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Sourdough Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar

These are true homemade Sourdough Donuts, made without any commercial yeast. A slow fermentation gives these donuts a spectacular flavor and texture. They’re like no donuts you’ve ever tasted.

a stack of sourdough donuts with cinnamon sugar against a white background

It’s official, you guys – these are my favorite donuts ever! I mean, who doesn’t love a good donut? What’s your favorite donut style; cake or yeast? Some folks like the cake style donuts and, sure, they’re tasty.  But, me? I’m partial to the airy/chewy texture of a good yeast donut.

What makes Sourdough Donuts taste so good?

Making donuts with the natural yeast of a sourdough starter takes them into another stratosphere. Seriously, these donuts are GOOD. The starter gives the donuts a special chewy texture and deep flavor.

If you don’t have one, check out my post to learn How to Make a Sourdough Starter. Then check out my system to Feed and Maintain Sourdough Starter.

I’ve been mulling over the idea of a sourdough donut for a while now. Being a huge baking geek, I’m always thinking of the possibilities beyond bread-baking for my starter. I just knew that sourdough starter would be a great base for a yeast donut–if I could create a well-balanced recipe.

a sourdough donut on a white plate and a plate full of more donuts

How I created this Homemade Donut Recipe:

To create this recipe I looked to my Whole Grain Sourdough Waffle recipe and my Rhubarb Fritters.  I wanted a donut with a texture somewhere between those two; the open crumb and chewy texture of the waffle, with the sweet, spicy, enriched flavor of the fritter.

Because the starter doesn’t get a boost with commercial yeast, the recipe is a 2 day process. Don’t worry though, the vast majority of time is hands-off.

About working with Sourdough Starter:

A night in the refrigerator is essential for the flavor and texture of the dough. Also, since this is a fairly sticky dough, it’s much easier to roll and cut while it’s still cold from the refrigerator.

A long kneading time and two-day fermentation allows the dough to retain lots of air without collapsing. You’ll see a great “poof” when you drop the donuts into the fryer.

Even though these donuts are really big, they’re light and airy and not at all heavy or greasy (and, seriously, what sane person is going to complain that a donut is too big?). A roll in cinnamon sugar gives these babies a perfectly crunchy bite.

I bake a lot, really way too much for two people to eat. I don’t need to crave sweets since they’re always around. But I have actually caught myself dreamily remembering the crunchy bite and lightly chewy texture of these Sourdough Donuts.

I can’t wait to make them again. They’re totally worth the time and effort–and calories. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to jump on the elliptical…

A broken in half sourdough donut showing the inside crumb

a stack of cinnamon sugar donuts and one on a plate

Watch the recipe video to see how-to make true Sourdough Donuts.

I know you hate to throw away that sourdough discard. Check out these recipes that use sourdough discard.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star rating!

sourdough donuts

Sourdough Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar

Yield: 12 large donuts
Prep Time: 1 hour
Rising Time: 12 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 13 hours 20 minutes

Start the day before to make a true Sourdough Donut without commercial yeast. The long fermentation of the dough gives these donuts fantastic flavor and texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 oz, 235 ml) whole milk, warmed to about 120°F (slightly warmer than body temp)
  • 1 large egg (room temp)
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz, 55g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 224g) active sourdough starter  (100% hydration)
  • 3.5 cups (18 oz, 504g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (4oz, 112g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • Cinnamon Sugar for coating

Instructions

Make the dough (day 1)

