These old-fashioned vegan sourdough donuts are light, airy and fried to perfection. Top them with vanilla glaze, chocolate glaze, cinnamon sugar or roll them in powdered sugar and fill them with your favorite jelly, jam, curd or pastry cream.
Making Vegan Sourdough Donuts the Old-Fashioned Way
In the words of Homer Simpson, “Mmmmmmm, doooonuts”. I haven’t had real old-fashioned fried yeast doughnuts in ages. I’ve always wanted to make them from scratch and they seemed like the perfect weekend specialty sourdough recipe to try to create. Oh my, was that a good idea. These are dangerously good.
If you’ve been longing for a real old-fashioned doughnut that is vegan friendly, the time is here my friends!
These doughnuts are fried up light and fluffy with a slight sourdough tang. The dough itself is not sweet. They rely on a sweet glaze, sugar dusting, or fillings to make them sweet and add different flavors. You can glaze or fill them with anything you’d like. The photos show a variety of donuts with classic vanilla bean glaze, chocolate ganache glaze, cinnamon sugar coating, and a rhubarb jam filling. This recipe made a big batch of about 18 doughnuts which is perfect for larger families or sharing with friends. We brought them to school for the teachers and staff to enjoy. You can halve this recipe if you want to make a smaller batch.
Sourdough Starter: Sourdough donuts need active bubbly sourdough starter for the dough to rise. Use 100% hydration starter, which mean a starter that is made of equal parts water and flour. Follow my sourdough starter tutorial to learn how to make your own starter from scratch.
All-Purpose Flour: Regular unbleached purpose flour is perfect for soft fluffy yeasted doughnuts. All-purpose flour has a lower amount of protein than bread flour and will result is a soft tender crumb structure, which we want for donuts.
Vegan Butter: Use any vegan butter alternative you like. I usually use Country Crock Plant Butter sticks for vegan baking. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks and Miyokos Vegan Creamery Butter also work well in this recipe.
Non-Dairy Milk: Use unsweetened non-dairy milk such as soy milk, almond milk or oat milk for the best results. Thicker nuts milks may are too creamy for this recipe and will result in dense, heavy donuts.
Kosher Salt: A pinch of kosher salt will bring out the flavor of the doughnuts. Vegan butter is usually salted so only 1 teaspoon of kosher salt is needed. You can also reduce or omit the salt if using salted butter if you prefer.
Frying Oil: Use a neutral tasting oil with a high smoke point when deep frying. I prefer extra-light olive oil. Other options include avocado oil, grape seed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, canola oil or vegetable oil.
How to Make Vegan Doughnuts with Sourdough
Step 1: Make the Donut Dough
First, melt the vegan butter in a small saucepan then remove it from the heat and stir in the milk, water, coconut milk and sugar until the sugar dissolves. This will cool the melted butter down and create a mixture that is lukewarm and not too hot for the live yeast in the sourdough starter.
Combine this mixture with the sourdough starer in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Set the mixer tot the lowest speed and add the kosher salt and half of the flour. Mix it until the flour in incorporated then add the remaining flour. Continue mixing the dough at low speed until it comes away from the side of the bowl. If its too sticky add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix the dough for a total of 5-6 minutes until a soft tacky dough forms.
Step 2: Bulk Fermentation
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it into a smooth ball then place it into an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or beewswax wrap and let the dough bulk rise until it is puffy and has doubled in volume, about 8-10 hours at room temperature.
Tip: Make the dough in the evening to rise overnight and fry doughnuts in the morning. You can also refrigerate the dough overnight once it is has bulked to at least 50% volume and then let it come to room temperature in the morning before shaping and proofing the donuts.
Step 3: Shape and Proof
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin. Cut doughnuts using concentric circle cutters, about 2.5” circle for outer edge and 1“ circle for the center. Save small 1″ cutouts for doughnut holes or re-roll them into the dough. If making filled doughnuts do not cut out centers. Rework, roll and cut the dough scraps until all of the dough is used up.
Transfer doughnut cut-outs onto floured baking sheets and cover them with kitchen towels. Let them proof in a warm spot for about 1 hour until puffy.
Step 4: Fry the Donuts
Heat the frying oil in a deep-sided 8” cast iron or enameled heavy-bottomed pan when the doughnuts are nearly done proofing.
Fry the doughnuts in small batches of 2-3 until they are a deep golden color, about 45 seconds per side. Use a slotted spoon, kitchen spider strainer or chopsticks to turn and lift doughnuts.
Transfer the fried doughnuts to cooling racks set over sheet pans to allow the excess oil to drain or to a plate lined with paper towels. USE CAUTION when working with hot oil.
Step 5: Add Donut Toppings
Here’s where you can get creative. Make sure add the toppings while the vegan sourdough donuts are still warm for the best results. Dip them into vanilla bean glaze or chocolate glaze as detailed in the recipe card. Roll them in cinnamon sugar or pipe your favorite filling into the centers and roll them in powdered sugar.
Doughnuts are best enjoyed the day they are made but I do have to say these were still pretty darn good on day 2. You can also freeze the plain doughnuts after they are fried and before adding any glaze, sugar coating or fillings then reheat them in the oven at a later date.
Tips for Making Sourdough Doughnuts
Weigh the Ingredients: I always recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients when making bread dough or baked goods. It is the most accurate way to bake and ensures that you will get the correct results from any recipe.
Use Active Starter: Make sure to feed your sourdough starter beforehand so that it is very active and bubbly when you are ready to make the dough.
