Sweet, crunchy, and hard to resist, these homemade sugar donuts are the perfect mid-day treat alongside coffee or tea or as a post-dinner dessert. This easy sugar donuts recipe is a breeze, requiring only eight ingredients and 30 minutes of your time. You’ll be craving another the very moment you sink your teeth into one of them!
📖 What are Sugar donuts
Sugar donuts are a type of yeast donut that has been fried and lightly coated with sugar. Unlike cake donuts leavened with baking powder or baking soda, yeast donuts are light, airy, and typically fried. Its usual ingredients are milk, sugar, yeast, egg, flour, salt, butter, and oil for frying. The dough of sugar donuts is very similar to brioche donuts but uses much less butter to make them.
🌟 Why this is the best recipe
- It is the most delicious - This sweet and simple doughnut recipe with yeast uses the highest quality ingredients, giving them the best flavor and texture. It is hands down one of the best donut recipes you will try!
- No fancy ingredients or equipment required - You can find all eight of the necessary ingredients in your local grocery store or right in your pantry! You likely also have all of the equipment you need in your kitchen. Although a stand mixer is helpful, it is not required.
- It is easy to make - Even beginners can make bakery-style donuts with this detailed tutorial! In this recipe, I take you step-by-step through making, shaping, and frying the donuts. If you follow each step as written and follow my expert tips, you will have the perfect homemade donuts in no time.
- It doesn’t require much effort - This sugar donut recipe only takes 30 minutes to prepare and does not require you to be in the kitchen all day. The longest part is waiting for the dough to proof, which you can do overnight.
- It is versatile - You can use the dough as a base for several different flavors of donuts. You can also customize your donuts with various toppings and fillings, as I share in the Flavor Variations and Substitutions section below.
📝 Ingredient notes
- Milk - Use high-fat content milk, preferably 3% whole milk. The milk needs to be lukewarm.
- Sugar - You will need sugar to help to sweeten the dough as well as for the sugar coat. I use granulated sugar in this recipe.
- Yeast - Fresh yeast will give you the best results. You can also use approximately 1.5 teaspoons (5g) of instant yeast as an alternative. For more tips, check out my guide on baking with yeast.
- Egg - To add moisture to the dough, you will need one whole egg and one egg yolk. Both need to be at room temperature.
- Flour - A high-protein content flour such as bread flour is best for making donuts.
- Salt - Salt is an essential ingredient in baking, as it helps to balance the sweetness. Do not skip it!
- Butter - Always use unsalted butter to fully control the amount of salt in the recipe. Like the milk and the egg, the butter must be at room temperature (but not melted). It should be soft enough to knead into the dough easily.
- Oil - You will need vegetable oil or canola oil when frying the donuts.
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
👩🍳 How to make this recipe
1. Step-by-step process of making sugar donuts
- Make sure your kitchen is nice and warm. Mix the sugar with the lukewarm milk, then sprinkle on the fresh or dried yeast. In approximately 10 minutes, the yeast will start to foam.
- Place the yeast mixture into the stand mixer. With the kneading hook attached, mix in the room-temperature egg and egg yolk.
- Mix in the flour and salt and knead until the dough comes together.
- Add the soft butter chunks to the mixture, one piece at a time. Knead for 10 minutes on medium-high until the dough is elastic, shiny, and no longer sticky.
- Move the dough into another bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Place in the fridge overnight to rise, or let sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
- After the dough rises, gently knock the air out. Knead the dough for a few seconds.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a ¼-inch (0.6mm) inch thick. Use a small amount of extra flour while shaping the dough, if needed.
- With the help of a cookie cutter or donut cutter, cut out approx. 3-inch (8 cm) donut circles, then cut out the middle with a smaller sharp object (I am using the back end of a piping nozzle).
- Place each donut onto a lined baking sheet using individual square sheets of parchment paper. Use the leftover dough to re-roll and re-cut until none is left.
