Mexican donuts, also known as donas, are a traditional type of pan dulce, or Mexican sweet bread, coated in cinnamon sugar. They have a light, fluffy texture and are perfect to enjoy with a cup of coffee or as a sweet snack to share with friends.
One of my favorite types of pan dulce to get at the panadería is Mexican donuts, or donas! Donas are cinnamon-sugar-coated yeasted donuts that make a great companion to your morning cup of coffee. If coffee’s not your thing, Mexican donuts also pair perfectly with other traditional warm drinks like champurrado or atole!
What Sets Mexican Donuts Apart
From the outside, it’s hard to tell the difference between a Mexican donut and their American cousins. While the differences are subtle, the Mexican donut sets itself apart in a few distinct ways.
- Mexican donuts aren’t as sweet as American donuts. The dough is made from pure cane sugar and cinnamon instead of granulated sugar, resulting in a less sweet final product.
- While the process of making the dough is similar, Mexican donuts are slightly denser and more bread-like than American donuts.
- The exterior coating is made from a mix of both ground cinnamon and granulated sugar, as opposed to only sugar.
- Dry ingredients: You’ll need all-purpose flour, active dry yeast, ground cinnamon, pure cane sugar, and fine salt. Pure cane sugar is processed way less than your typical granulated sugar, has slightly bigger crystals, and is a light golden color. It creates a dough that’s slightly less sweet. If you don’t have pure cane sugar, granulated sugar is the best substitute.
- Wet ingredients: You’ll need butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla extract.
- Topping: This is made from a mixture of granulated sugar and ground cinnamon. Simply the best!
- Oil: I used canola oil for frying, but you can use any vegetable oil you prefer.
How to Make Mexican Donuts
Make the dough: Bloom the yeast in warm milk, then combine the wet and dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and knead for 8 minutes using a dough hook. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
The first rise: Coat a large bowl with oil and place dough inside, shaping it into a ball. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, usually about 1 hour.
Shape the dough: Roll out the dough into a large rectangle that’s about 1/2 inch thick. Using a donut cutter, cut out and shape the donuts. I used a 3.5-inch donut cutter, but if you don’t have one, you can use any circular object you have in the kitchen. A small cup and a small lid work great for the donut and donut hole!
Second rise: Transfer the donuts and donut holes to 2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper, cover them, and let them rise again for an additional 40 minutes. Letting donuts rise twice is an exercise in patience, but it’s necessary to get that fluffy interior!
Fry the donuts: In a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, heat 2 inches of oil to 360°F. I like to use an instant-read thermometer here to make sure the oil is at the perfect temperature. Carefully cook donuts in batches of 2 or 3 until golden brown on both sides.
Roll in cinnamon sugar: Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl, then set aside. Once the donuts have been fried, transfer them to a prepared plate to drain and cool for a few seconds, then dip each one on both sides in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat evenly.
Here’s the hard part – make sure to wait a minute or two before taking a bite because the inside is still very hot!
- This recipe makes about 16 donuts. You can use any excess dough to make donut holes.
- Make sure the eggs and butter are at room temperature.
- If you don’t have pure cane sugar, you can use granulated sugar instead.
- Pay close attention during the frying process as they can cook very quickly! Don’t let them burn.
These donuts are incredible by themselves, but to take them to the next level, you can make one of these dips or drinks below to dip into for extra flavor:
- Stand mixer. When I have to bake anything, I always use my beloved stand mixer to do the job.
- Baking sheets. These are my favorite baking sheets that come in various different sizes for many recipes.
- Donut cutter. Trust me when I say this tool will save so much time when making donuts! I’ve made this recipe using a small cup and lid, but a donut cutter is easier and more efficient.
The best way to store a yeasted donut is in an air-tight container or zip-top storage bag. Place them out of the sunlight, in a room temperature area, for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Photography by Ashley McLaughlin.