Sometimes you just need to eat a doughnut. Not a whole wheat donut. Or a baked donut. Not one made with no fat or with avocados or sweet potatoes or beets. I am talking here about a real, melt-in-the-mouth, beautifully glazed donut that dares you to eat it if you are woman enough. Or man enough.
For those of you who are, I have the best vegan brioche donuts ever. With a dreamy vanilla glaze.
This donut is the stuff of your dreams. And mine. It has the soft, tender texture and buttery flavor of a brioche. And the glaze! Creamy, smooth, and luscious, this vanilla glaze crunches slightly between your teeth before you bite into the delicate, perfect crumb.
I first made these doughnuts about three years back--and shared them with you--after becoming a little obsessed with a brioche donut recipe featured in The Washington Post (not vegan). I just had to have one, asap. But there isn't always time to make your vegan brioche donut and eat it too. So the newspaper clip with the recipe sat at my elbow while I worked at my computer at home. During an occasional break I would look, dewy-eyed, at the lovely, square beauties in the photographs, and my passion for them would be reignited.
It took me some trial and error to come up with a perfect vegan version of those donuts, but I did hit the jackpot. And I have since dared to make them quite a few times, because I have a 12-year-old around who is only too willing to prise them off my clutching hands and into his mouth. 😉
Even if you don't have one of those around, try 'em. At least once. It's like eating a soft, sweet, fluffy cloud, and you'll be a changed person.
What we love about these vegan donuts
- They are perfect--exactly as donuts are meant to be. Fluffy, tender and melt-in-the-mouth.
- They are easy to make and quite foolproof. Be sure to follow directions.
- The vanilla glaze adds so much oomph and flavor and texture. You can flavor the glaze with lemon zest or cinnamon as well, for flavored donuts!
- They are a fun recipe to make with your kids. Jay usually helps me cut out the donuts and the parchment sheets.
- They need just a handful of ingredients that are likely already in your pantry.
How to make the best vegan brioche donuts
- In the Post's kitchen, the doughnut was loaded with butter and eggs. I've used vegan butter and olive oil at different times to make the recipe, and both work fine, although I'm partial to the version with the butter. There's a subtle flavor improvement, I think, with the butter.
- Instead of the eggs, I have used either aquafaba--chickpea brine--or applesauce. Again, both work. The aquafaba is a trick I'd adapted from my Vegan Olive Oil Brioche with Aquafaba and if you can use that, great. I think it makes the donuts a little lighter. I do usually use applesauce though because the aquafaba doesn't always agree with Desi, for some reason.
- The dough will be a little tacky when you first make it, and that's fine.
- You need to start your donuts the day before you plan to make them, or at least early in the day if you want them the same day. That's because you will need to let the dough proof for 4-16 hours. The long proofing time will help the flavor of the donuts develop. If doing a short proof, do it at room temperature. For the longer time, refrigerate the dough.
- After you've cut out your donuts, let each rise on a square of parchment paper. That way you won't deflate the donut when you lift it off the baking sheet, where it was rising, and into the frying pan. The parchment paper will float loose in the oil and you can just remove it with a pair of tongs.
- These donuts rise a mile high, which gives you that wonderful, airy texture. I cut them square, like the ones in the Post recipe, because I think their height does better with a square cut. Unfortunately I didn't have a square cookie cutter for the holes, so I ended up using a round cutter for those, which created a geometrically interesting--albeit rather cute--look. I think.
- You should fry the donuts at a lower temperature than you may be used to when you deep-fry: around 325 degrees Fahrenheit. That will ensure the doughnut cooks through without overbrowning. Try and use a deep-fry or candy thermometer to keep the oil at the right temperature.
- You will need a lot of vanilla in this recipe--for the donuts and again for the scrumptious glaze. I also used a vanilla bean, but it's not necessary at all. Just use more extract. I know it's expensive, but these are so worth it.
