Mandasi and Magwinya (Fat cakes)

I think every African (or let me say Southern African) country has some kind of Mandasi/fat cake as a traditional “fast food” snack. It’s what you buy when you need something that will kill the hunger pangs for a couple of hours. They are usually bought off the street but they are sometimes also sold in small local restaurants.

Mrs Obama sampled the fat cakes and chips/fries combo when she was here in 2011, how amusing!

The fat cakes/legwinya here in Botswana tend to be quite big and are often bought the most early in the morning. Some people choose to have them with a side of greasy chips/fries or liver or chicken stew.  I always find that to be too heavy a meal for breakfast for me and also quite unhealthy but I won’t deny how delicious they are! Especially with liver! Getting hungry just thinking about it….

Photo of a legwinya from

For those who do not know what fat cakes are, they are basically fried bread or a type of fried doughnut or fritter/flapjack minus the fruit. The ingredients may differ depending on which country you go to but the cooking method is the same.

In Malawi you can buy pre-mixed Mandasi flour for those who want to avoid having to make it from “scratch” so to speak. When I lived back home, I loved buying that flour. Whenever I’d get hungry, I’d mix half the packet and make some. My mother clearly remembered this about me because on a recent trip to Malawi she brought me my own packet! 🙂

When I was younger I wasn’t too adventurous in the kitchen so making them from scratch was never something I wanted to do. However now that I’m a big girl I think I shall give it a try one of these days.

The Mandasi taste quite different from the Legwinya though and I’m not quite sure what ingredient in the Mandasi flour causes the difference in taste though I suspect it’s the type of flour used. To make the fat cakes rise some use yeast, others prefer baking powder and I know some also add a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar. I’ve never been good with yeast so I favor the baking powder route.



1 kg (2 1/4 pounds) white bread flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet instant yeast
1 litre lukewarm water
Vegetable oil for deep frying

  • In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, salt and yeast together.
  • Slowly add lukewarm water and stir. Mix to form a smooth dough. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until smooth.
  • Cover with oiled cling fling, and leave to rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  • Heat enough vegetable oil for deep frying.
  • Take a piece of dough rolling into the shape and size of a tennis ball and carefully lowering it into hot oil. Deep fry six fat cakes at a time.
  • Allow to turn golden brown on sides by frequently turning. They are ready when floating and making puffy sound and doubled in size.
  • Remove from oil and drain on kitchen paper.


2 cups flour (all-purpose wheat four)
pinch of salt
2 tsp. Baking powder
2 Tbs. sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk or water
oil for frying

  • Mix flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.
  • Add sugar, egg, and milk and beat until smooth.
  • Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning once.
  • Drain and enjoy.

The Ready mix flour my mother brought me just requires you to add water/milk/eggs-whatever your preference is. I also add baking powder to help the dough rise while frying.

Then simply fry on medium heat and drain in a newspaper then enjoy!

You can add mashed bananas to the dough to make banana fritters. Yummy!


17 Comments Add yours

  1. mimi says:

    We call the yeast version Mahamri and the baking powder version Mandazi in Kenya and we add cardamoms to both for taste we roll them out and cut in triangles although some people make them wet as you have

    1. Ms Z. says:

      I never would have thought of adding a spice to the dough! Will try that next time, thanks!

  2. Jordana says:

    I Botswana we ate our magwinyas covered in sugar. Once we made them by pushing bits of chocolate into the middle and then frying – delicious!!
    A local gave me the idea of filling the magwinyas with savoury mince before frying. I’m going to try this!

  3. Glinda says:

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  4. Nira says:

    Thanks a lot! My husband is from Malawi and he loves Mandasi… I did already with my brazilian recipe, today I will try this one. Someone experimented with rip banana? I will do this today.

    1. Brandy says:

      Awesome! Yes they work well with banana too.

  5. LORRAINE says:

    Does this mean you add banana into the dough or you push it in like mince???

    1. Brandy says:

      You need to mash it up like mince before you add it to the dough.

  6. Mwansa C says:

    I grew up in Botswana and I remember early mornings (especially in winter) during junior high school the smell magwinya and ma fresh (fresh greasy chips) being fried at a nearby kiosk would greet us at the school gate. Back then 3 Pula would be enough to get you two magwinya and a pack of chips. Aaaaah I lived for that unhealthy deliciousness. Thanks for reminding me. When I came back home to Zambia I discovered the local version called vitumbuwa but they just don’t measure up. Magwinya are in their own class lol.

    1. Brandy says:

      Hahahahaha!!! I think Malawi also has vitumbuwa. Magwinya make me feel like I’m eating cholesterol but I love it! Can never resist!

  7. Ellen says:

    How should i store these for later use?

    1. Brandy says:

      In a container in the fridge is fine. They can stay outside the fridge for a day or so but they will dry out fast so I think fridge is the better option.

  8. WONDER TFWALA says:

    Wonder Tfwala

    You can keep them in A fridgean, then put them in a warmer when you want to use.

  9. Smile says:

    Wow! I love this topic, in Lesotho we call it “Makoenya” though its unhealthy its so nice and a very affordable fast meal ever

  10. Judith says:

    Magwinya of south Africa are a delicacy there is none in Kenya.I have learnt to make mine successfully.

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