Temperature Matters: Because this recipe relies solely on the sourdough starter as the leavening agent the time it takes the dough to bulk rise and proof depends greatly on the ambient temperature and humidity of the space. In general, the warmer it is the faster sourdough bread dough will rise. On top of that, this is an enriched dough, and the additions of milk, sugar, and fat tend to slow down the yeast activity and make the bulk rise time longer.
If you want to speed up the rise time then you’ll need to find a spot that is warm. A cold oven with the light on creates an ideal environment for this. On the other hand, if you want to slow down the rise time then you can always pop the dough into the fridge to slow down the yeast activity. The longer a dough takes to rise the more pronounced its sour flavor will be.
Do a Test Fry: Whenever I’m deep-frying something I like to start with a small tester, in this case, a small doughnut hole, before frying a whole batch up. This will help you judge the perfect temperature and time for frying the doughnuts. Don’t overcrowd the pot and fry the donuts in small batches to ensure the best results.
Use a Thermometer: Use an instant thermometer to keep an eye on the oil temperature. Remember that as you add the doughnuts to the oil the temperature will drop and you may have to adjust the heat level throughout the frying process.
The Proper Tools: Have your station set up before you begin frying. Have the cooling rack and sheet pan ready to go to drain the doughnuts. Use a kitchen spider, slotted spoon or chopsticks to turn the doughnuts in the oil and remove them when they are done frying.
I prefer extra-light olive oil for frying and that is what I used here. Other options include avocado oil, grape seed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, canola oil or vegetable oil.
100% hydration sourdough starter means a starter that is fed with equal parts by weight of flour and water
Yes, the plain unglazed doughnuts can be frozen for up to 6 months. Reheat them in the oven then proceed with glazing or filling them.
Yes, the dough can be kneaded by hand until it is smooth and elastic. It will take about 10-12 minutes.
More Vegan Doughnut Recipes:
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- 113 g vegan butter 8 tablespoons or 1 stick
- 300 g unsweetened non-dairy milk 1-1/4 cups
- 60 g water 1/4 cup
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk full fat, canned
- 50 g granulated sugar 1/4 cup
- 100 g active bubbly sourdough starter 100% hydration
- 650 g all-purpose flour up to 700g if needed
- 4 g kosher salt 1 teaspoon
- 6-8 cups neutral frying oil 1.5-2 liters, plus more for the bowl
Vanilla Bean Glaze
- In a small pan, melt the vegan butter over medium heat. Once melted, remove the pan from heat and stir in the non-dairy milk, water, coconut milk, and sugar until dissolved.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook blade, combine the mixture with the sourdough starter and salt on low-medium speed to combine, about 1-2 minutes.
- Reduce the speed to the lowest setting and add half of the flour (325g) plus the kosher salt and mix until the flour is incorporated. Repeat with another 325g of flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Add more flour as needed, 2 tablespoons at a time. Mix for a total of 5-6 minutes until a soft smooth dough forms.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it into a smooth ball, about 30 seconds. Put the dough into an oiled bowl and bulk rise until it is puffy and has doubled in volume, about 8-10 hours at room temperature. Make the dough in the evening to rise overnight and fry doughnuts in the morning. You can also refrigerate the dough once it has risen until you are ready to to proceed to shaping and proofing.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it to about 1/2” thickness. Cut doughnuts using concentric circle cutters, about 2.5” circle for outer edge and 1“ circle for the center. Save centers to make doughnut holes. If making filled doughnuts do not cut out centers. Rework, roll and cut the dough scraps until all of the dough is used up.
- Transfer doughnut cut-outs onto floured baking sheets. Cover with kitchen towels and proof in a warm spot for about 1 hour until puffy.
- About 10-15 minutes before doughnuts are done proofing heat up the frying oil in a deep-sided 8” cast iron or enameled heavy-bottomed pan to 375˚F/190˚C.
- Fry doughnuts in small batches until they are deep golden in color, about 45 seconds per side. If they are too delicate to pick up by hand, use a spatula to help pick them up and slide them into the oil. Use a slotted spoon, kitchen spider strainer or chopsticks to turn and lift doughnuts.
- Transfer the fried doughnuts to cooling racks (or paper towels) set over sheet pans to allow the excess oil to drain. USE CAUTION when working with hot oil.
Make Vanilla Bean Glaze:
- Dip doughnuts into glaze and return them to the cooling racks to let the glaze drip and set.
Make chocolate glaze:
- Dip doughnuts into glaze and return them to cooling racks. Add sprinkles or orange zest for decoration. The glaze will set as it cools.
Make cinnamon sugar:
- Roll the warm doughnuts in cinnamon sugar, coating all sides.
To make filled doughnuts:
- Pipe your choice of filling such as jam, custard or curd into the doughnuts and dust with powdered sugar.
- Doughnuts are best enjoyed the day they are made but will keep covered at room temperature for several days.
- You can also freeze plain unglazed doughnuts for up to 6 months. Store them in freezer bags. Reheat them in the oven first and then glaze them.
- 100% hydration sourdough starter means a starter that is fed with equal parts by weight of flour and water.
- Neutral frying oil options: extra-light olive oil (this is what I use), avocado oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, canola oil or vegetable oil.
- Vegan butter alternative suggestions Country Crock plant butter, Earth Balance buttery sticks, Kite Hill European style butter, Miyoko’s cultured vegan butter
- The dough may also be kneaded by hand until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes.
- Granulated sugar in the dough may be swapped with whole cane sugar, maple sugar, coconut sugar, or any sweetener of your choice.