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. 

Yield: 16 small donuts
Jump to recipe
post featured image

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.


Recipe Inspiration

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.


Tips for perfect Buttermilk Donuts

Two little fussy things about these; the dough needs to rest overnight in the fridge for the gluten to relax, develop and deepen in flavor. Also important, the frying oil should be at a 360-375 F to evenly fry the dough. If you like the these adorable minis via Sarah Kiefer (which we put on this sour cream cake) you can make the donuts cute and tiny (the smaller side of a piping tip!). You can also make these rounded for fillings, using a biscuit cutter.

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”.



Notes on making 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 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.


Buttermilk Donuts

Soft pillowy and 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


  • 240g or 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 packet instant yeast 7g
  • 113g or 1/2 cup butter melted or browned (if browned, no need to add additional moisture)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g or 1/4 cup brown sugar light or dark
  • 500g or 4 cups bread flour, spooned and leveled 500g
  • canola or vegetable oil for frying


  • 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.
  • The next morning: Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper.Turn cold 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.
  • 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 -375 F. Line plates or cookie sheets with paper towels. Carefully place donuts into the oil. Don’t fry more than 4 at a time. Using a metal spatula, fry the donuts on each side, 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. 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?

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