Tswana African Magwinya (South African Doughnuts)

African magwinya recipe

The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  • Total: 30 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Rest: 70 mins
  • Servings: 5 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
126 Calories
5g Fat
20g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 126
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 631mg 27%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Protein 2g
Calcium 2007mg 154%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

To any Tswana-speaking person, magwinya, also known as fat cakes, need no introduction. To the rest of the world, this is what puts a smile on the faces of millions of people in Botswana and South Africa. It is a type of food that reminds people of home, of mama's kitchen or of the auntie (ausi) at the semausu (the corner shop or street vendor stand). For some, this deep-fried South African doughnut is the epitome of childhood nostalgia.

It is not only found in Botswana and South ​Africa, but across most parts of Africa. In Zimbabwe and Malawi, they are called mafatcooks or fetcooks. In West Africa, there is a version known as puff puff in Nigeria or bofrot in Ghana. In Kenya, a version goes by the name mandazi or a variant, mahamri. No matter what you call them, these fried balls are puffy, crispy, and lightly sweet.

The South African township way of eating magwinya is with polony (similar to bologna). In Botswana, the extremely unhealthy combination of magwinya and fried potato chips is a highly craved food for high schoolers. Serve these fresh from the fryer at breakfast, as a sweet snack, or for dessert. They're a fun party food, too.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams all-purpose flour (or cake flour without raising agent)
  • 4 tablespoons/30 grams of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 500 milliliters warm water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus more for deep frying)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Ingredients for African magwinya
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  2. In a clean bowl, mix the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt (if using) together.

    Add dry ingredients
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  3. Add the warm water and vegetable oil and begin to mix into a soft dough.

    Warm water and flour
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  4. Once the dough has been mixed very well, cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise for an hour. There's no need to knead the dough.

    Cover with towel
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  5. After an hour, the dough should have doubled in size. Mix the dough again—this helps to achieve softer dough. After mixing, allow the dough to rest for a further 10 minutes.

    Allow dough to proof
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  6. In the meantime, heat up enough vegetable oil in a pot for deep frying over medium heat.

    Oil in pan
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  7. Scoop out some batter with a large spoon and drop it into the hot oil. Use a second spoon to push the dough into the hot oil if needed. Ensure the oil is being heated under a medium flame to prevent the magwinya from browning too quickly without fully cooking on the inside. Fry the doughnuts until golden brown, turning halfway to ensure even browning.

    Fry magwinya
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  8. Once ready, scoop the magwinya out of the pot and place onto absorbent kitchen paper to drain the excess oil.

    Fry magwinya
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  9. The magwinya can be served alone, but it also goes well with a cup of tea. For extra indulgence, roll it in jam and sugar. Serve immediately and enjoy! 

    Serve magwinya
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada