Making gojas during the Hindu holiday of Holi is a tradition in my home. It is one of several sweets my family would prepare to share with our loved ones in observance of this exciting time of year. Gojas are a festive hand pie with a filling consisting of grated coconut sweetened with brown sugar flavored with warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. The filling is sealed and folded like an empanada, then shallow fried.
Although this pastry is typically made during Holi and Diwali, it can be enjoyed year-round (and at any time of day). It is a dessert, breakfast pastry, and teatime snack all in one and no one will judge you for devouring them whenever your taste buds desire!
Celebrating Holi With Family
Holi is a Hindu holiday which celebrates good over evil and new beginnings. For Hindus in India, it marks the beginning of spring. Hindu scripture tells the story of the destruction of the demoness Holika. Some families hold religious ceremonies to commemorate this victory, but for many this is a time of laughter and fun. Celebrations include throwing brightly colored powder at each other along with fragrant colored water.
I have many memories of making gojas with my mom, grandmother, and cousins during Holi. My cousins and I couldn’t wait to get home from school to go to my grandmother’s house. Trays of pholourie, mithai, gulgula, and gojas lined the kitchen counters waiting to be arranged into small platters to share with loved ones who would come over to visit.
We naturally formed an assembly line when ready to make gojas. One of us rolled the dough, the other would fill and seal, while frying was left to one of the adults. As soon as one goja was cooled enough, I’d break it open and give half to my cousin. We’d stand there in silence savoring every shred of coconut before my grandmother hustled us to get back to rolling and filling. The atmosphere was happy and loving. It was a time to connect, laugh, and truly enjoy each other’s company.
What Are Guyanese Gojas?
Guyanese goja is a variation of the North Indian gujiya, which have a basic flaky dough for the crust and a filling of sweetened milk solids. Many Indians in Guyana lost their native language over time and therefore the names of certain dishes and ingredients were also unremembered. Visual similarities in the dishes help in this regard. North Indian gujiya and Guyanese goja are similar in their shape and identity, but the filling and flavors differ.
The filling consists of coconut flakes sweetened with brown sugar and flavored with warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. A tablespoon of finely grated ginger adds a noticeable zing. I love raisins in my gojas, and if you love them too, add a handful for a juicy bite.
After making the dough, you can add the spiced coconut mixture straight away, or cook it on the stovetop briefly to help the sugar melt. Have your dough cut out into circles and ready for the filling. After the filling is cooled, pat it nicely into the dough. Fold it over, seal and then fry it to a light golden brown.
The Best Coconut for This Goja Recipe
Traditionally, using freshly grated coconut (from desiccated coconut) makes this turnover extra delicious, but it can be time consuming to source and prep, especially if you don’t have the specific type of grater needed. Store bought sweetened coconut flakes work in a pinch and won’t compromise the coconut flavor.
To get it as close as possible to freshly grated coconut I love to pulse the store-bought shredded coconut in a food processor to a fine texture—it makes all the difference in mouthfeel.
How to Make Goja Dough
The dough for gojas is typically made from scratch. It’s straightforward and uncomplicated—it consists of all-purpose flour with a bit of yeast or baking powder, butter, and sugar. Cold milk or water is added and brought together with a spatula then gently kneaded.
The texture is flaky right out the fryer, but more so delicate and soft as it cools. Store bought pie crust can be used in its place, but it tends to be a bit salty, so I prefer to make the dough from scratch.
How to Fry Gojas
Gojas are shallow fried in canola or vegetable oil at 350°F. A Dutch oven works well here for keeping the oil at an even temperature. Fry just a couple at a time being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Flip them once and remove using a slotted spoon or tongs onto a paper towel lined plate. I love using this splatter screen to avoid any bits of oil splattering out while frying. It will help avoid getting oil all over your stove, too!
You can adjust the filling based on preference. In this recipe I’m using store bought flaked coconut and added a handful of raisins. Other times when I make this recipe, I’ve added a handful of slivered almonds or other dried fruit like currants or dried cherries. I think many different flavors can work in this coconut mixture. You may see another variation of Guyanese goja where the filling is colored with red food coloring. This is purely for aesthetics and for a festive feel.
