Baked yeast donuts are soft and tender just like your favorite fried version and you can still glaze them! Skip the messy and sometimes uncertain frying process and make your next batch in the oven.
Do you fear frying? Maybe you dread regulating the temperature, burning them on the outside or making them heavy and greasy.
You have reason to be concerned: Frying ain’t easy.
As a southern girl I grew up with a frying pan in my hand but not everyone did and it can be a tough leap to make if you feel unsure.
So I took one of my favorite yeasted donut recipes and did something daring–I baked them with great success. The flavor and texture are wonderful and of course, they are their best while warm but you’ll still be snacking on them hours later if you let yourself.
Just look at this texture:
Are baked donuts really better than fried?
I don’t think they are better. After all, donuts are meant to be fried. But they are just as good when you consider how easy they are to do. I’d absolutely use this baked method on the regular but I’d recommend using a bolder glaze like chocolate, cinnamon sugar or sprinkles to jazz up their pale color.
Are baked donuts healthier?
In some ways, they are healthier. I always support frying in good fats like refined coconut oil or even lard and consider those to be healthy ways to fry.
Using refined oils like canola, vegetable, sunflower, safflower, peanut or grape seed are inflammatory to the body and not healthy to use.
Many people believe frying is bad for you but with the right oils it’s less so.
Tips for the softest texture in your baked yeast donuts
- I wanted to ensure a tender donut so I stuck with all purpose flour here. You can use bread flour if you’d like a donut that has a bit more height to it.
- Absolutely do NOT over bake these. Bake 6 to 7 minutes then give them a feel. If they are doughy and your fingers stick, give them one to two minutes more then flip them all over and bake another 6 minutes until they are just firm. A total bake time of 12 to 15 minutes is appropriate.
- There is quite a lot of yeast in these compared to the amount of flour. That’s to help boost flavor with the short rise time. You could reduce the amount of yeast, do the rises in the fridge, and get a similar yeast flavor.
- If you’d like to try it, bread machine yeast comes with built in dough conditioners. Using it in place of the instant yeast 1:1 might yield an even softer dough but I didn’t test it.
What you need to know about instant yeast
Many new bakers make mistakes with instant yeast. Instant is designed to skip the activation process in liquid–though you can activate it if you’d like to. Most newbies pitch in the yeast, add the rest of the ingredients and scratch their head when nothing happens.
But here’s the key: All of your ingredients need to be warm or room temperature. The flour, egg yolks, and especially the warmed milk and butter need to be at the correct temperature for the yeast to activate.
Make sure the milk and butter are about 110 degrees–or just warmer than lukewarm. You should be able to stick your finger in and think “yeah that’s pretty warm” but it shouldn’t be hot at all.
Can I use another yeast?
Yes. You can use active dry. Just place it in the warmed milk and let it proof until foamy first then pour it in the flour mixture.
How to make baked yeast donuts step by step
Mix the dough
Knead the dough
Roll and cut the donuts
Rise, bake, glaze
Can I use an air fryer?
I didn’t test it but I think you can. Follow the instructions for your model and just don’t over bake them.
Glaze ideas for baked donuts
Cinnamon sugar (pictured): Mix 1/2 cup sugar of your choice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl. Brush donuts with melted butter and then into the cinnamon sugar while still hot.
Vanilla glaze (pictured): Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 tablespoon milk and a pinch of salt together until smooth. Dip in donuts while hot.
Chocolate glaze: This frosting has good reviews
Maple donut glaze (I vote for some crumbled bacon on top too!)
How to store baked donuts
Donuts are always better fresh. I’d recommend enjoying them within an hour of baking them, but if you want to store them, put the donuts in an air tight container like a Lock and Lock or similar and leave them at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Re warm them in the microwave or toaster oven as needed.
When your done with donuts…think about trying this super cheesy Italian Cheese Bread recipe.
Easy Baked Yeast Donuts
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour See note 1
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast See note 2
- 3 tablespoons sugar See note 3
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 egg yolks
- Vanilla, chocolate, maple or cinnamon sugar glazes according to instructions above the recipe
- Separate your egg yolks and allow them to warm at room temperature 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure all your ingredients are warm including your flour (If you keep it in the freezer let it warm to room temperature before mixing.)
Mix and Knead
- Add the flour, instant yeast, sugar, and salt to a large bowl and mix well.
- On the stove or in the microwave, warm the milk and butter to just above lukewarm: About 110 degrees if you have a thermometer. It should feel warm but not hot when you put your finger in it.
- Add to the flour mixture and add the egg yolks. Stir to combine. The dough will be quite shaggy at first.
- Using your hands, gently knead the dough in the bowl until it begins to smooth out a bit: 6 to 10 times then add no more than 1-2 tablespoons of flour to your countertop and transfer the dough to it. Lightly flour your hands and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
- Return the dough to the bowl and spray with cooking spray or drizzle with 1/4 teaspoon of oil and pat it all over the surface. Cover with a clean towel and let rise until just puffed: About 30 minutes.
Cut and Second Rise
- On a lightly floured surface (no more than 1 tablespoon flour), roll the dough to an 11-inch circle. Use any 3-inch size cutter: A glass, a tin can or a biscuit cutter to make circles and cut the smaller circles that are about 1"-1 1/2" across. I used the wide end of a piping tip. Bottle caps are also good for this.
- Gently gather your scraps and let the dough rest 4 or 5 minutes before rolling again. Cut one or two more donuts but don't re-roll the dough a third time.
- Transfer the donuts to a parchment paper lined baking tray large enough to hold them all, or use two. I used a half sheet pan.
- Place them 2 to 3 inches apart so they don't touch when they bake.
- Cover the donuts with greased plastic wrap or a very damp towel and let rise until nearly doubled–45 to 60 minutes at 75 degrees or just over an hour for 60-65 degrees.
- Preheat the oven to 350 about 15 minutes before you're ready to bake. Move your oven rack to the center.
- Bake on the center rack about 6 minutes then see if they are still too doughy to touch. If they are, bake two minutes more. If they can be handled, flip them over and bake 5 to 6 minutes more but don't try to bake them until golden brown or they will dry out.
- Transfer to a wire rack and immediately brush with melted butter and dip in to cinnamon sugar, or skip the melted butter and dip straight into your choice of chocolate or vanilla glaze.