Sourdough Donuts with Chocolate and Vanilla Glaze

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Learn how to make fluffy homemade sourdough donuts. A simple roux added to the dough creates a soft and pillowy texture. Then, they are fried to golden brown perfection and dipped in vanilla or chocolate glaze.

Sourdough donuts with chocolate glaze on cooling rack

Of all the sourdough recipes I have tried and tested, these milk bread sourdough donuts might be in the ranks of my favorites.

Don’t get me wrong. My family devours sourdough cinnamon rolls and sourdough carrot cake. But there is something about a homemade donut that feels impressive–especially because these fluffy donuts rely on wild yeast–not commercial yeast–for leavening.

But it isn’t just the wild yeast that makes these deep-fried, delicious donuts so pillowy. To make a fluffier donut, I incorporated a milk roux (traditionally called tangzhong) into the dough.

For this, milk and flour are warmed until thickened. Then, it is kneaded along with the remaining dough ingredients. The result is an incredibly light and fluffy donut that no one will believe you made at home–they are that good.

My family LOVES these donuts. And I’m so excited for you to share them with your family, too.

Sourdough donuts, one with bit taken out of it

Tips for Making Sourdough Donuts

Do not skip the milk roux or tangzhong

This is probably the most important step when it comes to making fluffy sourdough donuts. The milk roux (also called tangzhong), is a simple combination of milk and flour that is warmed until thickened. In short, this increases the hydration of the dough, which, in turn, creates a fluffy donut.

Use bread flour for sourdough donuts

Bread flour contains more protein. In turn, this creates a gluten structure that is strong enough to trap air and create a dreamy, pillowy donut. All-purpose flour will work and will still yield a delicious sourdough donut. But it will have a slightly different texture.


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    Because these donuts are fried, you do not need a donut pan. However, for consistency and ease, I’ve found that a donut cutter, cookie cutter, or biscuit cutter works the best. In the past, I have cut donuts with a wine glass for the outer circle and a champagne glass for the inner. It got the job done. But it was more time-consuming, and my donuts were not as aesthetically pleasing.

    Don’t skip the cold proof

    Sourdough’s flavor is developed through time and temperature. Though you could, technically, forgo cold proofing your sourdough donuts, you’ll be bummed that you did. The overnight cold proofing is what creates that coveted tangy sourdough flavor. So don’t skip this step unless you are in the midst of a donut emergency and need them stat.

    Use active sourdough starter

    Use a starter that is bubbly and active, usually fed within the last 4-12 hours. There is a growing trend of using inactive starter, which does work. However, using inactive starter will take more time to bulk ferment.

    This recipe calls for the dough to bulk ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours. So unless you have a proofing box, active sourdough starter is a better and faster route.

    If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can learn how to make a starter from scratch. And you can get answers to the most common sourdough starter questions before using it for donuts.

    YouTube video

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is tangzhong?

    Tangzhong is an Asian bread technique. It originated in Japan and was popularized by Yvonne Chen, a Taiwanese cookbook author. Simply put, tangzhong is a slurry of milk or water and flour that is warmed into a thick paste.

    In short, tangzhong (aka milk roux) pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches so they can intake more water. As a result, this creates a more hydrated dough and a fluffier sourdough donut.

    Can I eat sourdough donuts if I’m gluten intolerant?

    In theory, yes. But I always recommend checking with your healthcare provider if you are gluten intolerant. Because these sourdough donuts are long fermented, the wheat is pre-digested. For some gluten-intolerant bread lovers, this means they can indulge in sourdough sandwich bread and sourdough donuts, for example.

    Sourdough donuts stacked

    What temperature should you fry sourdough donuts?

    The temperature of your hot oil will make or break your sourdough donuts. So fry your donuts, ideally, between 350° F and 365° F. Under 350° F, your donuts will absorb the oil, and they will be soggy (no one likes a soggy donut). Much over 370° F, you run the risk of burning your donuts.

    I always recommend preheating your oil to about 370° F. When you place the dough in the hot oil, the temperature will drop. So heating it slightly above the recommended fry temperature will make sure it stays hot enough.

    How to store leftover sourdough donuts?

    Sourdough donuts are best enjoyed fresh out of the fryer. In my experience, they do not store well. But if you do find yourself with a few stragglers, rather than using an airtight container, wrap them in a napkin or paper towel, and store them in a paper bag.

