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What Is Vetkoek?

H.R. Childress
H.R. Childress

Vetkoek is a deep-fried South African bread. It is often eaten with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. The Afrikaner word is pronounced "fet cook" and literally means fat bread, probably due to the fact the bread is fried instead of baked.

Dutch immigrants who moved from Cape Town to the interior of South Africa in the early 1800s, known as Voortrekkers, or "those who trek ahead," began making vetkoek because it was quicker and easier to cook than typical breads. The bread is similar to the Dutch oliebollen, a sweet fried bread containing raisins. Vetkoek may have been a savory derivation of oliebollen without the raisins.

Jam makes a good topping for vetkoek.
Jam makes a good topping for vetkoek.

Vetkoek is traditionally a yeasted dough made with flour, yeast, and salt. It sometimes contains sugar or butter as well. The liquid in the bread may be water or a combination of milk and egg. Dough preparation is similar to a typical yeast bread dough — the yeast is first proofed in water, the other ingredients are then stirred in, and the dough is allowed to rise at least once and sometimes twice. Some recipe versions use baking powder for leavening instead of yeast, in which case the dough does not need to rise.

Vetkoek is a fried bread from South Africa.
Vetkoek is a fried bread from South Africa.

The yeast dough is shaped into balls, usually no more than 2 inches (about 5 cm) in diameter. If dough with baking powder is used, the dough is simply dropped into the frying oil by spoonfuls. Any type of frying oil may be used to cook vetkoek. The dough balls are usually deep fried in oil a few inches (about 7 to 8 cm) deep. They are fried on each side for a few minutes, until the dough is golden brown and cooked through, then drained.

Vetkoek may be eaten at any meal, or for a snack. Popular sweet toppings for the breads include syrup, honey, or jam and butter. Sweetened versions are typically served with strong black coffee.

There are many savory filling versions for vetkoeks as well. One particular type is known as a curry bunny — a fried bread roll filled with ground beef that has been cooked with curry spices. It is a popular treat for schoolchildren in South Africa. Other popular savory fillings include regular ground beef, corned beef, and various types of cheeses.

A variation on filling the buns with savory ingredients after they are cooked is to cook the fillings into the buns. Shredded cheeses or chopped vegetables can be incorporated into the vetkoek dough. Alternatively, the dough can be wrapped around a filling before frying.

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    • Jam makes a good topping for vetkoek.
      By: Roman Ivaschenko
      Jam makes a good topping for vetkoek.
    • Vetkoek is a fried bread from South Africa.
      By: Loic LE BRUSQ
      Vetkoek is a fried bread from South Africa.