Tswana African Magwinya (South African Doughnuts)

African magwinya recipe

The Spruce / Julia Estrada

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 24 mins
Rest Time: 70 mins
Total: 114 mins
Servings: 9 to 12 servings
Yield: 18 to 24 doughnuts
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
290 Calories
14g Fat
36g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 9 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 290
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 18%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 3mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 8mg 1%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 51mg 1%
*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) sugar

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, optional

  • 500 millimeters warm water

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for deep-frying

  • Jam and sugar, for rolling, optional

  • Tea, for serving, optional

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.

    Combine dry and wet ingredients
    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. Note: This dough won't be kneaded.

    Cover with towel and let rise
    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.

    Scraping off dough from a spoon to fry
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  8. Once ready, scoop the magwinya out of the pot and place them onto absorbent paper towels to drain the excess oil.

    Scooping fried magwinya out of the pot
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada
  9. The magwinya can be served alone, but they also go well with a cup of tea. For extra indulgence, roll them in jam and sugar. Serve immediately and enjoy. 

    Magwinya are rolled in jam and dusted with sugar
    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

Tips

  • If you have a deep-frying thermometer, try to keep the oil around 350 F to 360 F.
  • Fry magwinya for about six to seven minutes to ensure they are done in the middle. They should be deep golden brown.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Refrigerate the doughnuts—not sugared—in an airtight container or zip-close bag for up to four days.
  • To freeze, transfer the plain doughnuts to a zip-close freezer bag or airtight container; freeze for up to three months.
  • Heat leftover cold doughnuts for about 10 to 15 seconds in the microwave. If frozen, heat in the microwave for about 20 to 25 seconds.