    Truly, you can use any glaze or topping your heart desires (maple bacon, anyone?). But these are popular choices:

    • Vanilla – What I like about the vanilla glaze is that you can make it a thick glaze, like a frosting. Or you can thin it with milk for traditional glazed donuts.
    • Chocolate – Chocolate glaze is a classic. It’s also my personal favorite. But that’s because I love chocolate everything.
    • Cinnamon Sugar – Cinnamon sugar is another classic choice. While the donuts are still a little hot from the fryer, toss them in a bowl of cinnamon and sugar.
    • Plain – Don’t dismiss a plain donut! These sourdough donuts are delicious au naturale.
    • Sprinkles – Sprinkles make everything happier! After you glaze the donut, top it with sprinkles for a cute treat.
    • Cereal – Cereals like Fruity Pebbles and Fruit Loops are often used instead of sprinkles and to make a donut statement piece.

    Can you make sourdough donut holes?

    Yes! In fact, when you cut the center of the donut, you are making little donut holes. These are viable and delicious little donuts! Save them, allow them to do a second rise, and fry them up. I 100% support dipping them in the leftover vanilla and chocolate glaze for a snack.

    sourdough donuts and chocolate glaze

    Tolls You Will Need

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    Dough Tools

    • Stand mixer with dough hook attachment – Enriched doughs require an intense mix for about 10-15 minutes. So though you could knead this by hand, your arm muscles will be thankful if you use a stand mixer.
    • Whisk or spoon – The stand mixer will do most of the work for you. But you will need a whisk or spoon to make the milk roux and the glazes.
    • Small saucepan – Any small pan or pot will work for making the milk roux. Just make sure it is heavy-bottomed so it doesn’t burn the milk.
    • Kitchen scale – Measuring your ingredients will not only be more precise and repeatable, but it will also reduce the kitchen mess. You’ll only have one bowl to clean up after mixing.
    • Measuring cups and spoons – You will need a teaspoon for measuring the vanilla. And if you don’t have a kitchen scale, I’ve included the cup measurements in the recipe.
    • Donut cutter, biscuit cutter, or cookie cutter – For ease and efficiency, I like to use a donut cutter. That way, all of the donuts are even in size, and you don’t need to worry about using two different cutters for the inner and outer circles.
    • Large bowl – You will need a large bowl for bulk fermenting and cold proofing your sourdough donuts.
    • Rolling pin – I like to use a French rolling pin because it is easier to control. But any rolling pin-like device will do!
    donuts on plate and cooling rack

    Frying Tools

    • Cooling rack – I love these 3-tier, stackable cooling racks. They save a ton of space, and you can cool all of your donuts at one time.
    • Large slotted spoon – It is incredibly important to use safe frying practices. So I recommend using a slotted spoon for placing the sourdough donuts into the hot oil.
    • Tongs – When it is time to turn the donuts in the oil, use tongs. This will help prevent the oil from splashing.
    • Small bowl – I like to use a small bowl for the glazes. Just make sure it is wide enough to fit a donut in.
    • Cast iron Dutch oven – I like to fry my sourdough donuts in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. But any heavy-bottomed pot that is safe for frying will work. Just make sure you have enough space for 2 inches of oil and 3-4 donuts.

    Sourdough Donut Ingredients

    Dough Ingredients

    Tangzhong

    • 38g (1/3 cup) bread flour
    • 180g (3/4 cup) whole milk

    Dough

    • Tangzhong, cooled
    • 200g (1 cup) sourdough starter, active and bubbly
    • 3 large eggs
    • 38g (3 tbsp) granulated sugar
    • 465g (3.5 cups) bread flour
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 12g (1/2 tsp) salt
    • 1 stick of butter, softened and cubed

    Frying Ingredients

    • Neutral oil, such as avocado oil or vegetable oil. Coconut oil can work too, but it might change the flavor of your donuts. You will need enough to fill a wide pot or Dutch oven with 2″ of oil.

    Vanilla Glaze Ingredients

    • 28g (2 tbsp) butter, melted (but not hot)
    • 120g (1 cup) powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 15g-45g (1-3 tbsp) milk, room temp

    Chocolate Glaze Ingredients

    • 120g (1 cup) powdered sugar
    • 10g (1 tbsp) cocoa powder
    • 45g-60g (3-4 tbsp) milk, room temp
    • 7g (1/2 tbsp) butter, melted (but not hot)
    • A dash of vanilla
    • A pinch of salt

    How to Make Sourdough Donuts

    Make the Tangzhong

    In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk and flour. Warm over medium heat, whisking or stirring constantly until the texture is similar to mashed potatoes.

