How to Make Donuts
It doesn't matter if you spell them doughnuts or donuts, homemade donuts are a fun and tasty do-it-yourself project. Master these irresistible fried pastries with our step-by-step instructions on how to make donuts so you can enjoy them at their freshest.
True, you can always buy donuts -- most supermarket bakeries sell them, and nearly every town has a donut shop. But knowing how to make homemade donuts brings its own sweet rewards: Yours will be fresher, less processed, and in any flavor you like.
There are two basic ring-style donuts:
- Raised or yeast donuts: These call on yeast for leavening and need to rise before frying.
- Cake doughnuts: These call on baking powder for leavening; the batter needs to be chilled before rolling to make it easier to handle.
How to Make Donuts at Home Step-by-Step
1. Gather the Ingredients
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- vegetable oil or shortening for deep-frying
- desired coating or icing
Related: Our best donut recipes.
2. Make the Batter
- In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes or until thick. In a small bowl combine milk and melted butter.
- Add the flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to the egg mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Cover and chill the dough for 2 to 4 hours.
3. Prepare the Coating, Glaze, or Icing
About a half-hour before the end of the chilling time, get the coating, glaze, or icing ready for the doughnuts. Coatings and toppings should be prepared before you start to fry the doughnuts, as they should be applied while the fried donuts are still slightly warm. Donuts can simply be coated with powdered sugar or granulated sugar. Place the sugar in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Or you can ice the tops of the donuts with one of the following:
- Chocolate Glaze: In a small saucepan melt 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in 3 cups powdered sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Stir in 4 to 5 tablespoons warm water until the glaze coats the back of the spoon.
- Powdered Sugar Icing: In a small bowl combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk or orange juice, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in additional milk or juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the icing reaches drizzling consistency.
- Chocolate Powdered Sugar Icing: Prepare Powdered Sugar Icing as directed, except add 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder to the powdered sugar and use milk, not orange juice.
- Toppings: You can top iced donuts with chopped nuts, flaked coconut, or candy sprinkles. Have these ready to go as well.
4. Roll the Dough
- On a well-floured surface, roll the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Do not stir additional flour into the dough; this can cause the finished donut recipe to be heavy and dry.
5. Cut the Dough
- Use a floured 2-1/2-inch donut cutter to cut the dough into classic rings. Dip the cutter into flour between cuts to prevent the dough from sticking to the cutter. Each cut should produce one donut and one donut hole.
- Reroll dough scraps as necessary to make about 16 donuts and 16 donut holes.
6. Fry the Doughnuts
This is the part of how to make homemade donuts that turns some home cooks off, but after a time or two, you'll get the hang of frying donuts.
- If using an electric deep-fat fryer, heat the oil to 365°F according to manufacturer's directions. Or, in a heavy, deep large saucepan, heat the oil to 365°F.
- Tip: The amount of oil you'll need depends on the fryer you use. Follow manufacturer's directions if using a deep-fryer. If you are using a heavy, deep large saucepan, you'll want to pour the oil to a depth of about 4 inches -- deep enough allow the doughnuts to float in the oil.
- Ease a donut into the heated oil with a long-handle slotted spoon, taking care not to let the oil spatter. Fry the donuts, two or three at a time, in the oil for 2 to 3 minutes or until they are golden brown, turning once.
- Remove the donuts with the slotted spoon, allowing excess oil to drain back into the fryer or pan.
- Drain the donuts on paper towels to avoid a greasy eating experience.
- Repeat with remaining dough.
- Cool the donuts slightly. Yes, just slightly, you want to enjoy them while they're still warm and soft.
Related: Or, try baked donuts
7. Coat or Ice the Donuts
Add these optional finishing touches while the donuts are still slightly warm:
- To coat the donuts with powdered sugar or granulated sugar, simply roll them in the sugar until coated on all sides.
- To glaze, dip the tops of the donuts in the Chocolate Glaze, Powdered Sugar Icing, or Chocolate Powdered Sugar Icing (see Step 3, above). If desired, sprinkle iced donuts with chopped nuts, flaked coconut, or candy sprinkles. Allow the donuts to dry on a wire cooling rack.
You did it! You learned how to make donuts at home. Now there's no need for a Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme run (unless you're short on time).
Safety First When Making Donuts
When deep-frying, the cooking oil reaches very high temperatures, which can start fires or cause burns. Before you roll up your sleeves to make donuts at home, review a few safety guidelines:
- Have a kitchen fire extinguisher handy (and learn now to use it!) before you begin.
- Avoid letting water come into contact with the hot oil -- the water will vaporize into steam, which can make the oil spatter and cause burns. You'll only make this mistake once.
- Never use water to put out a grease fire. Use a kitchen fire extinguisher, or cover the fire with a metal lid.
- Always add oil to a cold fryer that is turned off or an unheated pan. Make sure any fryer or pan you use is dry and set away from sources of water.
- Never leave the fryer or pan unattended when it is in use.
- When finished frying, turn off and unplug the fryer (or remove the pan from the heat). Make sure the fryer or pan is completely cool before cleaning.
- Once oil is completely cooled, pour it into a resealable container and discard it in the trash. Never pour it down the drain, as it can harden and clog pipes.
Special Equipment for Making Donuts
- A deep-fryer or a heavy pan and frying thermometer: A deep-fryer is ideal because it allows you to set and regulate an exact frying temperature. However, you can also use a heavy, deep large saucepan and a frying thermometer.
- A 2-1/2-inch doughnut cutter: If you don't have a doughnut cutter, use a 2-1/2-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut the main circles and a smaller round cutter for the hole in the center.
- A long-handle slotted metal spoon: This is essential for easing the donuts into the oil, turning them, and taking them out of the oil.
More About Donuts
What Are Donuts?
Doughnuts (also spelled donuts) are deep-fried pastries made from dough. Doughnutlike fried pastries appear in many forms the world over, from savory to sweet. However, in the United States, donuts are most often sweet treats, commonly enjoyed at breakfast or as a midmorning or midafternoon snack. Although donuts are sometimes filled with jam or pastry cream, the most common American donut type is circular with a hole in the middle -- it looks like a puffy, chubby ring.
The Hole Story
How the donut hole ended up in the center of the donut is unclear, but one believable story is that in the mid-18th century, a Maine baker's apprentice was frustrated by a succession of fried pastries that turned out with underdone centers. The apprentice decided to poke holes in the pastries before frying to help them cook more evenly.