- Proof the dough again at room temperature. Although the dough needs to be in a warm place, avoid placing it near direct heat or sunlight. Depending on the kitchen temperature, this process could take 1-2 hours.
💡 Top Tip: Place the dough in the refrigerator overnight for the first rise. Cold, firm dough is much easier to work with than warm, sticky dough.
2. How to fry sugar donuts
- Once the donuts have finished the second proofing and are puffed up, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Ideally, the oil should be at 356F/180C when frying donuts, although a range of 347-365F/175-185C is acceptable. Use a digital thermometer to check the temperature.
- Place 3-4 donuts in the hot oil at a time, making sure that each donut has enough space around it. The number of donuts that fit in the pan can vary based on the size of your pan. Fry the donuts on each side for approximately two minutes or until they become a nice brown color.
- Move the fried donuts to a wire rack lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. While the donuts are still hot, toss them in granulated sugar until well-covered. Serve fresh.
💡 Top Tip: To fry donuts, you only need to add just enough oil to the pan to prevent the donuts from touching the bottom. The amount of oil you use will vary depending on the type of pan that you use.
📚 Flavor variations & Substitutions
You can easily customize these perfect sugar donuts in numerous ways. Try one of these delicious variations to make your taste buds dance:
With different sugars - Replace the granulated sugar with powdered sugar to make white powdered donuts. You can also try other sugars, such as decorating, muscovado, or brown sugar. Or, make your own homemade sugar using a combination of different sugars and/or lemon zest, vanilla bean, cardamom, etc.
With cinnamon - Add some cinnamon to the sugar (or use premade cinnamon sugar) to make sweet cinnamon sugar donuts. You can also add cinnamon to the dough to make cinnamon donuts.
With all-purpose flour: If you do not have bread flour, you can substitute all-purpose flour at a 1:1 ratio. However, it may slightly change the texture of the donut.
With dry yeast: You can use instant dry yeast instead of fresh yeast. Be sure to check the packaging for the correct amount of active yeast to substitute.
Without eggs: For egg allergies, you can use one of the many egg substitutes. However, the other ingredients may need minor adjustments to get the same flavor and texture.
🥣 Equipment Notes
A digital scale will give you the most accurate and consistent amounts when measuring the ingredients. When frying the donuts, you will need a digital thermometer to ensure that the oil is at the correct temperature.
Although not 100% necessary, a stand mixer will make kneading the dough much easier. You can also use your hands if you don’t mind the extra workout! You will need a rolling pin to press out the dough for cutting.
🎓 Expert tips
- The wet ingredients (eggs, milk, and butter) must be at room temperature to emulsify properly.
- Activating the yeast will require that your kitchen is nice and warm. However, you should not place the dough near direct heat or sunlight. The yeast should be foamy before you move to the next step of the recipe.
- Do not skip the second proofing, as it is necessary for the perfect fluffy texture.
- If the dough sticks when kneading, continue kneading it until it reaches the gluten window and can pass the windowpane test. Do not adjust the ingredients or add more flour in an attempt to speed up the process.
- Keep a close eye on the oil temperature to ensure it does not get too hot or too cool. If the oil is too hot, it will burn the outside while leaving the inside raw and undercooked. If it is too cool, it will soak up too much oil while leaving the inside raw and undercooked.
- If you do not have a donut cutter, you can use the back end of a piping nozzle to cut out the middle circle of the dough.
Store sugar donuts in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. You can place them in the refrigerator for up to a week to make them last slightly longer.
You can freeze the donuts for three months by wrapping them individually in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, then placing them in a freezer bag or airtight container. Thaw by letting them sit at room temperature.
Place refrigerated or frozen sugar donuts in the microwave for a few seconds to reheat them.
You can easily make this fried donut recipe in the air fryer before you coat them with sugar. However, air frying the donuts will not give you the same golden brown color or deep-fried flavor.
Yes, you can use a deep fryer to fry the donuts.
