Koeksisters are twisted plaits of golden dough soaked in thick syrup until translucent. Tasting of honey they are as traditionally South African as melktert, biltong, bredie, and bobotie, even though they originated centuries ago from Batavia in the East. There are two versions – the Afrikaner version and the Cape Malay version.

The Afrikaner version is syrupy, crispy and shaped like a short, fat plait and is the type usually found at retail outlets.


The Cape Malay version is spongier, plumper and spicier than the Afrikaner version – and never plaited – sometimes made with the addition of cooked potato and covered in dessicated coconut after soaking in syrup. Bollas are similar to koeksisters but are not twisted or plaited, nor are they rolled in coconut or sugar.

Koeksister dough is divided into strips with a special koeksister cutter. It’s then plaited and deep-fried. To finish, it is plunged straight from the hot oil into an icy cold sugar syrup. 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 is usually served as a special treat or kept for festive occasions. Making koeksisters is time-consuming and labour-intensive, 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.


Category: South African Cuisine

Subcategory: Confectionary