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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.

Since you’ve got your starter fed, check out the entire list of My Best Sourdough Recipes. Have fun!

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.


  • 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


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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Monday 1st of March 2021

Hi! I made the dough for these two days ago and fried them this morning. The flavour is great but they're quite dense, not really at all fluffy like other (commercial yeast) donuts I've made or purchased. I make sourdough bread every week so I know my starter is active. When I first dropped them into the deep fryer, they sank all the way to the bottom and took about 5sec to float to the surface, in contrast to previous (commercial yeast) donuts I've made where they floated almost immediately. Does this mean maybe they were underproofed, and this also contributed to the density issue when fried? After cutting them they proofed for over an hour and I followed your cues of a fingerprint very slowly filling back out, but they weren't as puffy as my yeasted donuts usually are at that stage. I don't want to give up on the idea of sourdough donuts but these weren't the amazing success I was hoping for!


Monday 1st of March 2021

@Eileen Gray, thanks so much for the quick response! I actually looked for the video when making as it was mentioned in the recipe post, but on my mobile browser could not see it - the only video visible on the page was for a brandy fruit cake. I'm on a desktop browser now and can see the video so I'm not sure what the issue was, but unfortunately it means I didn't get to watch it. I don't believe the dough was over-proofed - they proofed for less time than you recommended and the room wasn't excessively warm (it was early in the morning), and they if anything felt a little on the dense side when I picked them up (although puffier than when first cut). The dough was extremely springy when I rolled it out, so I don't think gluten development was the issue. I need to produce donuts for a client this week and given your advice am now undecided as to whether I should try this again (and aim for better proofing) or revert to my usual yeasted recipe (which I was not entirely happy with, but at least came out fluffier than these)... Such a dilemna!

Eileen Gray

Monday 1st of March 2021

Did you watch the recipe video? You can see that the donuts do not sink when they go into the oil. The finished donuts should be fluffy and light. I would say either your dough was not sufficiently proofed or possibly over-proofed. If you dough is over-proofed you can loose volume when you pick it up to transfer to the oil. Did the donuts feel dense when you picked them up? Another problem could be weak gluten development. Without strong gluten the dough can't maintain air as it rises in the oil. Did the dough feel springy when you roll it to cut the donuts?

Haidyn Ogg

Saturday 27th of February 2021

Could I leave them in the fridge after the shaping and second rising overnight?

Eileen Gray

Saturday 27th of February 2021

Yes, that should work fine. I just cut them in the morning because I find the dough a little easier to work with when it's cold.


Saturday 27th of February 2021

I know that this is probably a no no question, but could you bake these in the oven?

Eileen Gray

Saturday 27th of February 2021

Sure, you can bake them.


Thursday 11th of February 2021

If I want to wake up and just fry these, is there a way to do that? Can I cut them then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight and then fry the next morning after 30-60 minutes at room temp? We eat breakfast early so tying to avoid a 5AM wake up on the weekend :) thanks!

Eileen Gray

Thursday 11th of February 2021

Yes, I think if you cut them and refrigerate them overnight that will work. I do this all the time with bagels, croissants and cinnamon buns.


Thursday 11th of February 2021

Hi Eileen,

Will it work without stand mixer?


Saturday 27th of February 2021

@Irene, I kneaded the dough by hand for about 10 mins until it didn't stick to my hands or the counter anymore and it turned out great! Just let the dough stick to your hands while kneading it and eventually it will not stick :-)

Eileen Gray

Thursday 11th of February 2021

Yes, the dough might be too sticky to knead by hand. You can mix the dough by hand and then the folding and turning of the dough should help develop the gluten, like a "no knead" bread.