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How to Make Donuts the Old-Fashioned Way

Making donuts may seem like a complicated process, but we promise, it's much easier than you think!

I originally thought that making donuts would be a complicated process. Frying donuts at home? Sounds impossible! But I was shocked to find out that learning how to make donuts was actually easy to do. Making the dough is similar to the process of making homemade bread, but instead of baking the bread in the oven, you simply fry them in oil. Dipped in a homemade glaze and topped with colorful sprinkles, these homemade old-fashioned donuts rival the kind you buy at a donut shop. Sure, the process will take longer than simply going to a store, but it's a fun activity to do at home with your family and friends.

So if you've ever wanted to learn how to make donuts, here's my step-by-step guide.

Makes 16 servings

Ingredients

For the donuts

4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 packet dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup & 1 tsp sugar, separated
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick butter, melted
Canola oil
Cooking spray

For the glaze

1/2 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar

How to Make It

1

Activate the yeast

mixing dry yeast in warm milk
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To activate the dry yeast, warm up the 2/3 cup of milk in the microwave for 45 seconds. Add in the 1 teaspoon of sugar and the packet of dry yeast. Stir and let it sit for at least 8 to 10 minutes until the yeast has bloomed (it will get bubbly on the top).

Hot tip: If the yeast does not bloom, your milk was probably too hot. Try again, but this time heat up the milk for a shorter period of time. It should be warm, but not steaming hot.

2

Mix the yeast with wet ingredients

mixing bloomed yeast in butter and egg mixture
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir in the yeast mixture.

3

Add flour and salt

sprinkling flour and salt into wet yeast mixture for donuts
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Sprinkle in the flour and the salt. Mix with a spatula. When the dough starts to form, you will have to start to mix the dough with your hands.

4

Knead the dough on a floured surface

kneading donut dough on a floured surface
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Sprinkle flour on a clean counter and move the dough to the floured surface. Knead the dough until it becomes elastic—this should only take a few minutes. If you would rather not knead with your hands, you could always mix and knead the dough using a dough hook with a stand mixer (like the one on this Kitchen Aid set).

5

Shape into a ball

shaping a dough ball on a floured surface
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To shape the dough, pinch the bottom of the dough together in the center.

6

Place in a greased bowl and cover

covering a ball of dough with a kitchen towel
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Spray a clean bowl with some cooking spray, then place the dough in the bowl. Cover it with a kitchen towel, then place it in a warm spot.

7

Let it rise for 1 1/2 hours

risen dough in a large bowl
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Leave the dough to rise for at least an hour, but it will most likely need 1 1/2 hours to fully form.

9

Roll out the dough

rolling out dough with a rolling pin
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Place the risen dough back on a floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin. The dough should be about 1/2-inch thick.

10

Shape into donuts

shaping donuts with a donut cutter
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Using a donut cutter, cut donut shapes in the dough. Once you've cut enough, remove the donut shapes to a sheet pan, roll the dough, and continue the process until you don't have enough dough left. You should have enough to shape 16 donuts.

11

Let the donut shapes rise for 30 minutes

leaving the donut shapes to rise on a sheet pan
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Place the donut shapes on a sheet pan with parchment paper, and cover with a towel for a second rise. This time you'll only need 30 minutes.

12

Fry in heated oil

donuts frying in a dutch oven
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While the donuts are rising a second time, fill a pot (like this Dutch oven) with canola oil. It will take a while to heat, so this would be good to do during the rise. When the oil starts to visibly move, it is hot enough (typically around 350 to 375 degrees).

13

Flip the donuts after 1-2 minutes

flipped donuts frying in a dutch oven
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Slowly place the donuts (and donut holes) in the frying oil using a spider strainer. Let the donuts cook on each side for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown. The donut holes will likely cook faster! Move the cooked donuts to a cooling rack.

14

Dip into a glaze

dipping hot donuts into a glaze
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In a small, whisk the milk and powdered sugar for the glaze. Dip the warm donuts into the glaze and place them on parchment paper.

15

Add toppings!

adding sprinkles to hot donuts with glaze
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Sprinkles, edible glitter, nuts, or even dried fruit! Add whatever toppings your donut-loving heart desires. You could even top it with our caramel sauce!

Full Donut Recipe

  1. Heat the milk in the microwave for 45 seconds.
  2. Mix in 1 tsp sugar and the dry yeast packet. Let it stand for 8-10 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, melted butter, vanilla, and sugar. Pour in yeast mixture when it is ready and mix.
  4. Add in flour and salt. Mix together until a dough has formed.
  5. Flour a surface and knead the dough until it is elastic. This should only take a few minutes.
  6. Spray down a large bowl with cooking spray and place the shaped dough ball in it. Cover with a dish towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Move dough to a floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin until 1/2-inch thick. Cut out donut shapes with a donut cutter.
  8. Move cut donuts (and donut holes!) to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a towel and let it rise for 30 minutes.
  9. While the dough is rising again, prep the oil. Pour canola oil into a large pot or Dutch oven and heat. Make sure it's hot enough (around 350 to 375 degrees).
  10. Fry donuts and donut holes on each side for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove to a cooling rack.
  11. Whisk the ingredients together for the glaze in a small bowl. Dip warm donuts in the glaze, then move to parchment paper.
  12. If desired, add sprinkles! Then devour.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

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Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, specializing in recipe development, food, and diet coverage. Read more
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