How to Make Doughnuts for a Sweet Treat Anytime

Rise and shine—it's time to make the doughnuts. Be the champ of your office, a brunch or your typical Saturday morning by whipping up a homemade doughnut recipe that turns out wholly delicious. Learn how to make doughnuts now.

Doughnuts are a bit of an obsession of mine. Every time I visit a new town, I seek out an artisanal doughnut shop and pick up a dozen of their popular flavors (these are the best doughnut shops in every state). I’ll take them any way I can get them: the standard sugar-glazed yeasted doughnuts taste just as good as the spongy cake varieties, but I also love the funky flavors like bourbon blueberry or bacon and maple syrup.

When I discovered how to make doughnuts at home, my life was complete! They’re really so much easier than I thought; they’re mostly a hands-off process, but they do require a tiny bit of patience.

Yeast or Cake Doughnuts?

There are two kinds of doughnuts: cake and yeast. Cake doughnuts (my personal favorite) are made with a sweet dough leavened by baking powder. These doughnuts have a tender, spongy interior with a slightly crispy exterior. Yeast doughnuts, on the other hand, use yeast to help the dough rise, becoming fluffy and light in the process. They’re airy in texture and fry up to a golden brown color.

They both taste great, and you can keep things simple by dusting either type with confectioners’ sugar. You can also get fancy with it and whip up a quick vanilla glaze. If you’re hoping to fill the doughnuts with jelly or jam, we’d recommend making yeast doughnuts. Otherwise, I always make cake doughnuts at home because they require less rising time.

How Long Does It Take to Make Doughnuts?

Doughnuts don’t require a lot of hands-on time, but both yeast and cake donuts do have a resting stage. For the yeasted variety, you need to let the dough double in size for an hour and a half. Then, the shaped doughnuts have to rise for an additional 45 minutes. In the case of cake doughnuts, chilling the dough for two hours is an important step that allows the sugar to absorb the liquid from the other ingredients. You could skip it, but you wouldn’t end up with a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside doughnut.

Once your dough is prepared, it only takes 2 to 3 minutes to fry each doughnut. You can fry them three or four at a time, but you don’t want to push it past that quantity. Overcrowding the pan will reduce the temperature of the oil, leading to oily, soggy doughnuts.

Are Doughnuts Fried?

Most of the time, doughnuts are fried because it’s the easiest, most fool-proof way to cook doughnuts. You don’t even need any fancy equipment—you can use your Dutch oven! If you do prefer to bake your doughnuts, you’ll need to pick up a special doughnut pan and you’ll want to keep a close eye on the cooking time. Undercook the doughnuts and they’ll be doughy inside, but overcook them and they’ll turn out dry.

How to Make Cake Doughnuts

Ingredients

Yield: About 24 doughnuts

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • Neutral oil, like canola or peanut, for deep-fat frying

Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar

Start by beating the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is thick and pale colored, about 5 minutes. This step not only mixes the two ingredients together, but it also creates air in the dough, resulting in a lighter, fluffier texture later on in the process.

Once the butter and sugar are well combined, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Step 2: Bring the dough together and let it rest

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Alternatively add the dry ingredients with the milk to the butter mixture, beating well with each addition. Continue until all the ingredients are well mixed. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours.

Step 3: Cut the doughnuts

Turn the dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape it into a large, 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Cut out your doughnut shapes with a floured 2-1/2-inch doughnut cutter. If you don’t have a cutter, you can use a 1-cup measure to make the outer cut and a piping tip to remove the center hole.

Pro Tip: Don’t throw away the middles! Fry them up separately to create bite-sized doughnut holes.

Step 4: Fry ’em up

In an electric deep fryer or Dutch oven, heat about a quart of neutral oil (like canola or peanut) to 375° F. Add the doughnuts three or four at a time, taking care not to add so many that the oil will drop more than 10° F. Fry the doughnuts for 3 to 5 minutes, flipping once, until they’re golden brown on both sides. Drain the doughnuts on a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack and continue frying until all the doughnuts are cooked.

Pro Tip: Doughnuts taste great at room temperature, but they’re particularly fantastic when they’re piping hot. Hold the doughnuts warm in a 250° F oven while you continue cooking the remaining dough.

Step 5: Roll the doughnuts in cinnamon and sugar

Combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon to use as a sugary topping. Roll the warm doughnuts in the mixture and serve hot or at room temperature.

Pro Tip: Before you dust them in the cinnamon sugar, you can freeze doughnuts for up to three months. Wrap each doughnut individually in foil and place them in an airtight freezer bag. When you’re ready to use them, remove the foil and thaw the doughnuts at room temperature. Then, roll them in the sugar mixture before serving.

