Pillowy soft donuts, sweetened with just a bit of honey and made with kefir. This eggless, easy-to-make-at-home donut recipe comes with a list of possible topping possibilities.
How to make honey donuts at home
This dough is really, really simple. You’ll melt butter and add all the wet ingredients to a bowl. When it’s warm you’ll add the yeast to ‘activate’ it and dissolve it. Poured into flour and then kneaded with a stand mixer this is mostly hands off. I don’t think this dough will lend itself well to kneading without a machine because it’s rather sticky.
Once it’s had its first rise the dough will be rolled out and cut into donut shapes. I have a donut cutter and I don’t really like it (the center circle is so big!) so I use a biscuit cutter and a piping tip which give me more of that pillow interior.
After a second rise, the donuts are fried. This is probably the most intimidating step for most home cooks (it was certainly mine!) but all you need is a deep pot (I like a dutch oven here) and a metal tool to turn and remove the donuts. The thing I’d be a stickler about is the temperature, if you have a thermometer it’s best to use it to get to the right oil temperature to fry the donuts. If the heat is too low the donuts will cook slowly and absorb A LOT of oil (they won’t be very tasty either).
What to do with the leftover oil is pretty simple: once it’s cool strain it to remove any bits and then save it to use for another frying project.
Why use kefir to make donuts? An eggless donut recipe
I wanted to make a dough that was eggless to be more inclusive to any dietary restrictions. I knew from trying to make an eggless brownie babka in the past that something like yogurt would do the trick; using kefir in these was the magic ingredient. I use Lifeway Kefir in these donuts; because it’s thick and creamy it makes up for omitting the eggs (and in the best way really!)
Toppings for Homemade Honey Donuts
Trying to decide what to top these with, I put the question to my IG community thinking I’d get a clearer idea of the most popular flavors. I ended up with every possible topping suggestion ever! So I decided to just make a list from which you can choose (the first is my favorite):
Vanilla glazed: Mix 1 cup organic powdered sugar with a pinch of sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract and add just enough milk or heavy cream or even kefir to make it spreadable.
Chocolate glazed: Mix 1 cup organic powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons cocoa (natural or dutch is fine) and a pinch of salt, and enough milk or heavy cream to make it spreadable or loose enough for dipping.
Berry glazed: Mix 1 cup organic powdered sugar with juice from thawed, sieved blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or strawberries. Frozen berries lend a stronger flavor and color to the glaze.
Cream cheese glazed: To either the chocolate glazed or the vanilla glaze, add 2 tablespoons whipped or softened cream cheese before you add milk.
Dusted in granulated sugar: This is the only topping that needs to be ready to go when the donuts come out of the oil. As soon as the donuts are done cooking, toss them in the sugar.
FAQ for Pillowy Honey Donuts
- Can I substitute active dry yeast instead of instant?
- Yes, but you’ll need to add an additional ¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast.
- Can I skip the honey and use sugar?
- Yes, use ¼ cup sugar.
- I can’t find kefir, what can I use instead?
- You can use buttermilk.
- How do I know when the first rise is complete?
- The dough will have mostly doubled in size.
- How do I know when the second rise is complete?
- The dough gets taller as it rises and you’ll see stretch marks on the sides. They shouldn’t be double their size but about 50% taller.
- How do I know when the donuts are done frying?
- They should be dark golden on both sides. If you take them out when they are just golden they will be doughy inside.
Recipe for Honey Donuts
- Makes: 12 large or about 28 smaller donuts.
- Time: 1 hour active, 2-3 hours rest time.
- 1 ½ cups low fat kefir, preferably Lifeway Kefir (360 grams)
- 1 package instant yeast (7g)
- ½ cup butter (113g)
- 3 tablespoons honey (60 grams)
- 1 teaspoon pure Vanilla extract
- 4 ½ cups all purpose flour (550g)
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Dark Chocolate Ganache
- 4 oz heavy cream
- 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
How to make the donut dough:
Melt the butter in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. Add the honey and pour in the kefir, if the mixture is warm, whisk in the yeast (if it’s cold, warm it up a bit so it’s warm to touch). Whisk the mixture until it’s smooth.
In a stand mixer measure fitted with a dough hook, measure in the flour and add the salt. Pour in the liquid ingredients and knead the dough until it comes together, about 8 minutes (it will be rather sticky and soft, but not sloppy – see the photos).
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 2 hours (less if your kitchen is very warm). If you like, you can set it in the fridge overnight, this improves the flavor slightly but it will need to rise at room temperature the next morning for a first rise before being rolled out.
Have a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper nearby.
On a floured surface, dust the dough with flour and roll it to about 1inch thickness. Using a donut cutter or a biscuit cutter and a round piping tip, punch out the dough and place it on the prepared cookie sheet. Re-roll it with the scraps as needed, bearing in mind that seconds won’t be as cute (but will be just as tasty and covered with ganache no one will notice).
Cover the dough with a tea towel and set aside for a second rise. When the dough shows visual cues (see the photos, it’ll be almost but not fully doubled in size) it’s ready to fry.
How to fry homemade donuts:
Heat a pot of oil (I like to fill a dutch oven ⅔ of the way with canola oil) until it’s 360 F. It’ll take at least ten minutes to get there so give it time and be mindful with it. Have a plate or pan lined with paper towels and a spider strainer (or a heatproof spatula) ready.
Fry the donuts, not more than four at a time until they are nicely browned on the bottom and then flip them. They won’t be long, just a few minutes on each side. Move onto prepared paper towel to drain excess oil.
When the donuts are completely cool they can be glazed.
How to make the chocolate ganache:
Chop the chocolate very finely and place it in a heat-proof bowl. Warm the heavy cream until it’s bubbling at the sides but just hot to touch (not scorching). Pour it over the chocolate and stir until you have a smooth ganache. Dip the donuts face down into the ganache. If you are adding any toppings like sprinkles, do it while the ganache is wet. For flaked sea salt, add it when the ganache is slightly, but not fully firm.