How to make koeksisters

Scratch a South African and they bleed syrup. I didn’t make this up – the internet gifted it to me… whoever said it, thank you kindly and if you stumble upon this blog one day, let me know and I will credit your genius.

As a South African, how many koeksisters have you eaten in your lifetime? Tons, right? And if you’re not South African, well, it’s not your fault and you can make up for it by consuming titanic amounts of our favourite treat (and supporting the Springboks).

But first…

Why are koeksisters called koeksisters?

As with many Afrikaans dishes and desserts, the koeksister can be traced back to the Dutch Settlers who arrived in the Cape in 1652. It’s more complicated than some guys arriving on ships and deep frying dough, dipping it in cold syrup and presenting a sticky doughnut thing to the African continent. If you want the full deets, there’s a super interesting explanation of the history of the koeksister informed by an actual legitimate piece of research entitled “Die Geskiedenis van Boerekos 1652-1806”. This canon of Afrikaans cooking also dishes the dirt on the sister in koeksister. Curious? So, the three strands of the traditional koeksister braid reference three traditional Dutch ‘sister cake’ recipes – Groote Zuster (Big Sister), Kleine Zuster (Small Sister) and Kuische Zuster (Chaste Sister) – that, when combined, make up the koeksister recipe South Africans would carve out eyes to consume. Joking. Also not.

The Boerekos history thesis is available online maar dit is net in Afrikaans and because I am English en ek praat die taal nie so goed nie, you might want to verify my facts. But thank you to Thys from Towerwater Aan De Breede for translating.

Now that you’re all clued up on a bit of koeksister backstory, you’ve got to make some.

We found a lekker recipe on YouTube that we tried out for International Week at my kids’ London school (yes, we were the only ones who pitched up in our rugby jerseys, with a vuvuzela, for a food festival #gees) and every single koeksister we made (and there were many) was eaten!

Nadine’s Grandma’s Traditional Koeksister Recipe


  • 6 cups of water
  • 2.5kg sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1tbsp syrup
  •  tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp tartaric acid

Mix sugar and water in a pot on the stove, allow sugar to dissolve on a medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes. It will have a syrupy texture when finished. Allow to cool and place in the fridge over night.

*Nadine’s recipe uses tartaric acid. We couldn’t find any and left it out – and the syrup seemed perfect.


  • 6 cups flour
  • 3tbsp butter
  • 1ml salt
  • 6tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 cups milk

Use hands to mix butter and flour. All the salt, baking powder. Mix milk and eggs separately and then add to dough mixture. Then mix and kneed dough. It will be quite sticky but watch the video to get an idea of consistency. Place in bowl, cover in clingfilm and leave in fridge over night.

*Our dough was a bit sticky so we added more flour to match Nadine’s dough consistency. It helps if you have made dough before. I have not. My husband has. He did this part. I was a good cheerleader though.


Watch Nadine’s video for rolling and plaiting the koeksister dough. Deep fry until golden brown and then place directly into syrup. Once drenched remove and allow excess syrup to drip off.


Top tip: don’t panic about the sugar overload. Just brush your teeth and eat healthy stuff in between.

PostScript: Thanks Nadine for such a cool video and for showing us how to make koeksisters, giving us a taste of home when we are far away.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top