How to Make Yeast Doughnuts

Ingredients

Yield: About 18 doughnuts

  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110° to 115° F)
  • 1-1/4 cups warm milk (110° to 115° F)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • Neutral oil, like canola or peanut, for deep-fat frying
  • Confectioners’ sugar or additional sugar, optional

Step 1: Prime the yeast

Unless you’re using the instant kind, you’ll want to proof the yeast for 5 to 10 minutes. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water (110° to 115° F). Set aside until the mixture is bubbly.

Pro Tip: If your yeast hasn’t bubbled much after 10 minutes, it may be expired. Toss the mixture and start again with a new yeast packet.

Step 2: Bring the dough together and let it rest

Once the yeast is bubbly and fragrant, add the warm milk, oil, sugar, salt and eggs and stir to mix. Stir in flour until the dough comes together to a very sticky mixture. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

When your timer goes off, stir the dough to release the air. Replace the kitchen towel and let the mixture rise for another 45 minutes.

Step 3: Cut the doughnuts and let them rise

Gently stir down the dough and roll it out onto a well-floured surface. Roughly shape the dough into a large, 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut out your doughnut shapes with a floured 2-1/2-inch doughnut cutter and place the doughnuts on a greased baking sheet. Cover the baking sheets with a towel and let the doughnuts rise for 45 minutes.

Step 4: Fry ’em up

In an electric deep fryer or Dutch oven, heat about a quart of neutral oil (like canola or peanut) to 375° F. Add the doughnuts three or four at a time, taking care not to add so many that the oil will drop more than 10° F. Fry the doughnuts for 2 to 4 minutes, flipping once, until they are golden brown on both sides.

Drain the doughnuts on a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack and continue frying until all the doughnuts are cooked. Dust the cooked doughnuts with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Step 5: Glaze away

Plain doughnuts are awesome, but—come on—they’re truly irresistible when dunked in a sweet glaze. Check out some of our favorite glaze recipes below and stir up your favorite (or all of them!). For a translucent look, plunk the doughnut into glaze while it’s still warm. Want it more opaque? Let the doughnut cool a bit before dunking. Feel free to double dunk. And if you just can’t decide, don’t! Drizzle a second glaze over already-dipped doughnuts to get the best of both worlds.

Pro tip: Doughnuts are best eaten the day they’re made, preferably while they are still warm or no more than an hour or two out of the fryer. If they’re stored in a tightly sealed container, the moisture inside will enhance absorption of the icing, leading to soggy doughnuts later. Try glazing only the doughnuts that will be eaten that day. Any remaining can be frozen in a resealable plastic freezer bag. To reheat, place frozen doughnuts on an ungreased baking sheet. Cover lightly with foil and heat at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Glaze while warm.

Quick Doughnut Glaze Recipes

The best part about making a plain cake doughnut at home is jazzing it up exactly the way you want. These quick glazes, frostings and sugary coatings make it easy to create your own perfect at-home assortment.

Chocolate Glaze: Bring 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream and 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup just to a boil; pour over 6 oz. chopped semisweet chocolate. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Stir in 2 tsp. vanilla extract. Makes 1 cup.

Quick Chocolate Frosting: Prepare Chocolate Glaze, then stir in 2 cups confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Let stand 15 minutes or until spreadable. Makes 1-3/4 cups.

Maple Glaze: Whisk 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 3 Tbsp. 2% milk, 2 Tbsp. maple syrup and 1/2 tsp. maple flavoring until smooth. Makes 1 cup.

Ginger-Sugar: In a bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar with 2-3 Tbsp. ground ginger. Add warm doughnuts and toss until coated. Makes 3/4 cup.

Find even more homemade glazes here.

How to Make Shortcut Doughnuts

Need to satisfy that doughnut craving in a pinch? Reader Anne Walter of Sheridan, Wyoming, has a brilliant tip for making doughnuts on the quick:

“I turn refrigerated biscuits into doughnuts by cutting a hole in the middle of each. I carefully fry the biscuits in hot oil until they’re golden brown, then drain them on paper towels before coating them with sugar.”

Thanks, Anne! For more ultra-easy doughnut recipes, check out these fast doughnuts for busy cooks.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.
Rachel Seis
As senior editor for Taste of Home magazine, Rachel has her hand in everything you see from cover to cover, from writing and editing articles to taste-testing recipes to ensuring every issue is packed with fun and fabulous content. She'll roll up her sleeves to try any new recipe in the kitchen—from spicy Thai dishes (her favorite!) to classic Southern comfort food (OK...also her favorite). When she's not busy thinking of her next meal, Rachel can be found practicing yoga, going for a run, exploring National Parks and traveling to new-to-her cities across the country.