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The Difference Between Vetkoek and Koeksisters (If any)

4th March 2021 tagged koeksisters, readymade, recipes, vetkoek, vetkoek dough

The difference between Koeksisters and Vetkoek

A couple of weeks ago, when trying out our latest edition- The ready, handmade Vetkoek, I was asked by a British friend of mine what the difference between ‘Vetkoek’ and ‘Koeksisters’ was. The question caught me off-guard. I consider myself a proud South African, and I was not sure how to answer the question.

I immediately thought that many people probably wonder the same thing.

So, what is the difference? Let me tell you, not a hell of a lot!

Let’s start with the similarities then.

You can thank the Dutch settlers who arrived in the Cape in the 17th Century for the delicious delicacy’s we enjoy today. The original settlers preferred to deep fry the dough balls as a way of keeping them for longer as opposed to traditional bread. They both contain the word ‘Koek’ which means cake in Afrikaans. We could argue that these do not taste or look like cakes.

Vetkoek and Koeksisters both contain flour, salt, water and some sort of raising agent (baking powder for the koeksister and yeast for the Vetkoek)

Vetkoek and Koeksisters both need to stand for some time before deep frying them, allowing time to rise and rest. However, the difference is that the standing time of the koeksisters is much longer than the Vetkoek and the koeksisters require extra time to make the beautifully rich syrup which also needs to be refrigerated overnight.

Another difference between these two delicious Voortrekker treats is the shape.  Koeksisters are plaited where Vetkoek is rolled up into dough balls. They are both deep fried however, Koeksisters are immediately dipped in ice cold sugar syrup and left to cool. This allows the dough to soak up the syrup. The Vetkoek is either left to cool or can be eaten warm.

Of course they taste different too and the texture is slightly different. Koeksisters have more of a crunch and sweet flavour. The Vetkoek has more of a savoury taste and more of a bread texture.

Koeksisters are a sweet treat and Vetkoek can be either. You can have Vetkoek smothered in jam, butter, syrup or it can be eaten with mince as a full-blown main course.

Below are the recipes for just in case you were tempted to try!



For the dough:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 25 g butter , chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

For the sugar syrup:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 ginger (3/4 each) fresh
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Step 1:

Combine sugar, water, ginger, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in a saucepan; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Cool syrup to room temperature, transfer to a container, and refrigerate until flavours blend, 8 hours to overnight.

Step 2:

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until mixture has a cornmeal texture. Add the milk; mix until a smooth dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 2 hours.

Step 3:

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 5×14-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into twenty-eight 1/2-inch wide strips. Twist pairs of strips together and pinch the ends together. Repeat for all the strips. Cover strips with a clean cloth and let rest for 15 minutes.

Step 4:

Heat about 2-inches of oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place a wire rack over a baking sheet.


Pour some of the cold syrup into a bowl and return remaining syrup to the refrigerator.

Step 6:

Working in batches, fry koeksister twists in hot oil until twists swell and are golden brown, 2 to 5 minutes. Remove koeksisters from hot oil with a slotted spoon and immediately immerse in cold syrup for 10 seconds. Transfer soaked koeksisters to prepared wire rack to cool. Replenish cold syrup, as necessary.



  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups oil for frying

Step 1:

Mix lukewarm water, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Let stand until yeast softens and begins to bubble slightly, about 5 minutes.

Step 2:

Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl.

Step 3:

Pour water mixture over flour mixture and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Cover bowl with clean cloth and let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Step 4:

Pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a tennis ball; roll until smooth. Flatten ball of dough until it is the size of palm; set aside on a floured work surface. Repeat with remaining dough.

Step 5:

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 175 degrees C.

Step 6:

Fry flattened pieces of dough in the hot oil, 2 to 3 pieces at a time, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.