Donuts are one of our favorite desserts—but making them at home can be intense (hello, hot oil!). With your an air fryer, you can skip the pot of hot oil and make a healthier version. If you've ever had a baked doughnut, brace yourself. These are SO much better. Instead of tasting like a cake, shaped like a doughnut, each of these tastes like freshly fried classic glazed donuts thanks to the dough still being a yeasted dough. They are light and airy just without the extra oil. Be sure to grease your air fryer basket to help your dough not stick to the basket. Straight from the air fryer, they'll look a little more like bagels, but everything changes once you dip them in glaze and top with rainbow sprinkles. If you're a cinnamon-sugar churro person, you could also go that route. You'll have to make these in batches since air fryer baskets are so small, but they don't take long once they are in the air fryer! Giving you enough time to glaze donuts during each new batch.
Tips for nailing classic donut texture in the air fryer:
Take good care of your yeast.
Yeast is a living thing that can be killed at temperatures above 140F. When heating your milk, the time may vary based on your microwave's strength. To be safe, use a probe thermometer to check the temperature before adding the sugar and yeast. It should be between 105-115°, which is an ideal temperature range for activating the yeast.
You need to knead.
Kneading yeasted doughnut dough is crucial for building the dough's gluten structure. When kneading by hand, under-kneading is more common that over-kneading, and vice versa when using a stand mixer. Which ever method you choose, be sure to employ the window pane test to make sure your dough have developed enough gluten: Pinch a small piece of dough from the dough ball and use the thumb, pointer, and middle fingers on both hands to gently stretch it into a thin layer, while holding it up to a light source (ideally a window, get it?). If you're able to see light pass through the dough without ripping any holes, it's ready to go. Another way to gauge the gluten is by gently pressing the rounded dough ball with your fingertip; if it springs back within a few seconds, it's good to go. But if the fingertip indent remains, keep kneading.
Allowing the dough enough time to rise.
This gives the yeast time to work its magic (science) and ensures the development of flavor and a fluffy texture. The ideal temperature for rising is between 75-80°, but the key is making sure the dough has doubled in size during the first rise, even if that takes longer than 1 hour. If you need a visual aide, put a small piece of tape on the bowl to track where your dough started. Lightly oiling the bowl will help the dough rise freely. Don't cheat the rising time in the name of faster donuts; the end result will be flavorless and unfluffy.
Donuts are always best eaten the day they're made, but any extras will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.
Have you made this recipe? If yes, let us know how you liked it below.
Editor's Note: This recipe was updated on February 13, 2022, to include more information about the dish.
plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
(0.25-oz.) packet or 2 1/4 tsp. active-dry yeast
pure vanilla extract
pure vanilla extract
unsweetened cocoa powder
- Grease a large bowl with cooking spray. In a small, microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup, add milk. Microwave until lukewarm, 40 seconds. Add a teaspoon of sugar and stir to dissolve, then sprinkle over yeast and let sit until frothy, about 8 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining ¼ cup sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla. Pour in yeast mixture, mix to combine, then add in dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.
- Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic and only slightly tacky, adding more flour a teaspoon at a time if needed, about 5 minutes. Form into a ball then place dough in oiled bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Let dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray. Punch down dough, then turn onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a ½" thick rectangle.
- Using a doughnut cutter or 3" and 1" biscuit cutters, punch out your doughnuts. Knead any scraps together and punch out more doughnuts or holes. Place doughnuts and holes onto baking sheets, cover with dish towel, and let rise again, 40 minutes to 1 hour more.
- Grease basket of air fryer with cooking spray and add 2 doughnuts and 2 doughnut holes at a time, making sure doughnuts don’t touch. Cook at 375° for 6 minutes, until deeply golden. Place on cooling rack and repeat with remaining dough.
- Dip doughnuts in glaze (see below) or follow instructions for cinnamon sugar. Return to cooling rack and let set for 5 minutes before serving.
- In a medium bowl whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth.
- In a medium bowl whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and milk.
- In a large shallow bowl, whisk together cinnamon and sugar. Brush doughnuts with melted butter and toss in cinnamon sugar.