- Dip the donuts in the glaze as soon as they are cool enough to handle, about three to four minutes after they come out of the frying pan. Use a pair of tongs--gently--if you aren't comfortable handling the donuts. Then set them out on a rack for the glaze to thicken and cling to the donuts.
More vegan dessert recipes
- Baked Vegan Apple Pie Donuts (wholegrain)
- Vegan Mawa Cake
- Vegan Brownies
- Vegan White Chocolate Raspberry Cake
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Vegan Brioche Donuts (with a vanilla glaze)
- ½ cup nondairy milk (I used almond)
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp warm water
- 2 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt or sea salt or pink salt
- 3 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Scrapings of half a vanilla bean (optional)
- 2 tbsp applesauce (or aquafaba)
- 8 tbsp vegan butter (or extra virgin olive oil)
- Vegetable oil (for deep frying)
For the glaze:
- 2 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
- ¼ cup hot tap water
- ¼ cup pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- Scrapings of remaining half of vanilla bean (optional)
Make the doughnuts:
- Place the warm milk in a bowl and whisk in the yeast. Add the warm water and let it stand five minutes or until the yeast starts to bubble and rise.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk using the paddle attachment. Then add the yeast-milk mixture, vanilla extract and bean scrapings, if using, and applesauce or aquafaba. Whisk until the dough forms.
- Add the olive oil in three batches, letting it incorporate into the dough each time before adding more.
- After the oil is thoroughly incorporated, swap out the paddle attachment for a dough hook.
- Knead the dough on medium speed for 10 minutes or until the dough forms a ball. It may still be a bit sticky and some dough may stick to the bottom.
- Scrape out all of the dough into a large greased bowl. Let the dough stand, covered, for about 30 minutes, then turn it over once so the top is smooth. Lightly oil the top, then cover the dough with an oiled plastic wrap so the wrap is directly touching the surface of the dough. Refrigerate for four to 16 hours (overnight is fine). The long proofing time helps the flavor develop.
- Remove the dough to a floured surface. Shape it to some evenness with your hands. Then, using a floured rolling pin, roll it into a rectangle about 9 by 10 inches. Cover with a light towel. Let the dough relax for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut out 18 five-inch square pieces of parchment paper a couple of inches wider than the width of your donut cutter. Place them on a baking sheet one beside the other, and spray lightly with cooking spray. This makes it much easier to transfer the risen doughnuts to the hot oil without deflating them.
- Then, using a doughnut cutter, cut out doughnuts and doughnut holes. Roll up the scraps and cut out more. Place each doughnut on a square of parchment paper, and put the doughnut holes on another sheet of parchment paper. Each square should accommodate three to four doughnut holes. Leave some room between the holes and the doughnuts because they will rise.
- Cover the doughnuts with a light towel and let them rise in a warm place. In warm temperatures, they should double in size in no more than an hour. It might take up to three hours in a cooler place.
- Heat oil for frying in a wok or a large dutch oven. If you have a frying thermometer or a candy thermometer, use it to ensure that your oil reaches the optimal temperature for frying: 325 degrees.
- While the oil is heating, make the glaze. Place all ingredients in a bowl large enough to dip the doughnuts, then whisk until very smooth. Cover and set aside while you fry the doughnuts.
- Fry the doughnuts and the holes, without crowding them. Do this by picking up the parchment paper and putting the whole thing in the frying pan, to avoid deflating the donut. The paper will float free almost immediately, at which point just remove it with a pair of tongs. Fry them for a minute on each side, flipping over twice, for four minutes total.
- Place the fried donuts on a rack with a cookie sheet under them. Let them cool for a couple of minutes, then dip each doughnut and doughnut hole in the glaze, turning over once. Place back on the rack. Eat the doughnuts as soon as the glaze is set.
- You can also freeze refrigerate half the dough if you want to make fewer doughnuts. Halve and freeze right after the dough comes out of the refrigerator, after the long rise.