    Spoon onto a plate and smooth with a rubber spatula (this helps it cool faster). Then, set aside, and allow to cool to room temperature.

    close up of milk roux or tangzhong

    Make the Dough

    In the bowl of your stand mixer, add all of the dough ingredients, including the cooled tangzhong. Mix on low speed until the dough becomes shaggy. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.

    Bump up the speed to medium and knead until the dough becomes elastic and smooth, about 10 minutes or so. This took about 12 minutes in my stand mixer. You want the dough to pass the windowpane test.

    Note: It’s okay if the dough is a little sticky. But it should not be wet or make a mess of your hands when you touch it. If it is too wet, knead in one tablespoon of bread flour at a time until it becomes manageable.

    Close up of windowpane test

    Bulk Ferment

    Drizzle a little bit of avocado or olive oil in a bowl. Use the oil in the bowl to lightly coat all sides of the dough. This will help prevent it from drying out during the first rise or bulk fermentation.

    Cover the bowl with a lid, plastic wrap, or a damp towel. Allow the dough to bulk ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours. It is ready for cold proofing (the next step) when it has doubled and is domed on top.

    Note: if you want to speed up the bulk fermentation, stick your dough in a warm place like a proofing box, for example.

    Prepping dough for bulk fermentation in oiled bowl

    Cold Proof

    Cover the dough with plastic or a lid, and pop it in the fridge overnight. Don’t skip this step! This is where the sourdough flavor magic happens.

    The Next Day – Make The Sourdough Donuts!

    Roll the cold dough out about 1/2 inch thick. Using a donut cutter (or other creative tools shaped like a donut), cut the donuts out. If you need to re-roll the dough to cut more, just make sure it is chilled. Otherwise, it’s next to impossible to roll and cut. Stick it back in the fridge if you need to.

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour. Place the donuts on the floured, parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic (I like to use a shopping bag for this). Then, proof for a second rise until the donuts are puffy, about 2-3 hours.

    Covering donuts with plastic for second rise

    Fry the Donuts

    After the second rise, preheat the oil in a cast iron Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Use a fry thermometer to ensure the temp gets to about 370° F.

    Using a slotted spoon, carefully place one donut at a time into the oil. To do this, just gently place the spoon into the oil and slide the donut off. Work in batches of 3 or 4, depending on how big your fryer is.

    Placing donut in hot oil with slotted spoon

    Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes (use tongs to peek under and check the color). Using tongs, carefully turn the donuts over to the second side. Fry, again, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

    Do not fry below 350° F or above 370° F.

    Turning donuts in hot oil with tongs

    Use the slotted spoon to remove the donuts from the hot oil. Place on a wire rack to cool (I like to put parchment paper under the wire rack to catch any oil that drips).

    Repeat until all donuts are fried to golden brown perfection!

    Fried donuts

    Glaze

    VANILLA GLAZE: Add all ingredients into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix until thoroughly combined. I like to start with one tablespoon of milk, then add one tablespoon at a time until it reaches my desired consistency. The white glaze in the pictures is this recipe with 1 tablespoon of milk. The “clear” glaze is this recipe with more milk added.

    CHOCOLATE GLAZE: Add all of the ingredients into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix until thoroughly combined. For the chocolate, I like to start with 2 or 3 tbsp of milk and add one tablespoon at a time until it reaches my desired consistency.

    Dip the donuts in the glaze, and place them on a wire rack to dry. Use parchment paper under the rack to catch any drips.

    Note: For the best glaze results, use a stand mixer or hand mixer. However, I have mixed them by hand, and it worked fine.

    More Sourdough Recipes You Will Love

    Sourdough donuts, one with bit taken out of it

    Sourdough Donuts with Vanilla and Chocolate Glaze

    Yield: 12-15 Donuts
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Additional Time: 23 hours
    Total Time: 20 minutes

    Learn how to make fluffy homemade sourdough donuts. A simple roux added to the dough creates a soft and pillowy texture. Then, they are fried to golden brown perfection and dipped in vanilla or chocolate glaze.

