Te Toonati (Kiribati Donuts)

I’m going to be honest here.

I’ve lost my mojo. My writing mojo.

At the moment I don’t know where it’s gone and I don’t know what to do with it. I feel like it’s floating out in the atmosphere high above my head, waiting for me to reach high to grab hold and yank it back into reality and back onto the page.

I think about Kiribati every day. I do.


I think about the blue lagoons, the napping in the kia kia, the motorbike rides along the Betio causeway at sunset….the heat, the humidity, the coconuts. All of it. I dream about it and I know that my body and soul are calling me back to the islands.

And yet, when it comes to the usual urge to write about Kiribati, its culture and its issues, I come to a blank. Zilch.

But, I suppose I’ve been writing long enough to know that the writing mojo comes in waves. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. It’s so frustrating when it isn’t, but it will pass.

So, I’ve decided to pass the buck somewhat. Instead of forcing something that’s not there, I have asked my mum to write down her recipe for Kiribati donuts.

Mum made these for Sunday lunch with my partners family. With crowds of kids running around the place looking for chocolate eggs, it was no doubt that these would be a winner also.

I ate two myself while I flipped the donuts in the oil while Mum rolled them in her palms. They are sweet, doughy but also quite dense. And they tasted so…..I-Kiribati!

So here they are for you to make. So that you you too can have a sweet taste of Kiribati while you dream of the saltwater. Thanks mama for sharing the family recipe.

Te Toonati (The Donuts)

1 packet of Tandaco dry yeast (7g)

3 cups of warm milk (make sure it is not hot or it will kill the yeast)

3 palms full of plain flour (you can always add more flour to the mixture if it is too wet)

4 large spoonfuls of brown sugar (more if you want it sweeter)

Two large jars of virgin coconut oil. Enough to make the dough float and not touch the bottom of the pot. Donuts must be able to float in hot oil.


Warm the milk and pour into a large stainless steel bowl

Pour yeast into the milk and add the sugar. Stir

Sprinkle a little bit of flour into the yeast mix …just enough (around a tablespoonful)

Leave the mixture to sit, covering it with a damp cloth. Remember the yeast has to have somewhere warm for it to start working. I usually turn one burner on low and put the bowl beside it but away so it doesn’t touch the heat.

Once you start seeing bubbles forming in the mix (around 5 to 10 minutes) take the bowl off the stove.

Pour the flour into the yeast mixture and stir with a plastic or wooden spoon. I usually use my rice cooker spoon. Stir to mix.

The dough should be well mixed in and not too wet, slightly on the drier side. Make sure the dough is not hard to mix or it will take too long for the dough to rise.

I leave it for 5 minutes or so in the bowl – until I start to see the dough making stretch marks. I know it is right when I take a spoonful of dough and roll it in the palm of my hand. It should be sticky but not watery sticky.

While the dough is resting, I put the coconut oil into a deep frying pan and turn on the burner….my mum used a deep stainless steel basin or pot.

Heat the oil to very hot. I usually pinch a bit of the dough and drop it into the pot of hot oil. If it floats and sizzles away, then the oil is hot and ready.

Oil the palm of your hands and roll the around dough in your hand. I start cutting or tearing the dough to whatever size I want, I like small sizes. I sometimes use a tablespoon as my measuring tool.

Make the dough round in your palms and just before I drop the dough into the oil, I pat it a little flat in the palm of my hand. Don’t worry, it won’t stay flat because as soon as you drop it into the hot oil, it will rise and make a round donut.

When the downside of the doughnut is light brown flip it over. The donut is cooked when the donut is all brown. You have to be quick here as you don’t want the rest of the donuts to get burnt while taking the first out.

Take the donuts out and place in a dish lined with paper to drain the access oil.


You can garnish with sugar or icing sugar while they’re still warm.


Note: Remember that you can use the coconut oil again for more cooking! It’s good oil – don’t waste it!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Ohh, yummy recipe, looking forward to trying them out 🙂 AS for writing inspiration … a hiatus can be a good thing, it gives our depleted attention time to recover and allows ideas to ferment in the subconscious. Don’t give up 🙂

    1. Thanks Marianne! Yes, as frustrating as it is at the time, I always find that it allows me to take stock, think about what I’m doing and move on from there. I just get a little impatient at my lack of flowing words!!

  2. John E says:

    I don’t know that I’ve ever had any of these donuts. At least, not that I can remember! Hmmm…will have to ask for some when we next catch up. Maybe your mum can bring some to the family Christmas this year. (Hint, hint)

    1. Not even a subtle hint John! Haha. Consider it done and on the menu 🙂

  3. Thank you Marita and mum!!!

    1. You’re welcome! I hope you get to eat some soon 🙂

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