You can bake donuts, but they will not have the same crispy texture or deep-fried flavor. To make baked sugar donuts, place the shaped donuts in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and let bake for approximately 10-15 minutes until cooked through. Toss them in the sugar while they are still hot.
You can make the dough up to 24 hours in advance by following the instructions as usual until it is time to proof the dough the first time. Instead of proofing the dough at room temperature, you will need to cover and place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Then, continue with the recipe as written.
The donuts must be still hot for the sugar to stick. You can also spray or brush a small amount of oil or butter to help it stick better.
🍩 More Donut recipes
- 110 g (½ cups) Whole milk lukewarm
- 50 g (¼ cups) Granulated sugar
- 12.5 g Fresh yeast Can be substituted with 5g (1.5 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 1 Egg yolk room temperature
- 1 Egg room temperature
- 250 g (2 cups) Bread flour High protein content flour. Can be substituted with All purpose flour.
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 30 g (2 tablespoons) Unsalted butter room temperature, soft
- 1.5 liter (6 cups) Vegetable or Canola oil for frying
For the sugar coat
- 100 g (½ cups) Granulated sugar
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
Prepare the dough
- Start with mixing sugar with lukewarm milk then sprinkle yeast on top. Make sure the kitchen is nice and warm, and in 10 minutes the yeast should foam.
- Place the yeast mixture into your stand mixer with the kneading hook on, then mix it together with the egg and egg yolk.
- Mix in dry ingredients; flour, and salt, and start kneading until the dough comes together.
- Slowly start to add in room temperature (soft) butter chunks piece by piece. Knead the dough for another 10 minutes on medium high speed until the dough becomes elastic and shiny and no longer sticky.
- Move the dough into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Let it rise ideally in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
- After the dough has risen, knock the air out, and gently knead the dough for a few seconds.
- Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into ¼ inch (0.6mm) thick, and with the help of a cookie cutter, cut out approx. 3-inch / 8 cm donut circles, then cut out the middle with a smaller sharp object (I am using the back end of a piping nozzle). You can also use a donut cutter. Use a small amount of extra flour while shaping the dough, if needed.
- Place the donuts onto square sheets of baking paper. Any leftover dough can be re-rolled and re-cutted, continue with the process until you have dough left.
- Proof the dough for the second time now at room temperature. Proofing might take 1-2 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Chose a warm spot but avoid direct heat and sunlight.
- Once the donuts are nicely puffed up, heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. The ideal oil temperature for baking donuts is 180C/356F or between 175-185C / 347-365F. Use a thermometer.
- Depending on the size of your pan, place 3-4 donuts in the oil at a time, leaving enough space around them. Fry the donuts on each side for about 2 minutes or until nice and brown.
- Place the fried donuts on a wire rack lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil. While they are still hot, toss the donuts in granulated sugar. Serve them fresh.
- Store the donuts in an air-tight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.
- Use always unsalted butter in baking, in this recipe butter needs to be at room temperature so soft enough to be able to knead into the dough.
- Fresh or dried yeast can be used. Please check my baking guide for more details on how to bake with yeast.
- Use the milk, butter, and egg at room temperature in order for the ingredients to properly emulsify.
- Since rum donut is effectively a sweet bread, use high protein content bread flour.
- For activating the yeast (whether it is dried or fresh), make sure that the milk is lukewarm and your kitchen is also nice and warm.
- You will knead the dough for about 10 minutes in a stand mixer. The dough is ready when it is shiny, elastic, and does not stick to your fingers any longer. Do not add more flour to the dough. If it sticks too much, continue kneading.
- The first proofing ideally should happen in the fridge overnight for the best flavor and texture. It will also mean that you work with cold dough when shaping the donuts, which is less sticky and easier to shape.
- Second proofing is necessary for the perfect rise = fluffy texture
- The oil temperature is critical; use a thermometer. Too hot? It will burn the donuts and they might stay raw in the middle. Too cold? The donuts will soak in too much oil and, again, might stay raw in the middle.