    Ingredients

    TANGZHONG (MILK ROUX)

    • 38g (1/3 cup) bread flour
    • 180g (3/4 cup) whole milk

    DOUGH

    • Tangzhong, cooled
    • 200g (1 cup) sourdough starter, active and bubbly
    • 3 large eggs
    • 38g (3 tbsp) granulated sugar
    • 465g (3.5 cups) bread flour
    • 12g (1/2 tsp) salt
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 stick of butter, softened and cubed

    FRYING

    • Neutral oil (enough to fill a wide pot or dutch oven with 2" of oil)

    VANILLA GLAZE

    • 28g (2 tbsp) butter, melted (but not hot)
    • 120g (1 cup) powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 15g-45g (1-3 tbsp) milk, room temp

    CHOCOLATE GLAZE

    • 120g (1 cup) powdered sugar
    • 10g (1 tbsp) cocoa powder
    • 45g-60g (3-4 tbsp) milk, room temp
    • 7g (1/2 tbsp) butter, melted (but not hot)
    • A dash of vanilla
    • A pinch of salt

    Instructions

    Make the Tangzhong

    1. In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk and flour. Warm over medium heat, whisking or stirring constantly until the texture is similar to mashed potatoes.
    2. Spoon onto a plate and smooth with a rubber spatula (this helps it cool faster). Then, set aside, and allow to cool to room temperature.

    Make the Dough

    1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add all of the dough ingredients, including the cooled tangzhong. Mix on low speed until the dough becomes shaggy. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
    2. Bump up the speed to medium and knead until the dough becomes elastic and smooth, about 10 minutes or so. This took about 12 minutes in my stand mixer. You want the dough to pass the windowpane test.
    3. Drizzle a little bit of avocado or olive oil in a bowl. Use the oil in the bowl to lightly coat all sides of the dough. This will help prevent it from drying out during the first rise or bulk fermentation.
    4. Cover the bowl with a lid, plastic wrap, or a damp towel. Allow the dough to bulk ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours. It is ready for cold proofing (the next step) when it has doubled and is domed on top.
    5. Keep the dough covered with plastic wrap or a lid, and pop it in the fridge overnight. Don't skip this step! This is where the sourdough flavor magic happens.

    The Next Day

    1. Roll the cold dough out about 1/2 inch thick. Using a donut cutter (or other creative tools shaped like a donut), cut the donuts out. If you need to re-roll the dough to cut more, just make sure it is chilled. Otherwise, it's next to impossible to roll and cut. Stick it back in the fridge if you need to.
    2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour. Place the donuts on the floured, parchment-lined baking sheet. Proof for a second rise until the donuts are puffy, about 2-3 hours.
    3. After the second rise, preheat the oil in a cast iron Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Use a fry thermometer to ensure the temp gets to about 370° F.
    4. Using a slotted spoon, carefully place one donut at a time into the oil. To do this, gently place the spoon into the oil and slide the donut off. Work in batches of 3 or 4, depending on how big your fryer is.
    5. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes (use tongs to peek under and check the color). Using tongs, carefully turn the donuts over to the second side. Fry, again, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Do not fry below 350° F or above 370° F.
    6. Use the slotted spoon to remove the donuts from the hot oil. Place on a wire rack to cool (I like to put parchment paper under the wire rack to catch any oil that drips).
    7. Repeat until all donuts are fried to golden brown perfection!

    Glaze

    1. VANILLA GLAZE: Add all ingredients into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix until thoroughly combined. I like to start with one tablespoon of milk, then add one tablespoon at a time until it reaches my desired consistency. The white glaze in the pictures is this recipe with 1 tablespoon of milk. The “clear” glaze is this recipe with more milk added.
    2. CHOCOLATE GLAZE: Add all of the ingredients into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix until thoroughly combined. For the chocolate, I like to start with 2 or 3 tbsp of milk and add one tablespoon at a time until it reaches my desired consistency.
    3. Dip the donuts in the glaze, and place them on a wire rack to dry. Use parchment paper under the rack to catch any drips.

    Notes

      • It's okay if the dough is a little sticky. But it should not be wet or make a mess of your hands when you touch it. If it is too wet, knead in one tablespoon of bread flour at a time until it becomes manageable.
      • For the best glaze results, use a stand mixer or hand mixer. However, I have mixed them by hand, and it also worked fine.
      • Always be careful when frying. Never drop food into hot oil. See the recipe instructions for how to use a slotted spoon and tongs for safe frying.
      • If using cups, keep in mind it is slightly less precise than grams. You may need to make slight adjustments (a pinch more sugar, a little more flour, etc.).

    Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 413Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 513mgCarbohydrates: 58gFiber: 4gSugar: 15gProtein: 11g

    Nutrition is auto-calculated and may not reflect your final product.

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