Air-Frying Guyanese Gojas
If you prefer to air-fry these instead of shallow-frying, you most certainly can. Spray the air fryer basket with coconut oil or a neutral oil spray to keep it from sticking. Then, add in the gojas, making sure not to overlap (you’ll have to cook them in batches) and air fry at 350°F for 8 to10 minutes.
Make Ahead Guyanese Gojas
You can assemble these ahead of time and freeze for up to 6 months. I like to place a piece of parchment paper in a gallon size zip top bag and place each goja flat in the bag, as much as can fit. Put another piece of parchment paper on that layer and repeat until all the gojas are in the bag. Seal and lay flat in the freezer.
When you’re ready to fry, remove the bag from the freezer and let it come to room temperature on the counter for about 30 minutes before frying.
How to Store Guyanese Gojas
These are best enjoyed warm, but if there are any leftovers, store them wrapped in a paper towel in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to reheat, I’ve found the toaster oven to be useful in getting a crisp crust. You can also reheat in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
Special Equipment: kitchen scale
For the goja dough:
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (8g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2g) instant yeast
2 tablespoons diced cold butter, or vegetable shortening
1 cup cold whole milk
1 tablespoon (15g) all-purpose flour, to sprinkle while kneading
1/8 teaspoon neutral cooking oil, such as canola or vegetable for rubbing the dough ball
For the goja filling:
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil such as canola or vegetable, for cooking filling
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons water, for cooking filling
For shaping and frying the gojas:
1/4 cup water, for sealing the pastry
1/4 cup (34g) all-purpose flour, for crimping the gojas
3 cups canola or vegetable oil, for frying
Combine the dry ingredients :
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and yeast. Add the butter. Using your hands or fingertips, rub the butter into flour until a coarse meal forms.
Pour milk into bowl:
Make a well in the center of the bowl, pour in the milk. Using a rubber spatula, stir until the dough forms. At this point, the dough will be a little sticky, sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour on the dough and knead it into dough with your hands in the bowl until the dough is no longer sticky.
Set dough aside to rest:
Rub the top of the dough with the oil and cover with a damp paper towel. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
Make the filling:
In the bowl of your food processor, add the coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, ginger, water, butter, and vanilla. Pulse on high until coconut becomes fine and pasty.
Cook the filling:
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Add the oil, coconut filling, raisins, and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the coconut looks more toasted and slightly darker in color, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes before assembling the gojas.
Weigh and divide the dough:
Weigh the dough, then divide the weight by 12 to get the weight for each piece. Now, cut 12 small pieces of dough and weigh each. Add or remove small pieces until you get the exact weight you’re looking for.
If you’re not using a scale, divide the dough into 12 pieces using a knife or pastry cutter. Try to eyeball it so they’re all the same size.
Roll the goja dough:
Round off each dough ball between your palms to form a ball, gently tucking dough under itself to make the top smooth. Once you’ve done this, cover all the dough balls with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out and crusting.
Sprinkle flour on the surface of the dough ball you are working with. Working with one dough ball at a time, flatten slightly with your hands, then roll into a circle 1/8 inch thick and about 5 inches in diameter.
Flour your surface as needed as you go along.
Repeat with remaining balls of dough, being sure to keep them covered as you work.
Assemble the gojas:
Dip your pointer finger in water and run it around the outer edges of the dough. Place 2 tablespoons filing in the bottom half of the dough and bring the top half over to seal. Using a fork crimp the edges closed being sure to dip the fork in flour to keep from sticking while crimping. Place assembled gojas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Repeat this step for the rest of the batch.
Cook the gojas and serve:
Set up a plate or deep serving platter with a few paper towels to place gojas on after they’re done frying.
Heat a medium sized deep pot over medium-low heat. Add the oil and once it’s anywhere between 350-375°F, fry the gojas for 2 to 3 minutes, you’ll have to cook these in batches, being sure to not overcrowd the pot. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to flip the gojas once halfway through cooking. Remove from oil once it is light golden brown and drain on paper towels.
Repeat with remaining gojas until they are all fried.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 30g||38%|
|Saturated Fat 13g||67%|
|Total Carbohydrate 62g||23%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||16%|
|Total Sugars 20g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|