  1. Combine the warm milk, butter and egg with the starter in a mixer bowl. With the mixer running, add sugar, spices, salt and 2.5 cups of the flour. Mix until it forms a thick batter.
  2. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining flour (amount of flour may vary based on the hydration of your starter). The dough will start out quite sticky. Knead on medium low speed for 15 minutes (speed 2 on my stand mixer) until the dough clings to the hook and clears the sides of the bowl.
  3. Scrape the dough into a lightly floured surface and knead into a smooth ball. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover and set the dough aside at room temperature for fermentation.
  4. After 1 hour uncover the bowl, lift one edge of the dough over into the middle of the dough. Repeat with the other three sides of the dough then flip the dough over. Cover the bowl and set aside.
  5. Every hour for another 2-3 hours repeat the folding as described above. After 3-4 hours of fermentation the dough should be lively, elastic and airy. If the dough is still sluggish give it another hour or two at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Make the Donuts (day 2)

  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. While the dough is still cold, without kneading, roll to 1/2" thick on a lightly floured surface.
  2. Use a 4" round cutter to cut donuts. Use a 1.5" cutter to cut center hole. Line the donuts on a well-oiled, parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, leaving space between the donuts for the dough to rise (I used 2 baking sheets). Reroll the scraps of dough and continue cutting donuts until all the dough is used up. Brush the tops of the donuts lightly with oil.
  3. Cover the sheet pans with plastic wrap and set aside to rise. The donuts are ready when you poke the dough and the dent slowly fills in. If the dough bounces right back it's not quite ready. This rise should take about 1 1/2 hours. The time will vary based on the temperature of the room.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 2 quarts of oil to 350F° in a large heavy pot. Fry the donuts a couple at a time, about 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown and puffy.
  5. As you take each donut out of the oil, immediately roll in the cinnamon sugar to coat the entire donut. Set on a cooling rack while you fry the rest of the donuts.
  6. Best eaten warm or within a couple of hours of frying.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

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Søren

Monday 27th of September 2021

Finally got to try your recipe which I have had among my bookmarks for a long time .. thank you very much. First og all, they were much easier to make than I had anticipated, and the texture and taste are just really good! definitely not the last time I make them .. thanks again.

Jo

Monday 5th of July 2021

I am definitely going to make it with my starter, Margaret, but I wanted to know if this recipe would be fine using the standard 1-2% commercial yeast in baker's percentages? This is just so in the future if I want to use Commercial yeast I can do so properly without the trial and error. This recipe calls for about 44% starter, which is much higher than usual but milk has been known to slow down yeast production.

Jo

Monday 5th of July 2021

I'm probably going to lower the amount of starter to 25-30% instead. I think she'll give plenty of rise in no time especially since it's summer. I'm excited to make this.

Jo

Monday 5th of July 2021

Can't wait to make this! Finally a website with grams. So hard to find. I'll write a review when I make it. Thanks for this. Would it be the normal 1-2% baker's percentage in regards to industrialized yeast?

Jo

Monday 5th of July 2021

@Eileen Gray, sorry for the extra comments. I added another comment because I didn't see the reply button and then I refreshed the page then my comment went back to pending and yours disappeared so I added another comment. I then could reply to my comment and others. It was a caching issue so after I cleared my cache everything is back to normal.

But yes, I figured I'd add 1-2% of commercial yeast eventually in the distant future. Just wondering if that would be the proper baker's percentage for this recipe? I love using my sourdough starter especially in sweets (I mainly bake breads/batards); it gives sweets a great contrast. And it's healthier in a sense.

Thank you for making this recipe. I appreciate it.

Eileen Gray

Monday 5th of July 2021

Are you asking how to make these donuts with commercial yeast instead of sourdough starter?

Gloria

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

This is a great recipe! I didn’t have cardamom so I upped the cinnamon, the texture was light and fluffy, and they weren’t too sweet. I didn’t think sourdough donuts were a thing, or that they’d be good, but you’ve changed my view

Kathy

Sunday 6th of June 2021

donuts were delicious. I use my own sourdough but it was too strong. I’d love to make it with yeast. Is there a recipe for it

Eileen Gray

Sunday 6th of June 2021

Do you mean there was a strong sour taste? If so, generally a freshly fed starter will have a much milder flavor. If you give your starter a couple of feedings a day or two before making the dough there should be no "sour" taste.

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