My Magwinya Recipe

Like the gemmer/ ginger beer recipe I posted on this blog previously this is one of those things you grow up eating but never quite know the recipe for. My gran can’t give measurements off the top of her head but she knows how to make them with her eyes closed. Growing up in Soweto I remember the image of old mama’s carrying large buckets early in the morning, it was only once I got a bit older I realised they were carrying magwinya in the buckets to go sell at taxi ranks, busstops, train stations and anywhere and everywhere there was foot traffic.

Magwinya are the township version of vetkoek. Vetkoek (pronounce ‘Fet-cook’ and literally means ‘fat cake’) is a uniquely South African deep fried bread. Afrikaans in origine, research (i.e. the Internet) reckons they were originally a Dutch creation which the early Afrikaans folk tweeked over time. So like most Afrikaans South African food, its borrowed…but who cares.

Magwinya are the version we get in townships. The difference between them and vetkoek? Well magwinya tend to be a bit sweeter than traditional vetkoek. From personal opinion I think they also often tend to be a bit lighter and softer but this depends on who has made them and what ingredients they’ve used. Vetkoek are usually sliced open and stuffed with grated cheese, mince or even jam, being lovers of grease, in the townships we eat them with fried chips, achaar, polony, cheese or snoek fish (a type of salted and dried South African fish). I always argue with people that having such a greasy meal for breakfast is bad for you but my words fall on deaf ears, you’ll see many people eating them with tea in the morning. There’s no rules to it, like I said, they’re basically a fried bread…so the fillings can be anything you like.

This recipe is the one I found works for me. Being a chef, curiosity got the better of me and I’ve experimented with techniques. I’ve found that using a mixer (either a standing or hand one, it doesn’t matter) makes for a softer result that is less dense. Here’s another tip I learned whilst dealing with fried food…the more sugar in something, the darker the colour will be and the more crispy the outside.

Ok, enough talking. Enjoy…


7 cups cake flour (not self-raising flour)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons Sugar
1 packet Yeast (10g)
Lukewarm water
Cooking oil (for frying)

* In a small jug pour about a cup of warm water and add the yeast. Leave to begin foaming
* In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients together and then pour in the yeast. Stir
* Add more lukewarm water and mix after each addition until you get a soft dough that is soft but not runny (like a bread dough).
* Mix with a mixer that has dough hooks attached until the dough starts coming away from the sides. If you don’t have a mixer use your hands and knead for about 15mins. (This is important if you want soft magwinya)
* Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap that’s bean brushed with oil and allow to rise until double (about an hour).
* Heat about 2 litres of oil in a pot or deep heavy-based pan
* Magwinya are typically round in shape and a little smaller than tennis balls but its up to you what shape you make them. Roll them into balls with your hands (brush your hands with some oil to stop them from sticking) or roll the dough out flat on a floured work surface and flatten with a roller and cut into rectangular “blocks”.
* Test the oil with a small piece of dough, if the dough starts bubbling and rises, the oil is hot enough. Maintain its temperature by reducing the heat now and then. You don’t want the oil too hot. Once the oil is ready. Deep fry the vetkoek.
* Keep turning them. Ready when golden brown
* Place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Serve

They will keep for 2 or 3 days but they go stale VERY quickly so enjoy them soon.

Chef Lesego (@LesDaChef)

44 thoughts on “My Magwinya Recipe

  1. Nice one Chef,I am now forced to open my shop at around 06H33 in the morning because people from Katlehong enjoy them daily(I used to open at 09H33). Please post a ‘kota’ and ‘dagwood’ recipe. Big ups Chef!

  2. 6 cups of flour
    2 cups of sugar
    6 teaspoon of baking powder
    1 teaspoon of salt
    1 packet of yeast (10g)
    What is wrong with this recipe please help urgently?

    1. You have 2 raising agents in it. Yeast and baking powder. There shouldn’t be any baking powder in it. Remember magwinya are basically deep fried bread. You only use yeast when making leavened bread.

  3. Sego’s. Your magwinya ‘s recipe is lekker mmH we really enjoyed finger licken taste the kasi way with snoek achaa and white liver rite in the suburb back to my roots loctionkulcha. Thanks Chef

  4. Hi there,

    I’ve been looking for a good magwinya recipe online and ran into your site. The best I’ve ever tasted were from a place Called Suthani in a shopping centre in Spruitview, Eastrand. They were nice and matt (as though the dough was rolled on a flour dusted conter top), flat and square with not too much dough inside like the round ones we are acustomed to. I have a suspicion that they were made with baking soda. Might you have any idea how to make this type?

  5. Your Magwenya recipe is so Yummy ‘Segos’You remind me of my roots…Please give me the recipe for Kota.Going bc to my roots……is koud,need some fatty yummy food

  6. Hi Sego…I tried your recipe & the fat cakes came out beautiful & fluffly….problem is they were very oily inside….what did I do wrong?

  7. Nice one.. I got the recipe from my mother over the phone and I’ve been successful once or twice but I always doubt myself and have to check again.. getting the dough to rise can sometimes be a problem.. why is that?

    1. Hi. If it’s a cold day cover the dough in cling wrap plastic and place it in the sun. Only start kneading it again once it’s double in size and remember when working with yeast doughs you need to be knead them twice. Also make sure you aren’t putting too much salt in your dough mix, too much salt kills yeast and your water or milk should be luke warm. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast as well.

  8. Sawubona

    M tried yo recipe and just started selling them in da mornings since unemployed. The problem is my they become to hard. How to keep them soft??????

    Plz help me

    1. Hi Phuti, unfortunately yeast works differently to baking powder. It’s not as simple as substituting the two. I do know of yeast free bread mixes though but unfortunately I don’t have one myself.

    1. Hi, it means you didn’t let the dough rise long enough. Did you add all the water and knead the dough until it became elastic?

    1. You need to allow the dough to rise enough, don’t rush it. Also make sure your oil is the right temperature, if the oil is cold you magwinya will turn out harder than usual. A trick to a softer vetkoek is also to substitute a little bit of the water with some milk.

  9. Hi chef, my magwinya cooks well outside but not inside, the dough does not cook well, what could b the problem? TIA

    1. Hi Dima, your oil is probably too hot and you’re making your magwinya too big and round. Try flatten them a little before putting them in the oil

  10. Hi Lesego;

    You are going to have to start looking for yeast free recipes. I have recommended you to cater for our corporate function sometime in september but there are a few people mostly our ‘bosses’ who are allergic to yeast but love your food. Please try them with baking powder cause i am sure you can come up with something nice still.

  11. Thank you for sharing. Im definitely trying this recipe tomorrow. Its my first attempt at magwinya. Hoping for satisfying results

  12. So I tried your recipe and the results were more than satisfying, they were amazing. I couldn’t believe this was my very first attempt at magwinya. I wish I could post a pic

  13. I love fatcakes a lot I just love the crunchy, round and hot. Just them alone I can eat mmmm… My question is will get fat if i eat them every day?

  14. Hi Lesdachef.
    Thank you very much for magwinya recipe,we enoyed them very much.
    Please assist with steam dumbling one as well brother.


    1. Hi Danny, glad you enjoyed them and tried the recipe out. I have the recipe for dumpling in this blog. Search for “dombolo” in the search box above.

    1. It means you’re putting your dough into the oil when the oil isn’t hot enough. Make your dough balls thinner and smaller, make sure the oil is hot enough (but not too hot)

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