Chinese Donuts

24 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chilling Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes

Chinese Donuts are the delicious Chinese buffet treats with a yeast dough made from scratch and deep fried golden brown, then rolled in sugar.

Recreating American-Chinese Restaurant favorites like Crab Rangoon, Chow Mein, and Orange Chicken at home lets you have Asian takeout whenever a craving hits. Now you can create your own Chinese dessert at home to go too!

Sabrina’s Chinese Donuts Recipe

If you’ve ever been to a Chinese Buffet, you know that no matter what you have to save room for a warm, sugary Chinese Donut. These doughy, chewy donut balls are fried deliciousness with a crispy golden brown shell that’s covered with a generous sugar coating. It wouldn’t be surprising if these fried delights were why you went to the Chinese buffet in the first place.

Chinese Buffet Donuts are different from the breakfast items you’ll find sold by street vendors in China. Those Chinese donuts are called Youtiao and are long strips of dough, like a cross between a cruller and a churro, and made without sugar. Instead, the Americanized version of Chinese donuts are balls of sweet dough with even more sugar on the outside, and found on a Chinese Buffet dessert table more often than a breakfast item.

Another reason these Chinese Donuts are different from other recipes is that they are completely made from scratch. Many recipes call for refrigerated biscuit dough, but you can make your own dough with simple ingredients from the pantry. It’s a little bit more work but they are just so much better with this homemade from scratch version. They have a lighter, fluffy texture with more flavor and a hint of sweetness you can’t get from tubes of biscuit dough.

Chinese Donuts ingredients in bowls


  • Yeast: For this dough recipe active dry yeast is best, versus using instant dry yeast. You just need warm water to activate it.
  • Sugar: The sugar in the dough makes them slightly sweet as well as helps activate the yeast. Then the donuts are covered in granulated sugar for a crispy crunchy sweet coating.
  • Evaporated Milk: The evaporated milk gives these donuts a chewier texture, without making them too heavy. They have almost a fluffy bread-like texture.
  • Nutmeg: The pinch of nutmeg in the dough and in the sugar coating gives these donuts a hint of warm, bakery doughnut flavor. A little goes a long way with nutmeg!
  • Baking Powder: What makes this dough extra light and fluffy despite the heavier ingredients like evaporated milk and vegetable oil, is the generous amount of baking powder.

Kitchen Tools & Equipment

  • Thermometer: Keeping the oil at the right temperature is crucial to frying anything. Use a deep-fry thermometer or candy thermometer to ensure the temperature stays between 365 and 375 degrees.
  • Fryer: You can use a deep-fryer if you have one, or just use a heavy bottomed pot. You want the sides deep enough to easily hold 2 inches of oil with at least an inch to spare. If you are an Air Fryer user, there are instructions for air fryer donuts at the end of this post.
  • Frying Oil: Plain ol’ cheap vegetable oil works great for frying donuts. You want to use a light oil with a higher smoke point that doesn’t have much flavor. Canola oil is another good oil for deep frying.
  • Chopsticks: A pair of chopsticks is the perfect tool to flip donuts frying in oil. They are gentle enough to not squish the balls of dough without splattering the oil when you flip them.

How to Make Chinese Donuts

Time needed: 4 hours and 30 minutes.

  1. Active Yeast

    Combine the yeast, warm water, and a teaspoon of sugar in a large mixing bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes, until it turns foamy.Chinese Donuts dough being mixed in a bowl

  2. Make Dough

    After the yeast mixture gets foamy, stir in the evaporated milk, remaining sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. Whisk in the baking powder, nutmeg, and salt, then add the flour in ½ cup increments until all the flour has been mixed in. Chinese Donuts Collage

  3. Chill Dough

    Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 4 hours. Then punch down chilled dough to release air.Chinese Donuts dough being mixed in a bowl

  4. Shape Donuts

    Place dough on a floured flat surface. Roll into a large 12×12 inch square that is ¼ inch thick. Use a 3 inch biscuit cutter, or a large glass, to cut out circles of dough.Chinese Donuts dough cut

  5. Fry Donuts

    Add 2 inches of vegetable oil to large heavy pot or skillet with deep sides and heat to 375 degrees. Fry the dough in batches, cooking the donuts for about 1 to 1 ½ minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove donuts with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet or wire rack while you cook the rest of the donuts.Chinese Donuts dough being fried

  6. Sugar Coating

    Combine sugar and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Roll the warm donuts in the mixture one at a time until well coated.Chinese Donuts being dipped in sugar

  7. Serve

    Serve the donuts on your own dessert buffet, for breakfast or brunch, or with any toppings you like.Chinese Donuts ready to eat

Can Chinese Donuts be made ahead?

Donuts are not the best recipe to make ahead, as they are freshest on the same day they’re made. If you really need to make them ahead then you could make the dough the day before you fry them. The dough can stay in the refrigerator over night to be rolled out, cut, and fried to serve fresh Chinese Donuts when you want to eat them. See storage instructions for more details on how you can freeze Chinese donuts. 

Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts
Chinese Donuts
Amount Per Serving
Calories 197 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Trans Fat 0.03g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 10mg3%
Sodium 198mg9%
Potassium 66mg2%
Carbohydrates 33g11%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 12g13%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 35IU1%
Vitamin C 0.2mg0%
Calcium 121mg12%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Recipe Tips & Tricks

  1. Use Warm Water
    • The key to baking with yeast is to make sure your liquid isn’t too hot or it will kill the yeast. The ideal temperature of water or milk is 110 degrees for active dry yeast.
  2. Don’t Let it Stick
    • Lightly spray plastic wrap in cooking spray before placing it over your dough at all stages. This will prevent the dough from sticking to the wrap. If you transfer the dough to another bowl to rise in the refrigerator, you can also spray the bowl so it will easily come out for cutting.

How to Store

  • Serve: These donuts are best served fresh and hot, the same day that they are made. You can store them at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  • Store: Keep leftover donuts in an airtight container like a Ziplock bag and store in a cool, dark place. Let the donuts cool completely before storing so they don’t sweat and turn soggy soggy. You can refrigerate them but they are better at room temperature.
  • Freeze: Place cooled donuts in a freezer safe bag and squeeze out all the air. Donuts will keep for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature and then pop in the microwave for 10-15 seconds for a warm, fresh taste.

Ideas to Serve Chinese Donuts

You can serve these delicious donuts on your own home buffet table alongside other delicious Chinese dishes. Enjoy them as a snack with a cup of your favorite coffee. These will also be wonderful on any dessert buffet served with other tasty treats like Brownies and Bars, Pies and Pastries, and other Baked Goods. These donuts would be an exceptional accompaniment to any Breakfast or Brunch spread.

To make these donuts extra special you could also serve them with a sauce drizzled over the top or on the side for dipping. Raspberry Sauce, Caramel Sauce, or Hot Fudge Sauce are all great choices. 

Alternative Cooking Techniques

Air Fryer Chinese Donuts

  • Prepare the donut dough as usual and chill for at least 4 hours. Roll out the dough and cut the circles, but then transfer to baking sheets covered with lightly floured parchment paper.
  • Cover trays loosely with greased plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature for another 30 minutes.
  • Heat Air Fryer to 350 degrees and spray the basket generously with cooking spray. Add donuts to the basket in a single layer.
  • Spray the tops of the donuts with oil spray. Fry for 3 minutes, flip donuts and fry another 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Roll warm donuts in the sugar mixture.

Frequent Questions

What are Chinese Donuts?

There are two kinds of donuts that are most commonly referred to as “Chinese Donuts”. The first are long, churro-like donuts, made without sugar and sold as street food in China, also known as “Youtiao” in Mandarin. These Chinese Donuts are also known as Chinese Buffet Donuts and you can find them in American Chinese Buffets and restaurants across the US. They are pillowy balls of fried dough that are rolled in sugar and absolutely amazing!

How long do Chinese Donuts last?

These donuts are best as soon as they are cool enough to eat and don’t last more than a day or two. You want to keep them at room temperature and store them out of direct sunlight to keep them fresh. Cool the donuts completely before sealing in an airtight bag. You can also pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds if they are a little stale to soften them up a bit.

Recipe Card

Chinese Donuts

Chinese Donuts are the delicious Chinese buffet treats with a yeast dough made from scratch and deep fried golden brown, then rolled in sugar.
Yield 24 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American, Chinese-American
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1 packet active dry yeast , (0.25 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup sugar , divided
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups flour
  • vegetable oil , for frying

To Finish:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • In a large mixing bowl add yeast, warm water, and sugar, stirring well.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes, until foamy.
  • Add evaporated milk, oil, remaining sugar, and egg.
  • Add in baking powder, nutmeg, salt and flour, whisking in the flour in ½ cup increments until all the flour has been mixed in.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  • Punch down dough and remove onto a floured surface.
  • Roll dough into a 12×12-inch square, roughly 1/4" thick.
  • Cut out 3-inch circles with a biscuit cutter.
  • Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees.
  • Without crowding the pot, fry donuts in batches.
  • Fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown on both sides.
  • Remove with slotted spatula onto a baking sheet.
  • Note: Fry the remaining edges and enjoy as a treat for the cook!

To Finish:

  • Add sugar and nutmeg to a bowl and mix.
  • Add donuts to the bowl one at a time and roll in sugar until well coated.


Calories: 197kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 198mg | Potassium: 66mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 35IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 1mg

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  • Granulated Sugar Mixture: Instead of nutmeg you can use cinnamon for a cinnamon sugar coating. Try a lemony sugar coating by adding lemon zest instead of spices. Stirring until there are no clumps before rolling.
  • Powdered Sugar Coating: You can use powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar. Allow donuts to cool before rolling so they don’t melt the sugar. Add sugar to a bag and dip donuts in melted butter (let excess drip off), then shake in the sugar bag until completely covered. Add cocoa powder or freeze dried strawberries to the powdered sugar for more flavors.
  • Add Filling: Since these don’t have a hole in the center, you can fill them like jelly donuts. Once they’ve cooled, fill a baking syringe or pastry bag with a small round tip with your creamy filling. Poke a hole in one end of the donut and pipe in the filling until the filling pushes back. Try fillings like Chocolate Pudding, Lemon Curd, Strawberry Jam, or Whipped Cream.

More Donut Recipes

Chinese Donuts Pinterest image

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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