South African Traditional Soetkoekies (Sweet Cookies)

"This is an ancient and very beloved cookie recipe in South Africa. My grandmother made these in large quantities before the December beach holidays. Remember, it's summer then, down here! There are slight variations on this recipe, as is usual with traditional recipes. There could be a Dutch influence here, sort of mixed with Malay (think Dutch Speculaas biscuits). In the old days this cookie was always made with butter and soft, rendered pork or mutton fat, but I have since found out it's not that easy for US cooks to find such fat to render. The dough should be rolled out really thinly -- about 1/6th of an inch -- to get a crispy cookie. Please note that baking time is about 7 mins. per tin of cookies, but you'll have to do it in batches, so I guesstimated the actual time you'll spend baking."
photo by a user photo by a user
Ready In:
1hr 5mins
80-90 cookies




  • Preheat oven to 380 deg F/180 deg Celsius.
  • Grease cookie tins.
  • (** The story of the fat: we can always buy raw pork or mutton fat from a butcher or supermarket butchery dept. To render, cut this fat into small cubes, put (in batches) in a heavy-bottomed pot, and leave over low heat for the fat to "melt out". Pour off the fat at frequent intervals into a container, to prevent the fat browning in the pot. Do this before you start baking, and save the fat in the fridge in a closed container).
  • In a large container mix very well: the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and all the spices.
  • Rub in the butter and Crisco or fat with your fingers and palms until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk the eggs, add just 1/2 cup sweet wine to the eggs, then stir into the dry mixture.
  • Stir this in well, and if still too dry to form a dough, add more of the sweet wine to form a fairly stiff dough.
  • The dough is easy to handle and can be kneaded at this stage to mix well and to form a dough you can roll out.
  • Roll out thinly, in batches, on a floured surface. Keep gathering up the unused dough, press together, and roll out again.
  • Make sure your oven grid is in the centre of the oven, as cookies burn easily on the bottom, especially if you use dark tins.
  • Press out large round cookies, carefully place on the greased tins, and bake in batches in the preheated oven.
  • Check cookies after 5 minutes; don't let them burn. Cooking time depends on your oven and size of cookies, but is generally about 7 minutes.
  • Remove with an egg-lifter, and let them cool and harden on wire racks. Store in airtight tins.
  • The amount given below is a guess: any smaller and you will get up to 130 cookies or more. The cooking time is based roughly on the several batches you will have to cook.
  • Can be made weeks before using.
  • Although I give an approximately number of cookies, it will depend on your cookie cutter. A smaller cookie cutter will yield up to 130 or more cookies.

Questions & Replies

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  1. claires791
    These turned out perfect and I even left out a few ingredients. <br/>I didnt use nutmeg, ground cloes cream of tartar or the fat, I used cinnamon/ginger and 2lbs butter as I didnt use 1lb of the pork fat and worked fine :) I did mines in 8 minutes each in the oven. Meant to look whiteish and be quite soft as they will harden once cooled. Also only used 1 teaspoon salt as you dont want it to be too salty! and I used muscat as I couldnt find anything else where I live. I also used 3 eggs as I only had small ones.
  2. Charliecooks
    This is the real thing!Made it exactly as given, using lard and Port wine and they came out superbly crispy, spicy and sweet. Brought back wonderful memories of my youth because tins and tins full of these cookies were the staple cookies for Christmas, with all other special cookies baked only in small amounts. Easy to make and easier to eat.
  3. Kats Mom
    Have you ever fried an egg in bacon fat? Or added Crisco to cookie dough? Fat is fat in a recipe. One is just more work, tastier or healthier than another. I would imagine the pork fat would add a distinct flavor that would complement the spices. I probably will have to use bacon fat, but I plan on making these for my DH, who adores spice cookies. I will add my star rating soon.
  4. Chef anna of port t


I'm a widow, retired, and I love cooking. I live on the coast in South Africa and I love seafood. You're welcome to my recipes (all kinds, definitely not just seafood!) Just remember that no recipe is ever cast in stone -- adjust to your taste! The photo was taken at a rustic seaside restaurant on our West Coast, approx 1 year ago (2016).
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