Making Magwinya (Fat Cakes)

African magwinya recipe

The Spruce / Julia Estrada

Magwinya, a national favorite from Botswana and South Africa, is a type of deep fried doughnut. This unique South African fried bread is thought to have Dutch origins and is similar to vetkoek, a fat cake. The main difference between magwinya and vetkoek is that the former is often sweeter, lighter, and moister. Vetkoek also tend to be cut open and stuffed with cheese, mince, or jam and served with side items like fish.

Magwinya is referred to as township food in South Africa. In Botswana, the best fat cakes are bought from street vendors who make them fresh and sell them with fried chips. Although it's not exactly the healthiest snack, it is very popular. A classic magwinya recipe involves six simple ingredients: flour, sugar, yeast, salt, oil, and water. In nine steps, you can make this delicious treat at home with little effort.

  • 01 of 09

    Sift Flour

    Ingredients for African magwinya

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    To get started on your magwinya, first measure 500 grams of plain flour (approximately 4 cups). Then, simply sift the flour into a bowl.

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  • 02 of 09

    Add Dry Ingredients

    Add dry ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    After you've sifted your flour into a bowl, add the remaining dry ingredients:

    • Half a teaspoon of salt
    • 2 teaspoons of instant yeast
    • 4 tablespoons of sugar

    Then, mix all of the dry ingredients together.

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  • 03 of 09

    Pour Warm Water

    Warm water and flour

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    Pour warm water to the dry ingredients gradually. Lukewarm water will create soft dough that doesn't run.

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  • 04 of 09

    Mix the Dough

    Cover with towel

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    After you've added the water, start mixing the dough with a wooden spoon. This mixture will form a wet and sticky dough, so no kneading is required.

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  • 05 of 09

    Allow the Dough to Proof

    Allow dough to proof

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    Once the dough is mixed thoroughly (about 5 minutes), cover the dish with a damp cloth and allow it to rise for about one hour in a warm area. After 60 minutes, the dough is expected to double in size.

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  • 06 of 09

    Beat the Dough

    Oil in pan

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    Once your dough has risen, it needs to be mixed so the air can be beaten out of it. Once this is completed, you can allow the dough to rest for another 10 to 15 minutes.

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  • 07 of 09

    Scoop and Fry

    Fry magwinya

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    At this point, the mixture will be quite springy:

    • Place some dough into a spoon and scoop it into the oil. You may want to use a second spoon to push the dough into the oil.
    • Make sure the oil is on medium heat. If the doughnuts brown immediately, the oil may be too hot. Getting the temperature right is important because you can easily get doughnuts very brown on the outside but raw on the inside.
    • Tip: Fry just one magwinya, first, to test the heat of the oil. When you think it's ready, take it out and allow it to cool enough to handle. Then, open it up and taste the center of the doughnut. If it's still raw, you'll need to turn the heat of the oil up more. If the magwinya is very brown and raw inside, the heat is probably too high.
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  • 08 of 09

    Fry the Rest

    Fry magwinya

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    After you've tested your oil, it's time to keep frying. Fry the dough on each side for ​approximately two minutes on each side.​​

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  • 09 of 09

    Serve the Magwinya

    Serve magwinya

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    Place the cooked magwinya into a dish lined with absorbent kitchen paper in order to drain away excess oil. 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.