Filed under: Breads
February 4, 2020

Buttermilk Donuts

Soft, pillowy donuts made from a buttermilk dough. Topped with a buttermilk and vanilla bean glaze. These buttermilk donuts are not overly sweet and are brioche-like in texture. 

5 from 2 votes
Yield: 16 small donuts
Jump to recipe

There is a bakery here in DC which makes the absolute best donuts I have ever had. EVER. What sets these donuts apart is that they are not like your average Dunkin’ or grocery store donut – not airy/oily/krispy. Instead, they are thick and pillowy inside with a slight crisp on the outside which makes me think they use a brioche recipe for the base dough. They usually glaze them with what they call a ‘honey glaze’ but I wouldn’t know because I eat them in 2 minutes flat and could care less about what they put on top.

Our pediatrician used to be very close to this bakery and so sick or routine visits to the dr with my firstborn were always made sweeter by a stop at Bread Furst. Once we moved away from that area, we switched to a different practice and my donut cravings ceased being met. =( I decided it was time I figured out how to make my own ‘pediatrician visit’ donuts.


Recipe Origins

These are thick but soft and fluffy, yeasted but not difficult to make. The base for them is my ever favorite bread recipe which is an enriched dough. Where I would normally use water in the dough, I opt for buttermilk. And not just because I would! The buttermilk elevates the taste and texture by giving a little tang and a lot of tenderness. This is about as close as I’ll get to those pediatrician donuts and I’m pretty darn happy with these so I’m ok with that. They are not your everyday donuts, they are soft and bready and not light and crisp and to me, they are perfect.

For the topping, I took inspiration from the bakery donut that inspired these and went with a simple white glaze (specks of vanilla bean make ‘em pretty and tasty) and the tang of the buttermilk really mellows out the sugar and it’s so, “i’m barely here but you’d definitely miss me if I wasn’t”.

Recipe Ingredients

Buttermilk: full fat buttermilk.

Yeast: rapid rise yeast or active dry. If using active dry add another quarter teaspoon of yeast.

Butter: one stick of butter (1/2 cup or 113g) which we’re going to brown. European or American style butter works but use unsalted.

Salt: fine sea salt. If using table salt, halve the amount.

Vanilla: pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.

Eggs: whole large eggs. This recipe can’t be made without eggs.

Flour: Bread flour with it’s higher protein content gives these good structure while still being soft and chewy.

Sugar: this dough works with fine granulated sugar or brown sugar.

Oil: I use canola oil, it’s affordable (esp considering how much you need for frying) and has a decent flavor.

How to make buttermilk donuts

Brown the butter: cook on medium low heat in a frying pan until the milk solids are brown. Transfer immediately to a heatproof bowl (if left in the pan the solids will burn).

Bloom the yeast: warm the buttermilk in the microwave (30 seconds should do it) and then pour it into your mixing bowl along with the yeast. Give it about five minutes for the yeast to activate and foam.

Add all ingredients and knead: add the flour, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla and start kneading. Then pour in the butter and knead the dough until it comes together and clears the sides of the bowl.

First rise: transfer the dough to an oiled bowl (or take the dough out, oil the bowl then put it back in) and cover with plastic wrap. Leave it at room temperature until the dough almost doubles in size.

After the first rise

Roll out, stamp out donuts, then second rise: Roll the dough out to about a half inch thickness and stamp out circles (or use a donut cutter if you have one) and use a piping tip to punch out a hole in the center.

Remaining donuts won’t be as smooth on the surface but they’ll have a charming cracked look on them (you can see in the third photo I stopped rolling the dough out, it was getting too tight and just smushed it together and sliced out bits to fry).

*note: there’s no need to have individual pieces of parchment. This dough is pretty sturdy, I did for mine just in case but it wasn’t necessary.

Heat oil & fry: heat the oil until it’s 360 F or 182 C (I use a laser thermometer to check the temperature) and then carefully place the donuts in. For mini donuts don’t do more than 5 at a time. If you’re making bigger donuts, do three at a time.

Use a spider spoon to turn the donuts as they cook, once they are browned on both sides transfer to a paper towel lined tray (the paper towel will absorb excess oil).

Glaze: if you want a thick layer of glaze on top, wait until they are completely cool and then make the glaze and spread it on top. If you like a thin layer, you can dip the warm donuts in a thin glaze and it’ll give them a more even coating.

Tips for perfect Buttermilk Donuts

  • I’ve given instructions to let the dough rest overnight in the fridge. If you wish to do this all in one day, you can do the first rise at room temperature for about 2 hours (until the dough has doubled in size).
  • Donuts are best the day of frying, like most homemade breads.
  • A laser thermometer is useful here for knowing the temperature correct for frying – it takes about 10-15 minutes to get up to 360 F.

2023 Update

  • The recipe has been adapted to use brown sugar and brown butter. If you don’t like the idea of either stick with the original that uses 113g of melted butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar or 3 tablespoons of honey.

Homemade Buttermilk Donut Recipe

Buttermilk Donuts

Soft thick donuts made with brown butter and buttermilk; topped with a buttermilk vanilla bean glaze.
buttermilk donuts
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: 4 hours
Yields: 16 small donuts
5 from 2 votes


  • 240g or 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 packet instant yeast 7g (can sub with active dry yeast)
  • 113g or 1/2 cup butter unsalted
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g or 1/4 cup granulated sugar or brown sugar light or dark
  • 500g or 4 cups bread flour, spooned and leveled 500g
  • canola or vegetable oil for frying


  • 1 TB brown butter optional, if you have leftover
  • 260g or 2 cups organic powdered sugar
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 2-3 TB buttermilk or whole milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


  • Brown the butter: In a small frying pan, cook on medium heat until the butter foams, sputters and separates. Once it goes quiet and you can smell nuttiness and see specks of brown at the bottom of the pan, pour it into a heatproof bowl.
  • Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, place buttermilk and yeast and whisk together. Add the sugar on top and whisk. To the bowl add the eggs, melted or browned butter, vanilla and salt. Stir to combine. Add the flour and knead until dough comes together in a ball. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge overnight or on the counter for about 2 hours.
  • After the first rise: Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Turn the dough onto a well floured surface. Cover the dough in a thin layer of flour. Roll it out to ½ an inch thickness. Use donut cutter (or a biscuit cutter and a piping tip) to punch out donut shapes. Place the donuts on the parchment and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes (longer if the dough was cold).
  • Fry the donuts: after about an hour the dough should be room temperature and slightly puffy. Heat a dutch oven deep pot filled with oil (the oil it should reach ⅔ of the pan’s height) to 360 F. Line a cookie sheets with paper towels. Carefully place donuts into the oil and, 3-5 at a time fry them. Using a metal spatula, turn them over a few times until you have a medium brown on both sides (a minute or two per side). Once done, place the donuts on paper towels to remove excess oil.
  • To make the buttermilk topping: whisk ingredients together in a small bowl, when donuts are cool, dunk them face down into the glaze.

Did you make this recipe?

Share & tag me on instagram @buttermilkbysam



Rate + Review

What do you think of this recipe?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Reviews

  1. Hello. Can I substitute buttermilk with the powdered buttermilk? If so, how many grams and water do I need? Thankyou

  2. Hi, in the first part of number 1, you put buttermilk, yeast, and sugar to activate the yeast? How much sugar? Different than the 1/4 honey I’m assuming?

  3. These look really tasty but I am not seeing the ingredients for the buttermilk vanilla bean glaze????