Basic Yeast Doughnuts (with Many Variations)

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: This recipe is a version of one passed down from my great-great grandma. Thanks to an old beaten-up recipe card, these donuts are a family legacy.Erin McDowell

Makes: 2 dozen large or 4 dozen mini
Prep time: 1 hrs 30 min
Cook time: 25 min


  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup water (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (2 ounces)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (25 ounces)
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar (2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 cups Vegetable oil, for frying (use more if needed)
In This Recipe


  1. In a small pot, heat the milk, water, and butter until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Mix the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a mixer (or a large bowl if mixing by hand). Add the warm milk mixture and mix to combine. Add the eggs, scraping the bowl well. Turn the mixer up to medium speed, and, using a dough hook, mix until the dough begins to pull away from the edges. If mixing by hand, knead until it easily pulls away from the sides of the bowl while as you knead (it will still be quite sticky).
  3. Transfer the finished dough to a well-oiled container and cover. Allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the dough overnight so that it’s ready to make in the morning -- but you may need to punch the dough down once or twice during that period to prevent it from over-fermenting.
  4. To shape the doughnuts, roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2-inch thick. Use a doughnut cutter to cut doughnuts (alternatively you can use two circle cutters, or even the rim of a drinking glass and the rim of a shot glass, to shape the doughnuts). I also like to cut the doughnuts into squares (about 2 inches by 2 inches) using a pizza cutter -- this is especially great for filled doughnuts.
  5. Heat the oil to about 360° F. (You can use a candy/fryer thermometer, but I just do a test with one of the donut holes or a scrap piece of dough: If it rises rapidly to the surface, the oil is ready. If the donuts begin to brown too quickly, the oil is too hot.)
  6. Fry the doughnuts, turning them halfway through cooking, until they're golden brown on each side. Drain on absorbent paper towels. Finish as desired. (You can glaze the donuts by dunking them, or by pouring the glaze over donuts on a rack).
  7. Some finishing options:
    -Powdered: Toss in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.
    -Glazed: Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk (enough to make a runny glaze), and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional).
    -Chocolate-Glazed: Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, and 4 to 5 tablespoons milk or cream.
    -Chocolate-Coated: Dip doughnuts in tempered chocolate thinned with 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
    -Fruit-Glazed: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup fruit purée.
    -Violet-Glazed: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cream or milk, and 1 teaspoon violet extract. Garnish with candied violets.
    -Pistachio: Glaze donuts with basic glaze, then press in chopped toasted pistachios.
    -Coconut: Glaze with coconut glaze (1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup coconut milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla), and press in toasted coconut flakes.
    -Black and White: Make a dark chocolate ganache with 1 cup chopped dark chocolate and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Make a white chocolate ganache with 1 cup chopped white chocolate with 1/4 cup heavy cream. Glaze half the doughnut with the chocolate glaze and half with the white glaze.
    -Caramel-Glazed: Melt 1 cup of caramel candies with 1/3 cup heavy cream in the microwave in 10-second blasts until fully melted. Thin the glaze with additional milk or cream as needed to get a pourable glaze.
    -Meyer Lemon: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar with the zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon, then add enough milk to form a pourable glaze.
    -Cinnamon Roll: Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Mix together 1 stick melted butter with 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Spread the mixture evenly all over the dough, then roll tightly into a cylinder. Cut into 1 inch-thick pieces, then fry until golden brown. Glaze with basic glaze.

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Reviews (12) Questions (0)

12 Reviews

Mailin December 15, 2017
This was NOT a recipe I will use again. I did everything, with exact measurements. I think I'm pretty good with baking and cooking, with rarely having a fail. . Maybe it's because there's no shortening in this recipe. I'm not sure what I'm more frustrated with, the fact I wasted my time or the fact I wasted almost 3 sticks of butter, 5 cups of flour, and 8 freaking eggs!!!!!!!!!!
Maggie January 4, 2018
Hi Mailin, what recipe are you commenting about? I am curious what exactly went wrong because I am planning to try this recipe but I don't see in the ingredients how you would have needed 3 sticks of butter and 8 eggs.
Jonathan H. August 22, 2017
After cutting and letting rest, I'm finding that I have two issues. 1. I'm letting the cut dough rest on a floured surface, but yet it's still sticking and becoming tough to pick up because the dough seems sticky and delicate. Also, the dough seems sticky and delicate, so therefore, the shape on some of mine are becoming wonky, which I get can be fine if going for a rustic look, but if I'm trying to get a more uniform look, does anyone have any recommendations?
Maggie January 4, 2018
maybe you didn't have enough flour in the dough before letting it rise? I don't think it should be sticky by the time you let it rest but I could be wrong.
Alayna July 19, 2017
Has anyone tried this recipe with almond milk?
Rosie C. April 22, 2017
How long to do you fry the donuts for?
Chan August 11, 2015
What did you top the strawberry glaze and caramel glaze with?
Melanie J. June 22, 2015
I substituted buttermilk for regular which turned out nicely. As far as rolling out and cutting with biscuit cutters-my dough turned out too wet for that, I just pulled a smaller piece of dough off and rolled it between my (well floured) hands then pinched the ends together, viola! They turned out beautifully.
Suzanne January 23, 2015
What kind of vessel for the doughnut frying - will a dutch oven (such as Le Crueset) work? Any tips on storage for the next day or couple of days?
Author Comment
Erin M. March 7, 2015
Yes, a large, deep pot like that is great. You want to make sure it's large enough that you can fry a few at a time, but not so big you need tons of oil (which just gets to be wasteful if you're just frying one batch). A 6 qt pot works great!
Lauren September 22, 2014
Any suggestions for how to actually make the doughnuts? There seems to be a step missing between "make dough" and "fry doughnuts"
Natalia February 9, 2015
After letting the dough rest, touch it and see if it springs back slowly, if it does it is ready to roll out! Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough to a 1/2 inch thickness, cut out the doughnuts and let them rest in baking sheets for about 30 min so that they double in size. Do the same as before to know if the dough is ready - lightly touch one of the doughnuts and if it springs back slowly they are ready to fry!