  4. Mix into a soft dough and knead thoroughly. (It helps if you oil your hands lightly when starting to knead the dough.)
  5. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave dough to rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Roll the dough out to a thickness of 5mm and cut into strips 5mm wide and 70mm long (half a cm x 7cm). Press the ends of two or three strips together and twist or plait, press the ends together again. Keep the dough you are not working with covered with a damp cloth.
  7. Deep fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides.
  8. Remove with a slotted spoon and dip the pieces immediately in the ice cold syrup.
  9. Remove and place the koeksisters on a wire rack so that the excess syrup can drain.

Store the koeksisters in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They freeze well and can be served straight from the freezer.

This recipe will yield approx. 3 doz (85g) dainty sized koeksisters - you can make them bigger for a more substantial treat.