Best Fried Vegan Donuts
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I am not sure that many realize that classic donuts are yeast-risen like bread and are fried, not baked. Though, I do like a good cakey egg-risen donut that is baked in my oven or air fryer. A yeast-risen donut is often a vegan treat, which a lot of people don’t realize either. Though, it does depend on your local bakery and what ingredients they add to the dough, especially when it comes to the fat and liquid components.
For this donut recipe, we are making classic yeast-leavened donuts that are fried in oil. The ingredients do not include any dairy, eggs, or animal fat.
Yeast is a magical thing and there is no reason to be intimidated by it. It is alive and brings life to everything it is incorporated into as an ingredient. It does all the work that eggs, baking powder, and baking soda do in one little packet.
The thing that yeast requires is time and patience. It is so worth it. I like to get up early on a Saturday and start my donuts before anyone else is awake. I am a morning person and I love when the house is quiet. I make a cup of hot tea, step outside to see the sunrise, and then start my day at a leisurely pace. If I am baking bread or making donuts, the day starts with blooming the yeast in warm water or non-dairy milk with a little raw sugar. Then, I add my flour and salt and whatever else the recipe calls for and knead the dough. It rests in a bowl inside a Turned-off oven for at least an hour. That is when I answer emails and go for a walk.
After an hour, I make the donut shapes and allow them to rise again while I write, check the news, or address my to-do list. I think the rising time needed to make yeast donuts is meditative. You don’t really have to pay much attention and can relax or get a lot of things done.
Once the donuts have risen, it is time to fry them. That is when the house smells awesome and anyone who is sleeping in starts getting up. I put a pot of coffee on and we are off to the races.
You are going to need some basic pantry ingredients of plant-based milk, yeast, sugar, salt, vanilla, vegan fat, flour, and cooking oil. You also need either an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with a dough hook. You need a donut mold or cutter and a Dutch oven or similar pot. Other items that come in handy are a spider and a hot liquid thermometer, also known as a candy thermometer.
These donuts are delicious with steaming hot coffee, iced coffee, black tea, or a cup of warm matcha.
- 1 ¼ cups unsweetened plain almond milk
- 1 packet of active dry yeast
- 1 tsp raw turbinado sugar
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ⅓ cup vegan butter at room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 quart or more of vegetable oil sunflower, grapeseed, or canola
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup almond milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- In a saucepot over low heat, warm the almond milk until lukewarm. Don’t boil it. Pour the milk into a medium bowl. Gently stir the yeast into the milk. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over the milk. Set the bowl aside while the yeast bubbles for about 8 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the softened vegan butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Cream together with an electric hand mixer or your stand mixer attachment on high for 1 minute.
- Stir the salt into the milk and yeast. Pour the milk into the butter and sugar. Beat again at low speed until just combined.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir 3-1/2 cups of the flour into the mixing bowl 1/2 cup at a time. Stir to combine everything. You want to end up with a ball of dough that you can handle that isn’t overly sticky.
- Lightly flour a clean flat surface. Turn the ball of dough out onto the surface and dust the top of the ball with a little more flour. Knead the dough with the heels of your hands for about 5 minutes until it is no longer sticky and is elastic. You can add a small amount of flour if needed.
- Wipe out the mixing bowl and coat it with a little vegetable oil. Place the dough into the oiled bowl and turn it once to coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Place the bowl inside a turned-off oven and allow it to double in size for 60 minutes. It helps if you leave the oven light on to create a tiny amount of warmth.
- Using your fist, gently punch the dough to release some of the air. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and roll it out to a 1/2-inch thick disc. Using a donut cutter, cut the dough into 8 donuts and 8 donut holes. You can also use a biscuit cutter and a wide thimble if you don’t have a donut cutter. Repeat the process with any excess dough until it is all used up. Any scraps are also delicious as a fried snack for the chef.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the donuts and holes to the pan and cover them with a towel. Place the pan inside the turned-off oven and allow the donuts to rise for another 60 minutes.
- Fill your Dutch oven or deep fryer with 2-inches of oil. Turn the heat to medium-high. Bring the oil to 350°F with the aid of a candy or frying thermometer.
- Have a sheet pan with a wire rack insert standing by. Once the oil has come to temperature, start frying the donuts 2 or 3 at a time, flipping them over at 2 minutes. Continue to fry for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown and fluffy. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the cooked donuts to the wire rack. Repeat until all the donuts are cooked and then cook the donut holes and scraps for a couple of minutes.
- While the donuts are cooling, prepare the glaze. Whisk powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla together until the sugar dissolves and the glaze is a little runny but thick enough to adhere to the donuts. Adjust the ingredients as necessary to achieve the proper consistency.
- When the donuts are cool enough to handle, dunk one side of each in the glaze and return them to the wire rack, glazed side up. They are ready to eat once the glaze sets.
Notes & Tips
- I would love to tell you that you can make these donuts gluten-free. Alas, I have tried and gluten-free flour doesn’t really work in yeasted donuts.
- It is important not to crowd the pot when frying the donuts. They need room to float and get crispy on all sides. This also helps to maintain a constant temperature of the oil.
- You might be tempted to drain the cooked donuts on paper towels. I have found that this can make the bottoms a little soggy. It is best to cool them on a wire rack with something to catch any drips. This also works to catch the glaze that will drip.
Substitutions & Additions
- Almond Milk: I always have almond milk in my fridge. Feel free to use oat, macadamia nut, hemp, coconut, or any other non-dairy milk for this recipe.
- Cocoa Powder: You can make these chocolate donuts by adding a little vegan unsweetened cocoa or carob powder to the dough.
- Toppings: After glazing the donuts you could add sprinkles or mini vegan chocolate chips to the glaze while it is still wet. You can also dip these in cinnamon sugar rather than glazing them.
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