Tswana African Magwinya

Magwinya Doughnuts on Table
Magwinya/Doughnuts on Table. Vladimir Nykl
  • Total: 90 mins
  • Prep: 80 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Yield: makes 5 to 6 (5 to 6 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
126 Calories
5g Fat
20g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: makes 5 to 6 (5 to 6 servings)
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, this food needs 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 is the epitome of childhood nostagia, the fat cake, vetkoek or deep fried doughnut known as magwinya or amagwinya.

It is not only found in Botswana and South ​Africa, but across most parts of Africa. In Zimbabwe they are called mafatcooks or fetcooks, which is just another variation of vetkoek. They are also known by the same name in parts of Malawi, or as mandasi. In West Africa, there is a version known as puff puff in Nigeria or bofrot in Ghana. As children, my own mother used to make us loads of nutmeg-spiced non yeast doughnut balls. In Kenya, a version goes by the name mandazi or a variant, mahamri. With the addition of fragrant spices ubiquitous to East African cuisine, such as cardamom into mahamri, these two doughnuts are incomparably different.

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.


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

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

  2. In a clean bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.

  3. Add the warm water and vegetable oil and begin to mix into a soft dough.

  4. Once the dough has been mixed very well, cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise for an hour. (You will note that no kneading is required for this dough in comparison to the vetkoek, this dough is much moister and softer.)

  5. After an hour, the dough will have doubled in size. Proceed to mix it again, this helps to achieve softer dough. After mixing allow to rest for a further 10 minutes.

  6. In the meantime, heat up enough vegetable oil in a pot for deep frying.

  7. Scoop out some batter with a large spoon and drop it into the hot oil. Ensure the oil is being heated under a medium flame to prevent the magwinya from browning too quickly without fully cooking on the inside. (Use a second spoon to push the dough into the hot oil if it helps.) Fry the magwinya until golden brown, ensure that you turn them over to ensure even browning.

  8. Once ready, scoop the magwinya out of the pot and place onto absorbent kitchen paper for draining away the excess oil.

  9. Serve the magwinya as they are or with a cup of tea

  10. Enjoy!