Deep-Fried Buttermilk Doughnut Holes with Cinnamon and Sugar

In August, in my hometown, every year there is a fair. And while I never thought so at the time, I realize now, that this event, along with so much of that shoreline suburb was idyllic, and my childhood firmly set in happy times.

Just past the height of summer, when electric July gives way to haze and humidity, there would be an art show and an opera at Town Hall and a craft fair across the street, on the front lawn of the First Congregational Church. When I was very small I held my mother’s hand as we walked down one of the paths away from the steeple, stopping to sample jams and look at witch’s wreaths and wooden spoons dressed as dolls in calico cloth. As I got older and more independent, my friends and I would dart across Main Street, from our dance practice, to try on silver rings, coquettish in all our stage makeup.

At the top of the hill were the food booths: fresh-squeezed lemonade, fried doughnuts doused in cinnamon sugar, and New England clam chowder. And all the townspeople would sit on the steps of the church to eat and drink under the shade of trees in the setting sunshine. These three foods are in many ways the taste of summer to me, more than popsicles or burgers on the grill.

I like these cozy cinnamon-sugar coated doughnuts. They are good; and better still because I got to use up the butter and buttermilk I made. It occurred to me too late that I should have flavored them with orange juice and zest and fried them in duck fat, a la duck a l’orange. I also meant to serve them with dulce de leche ice cream. Instead we ate them from the paper sleeve, still warm and so fragrant.

Deep-Fried Buttermilk Doughnut Holes with Cinnamon and Sugar
Makes about two dozen doughnut holes; Adapted from a recipe by King Arthur Flour


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 lb lard or 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • Cinnamon-sugar, for rolling


Start heating lard/oil in a 5 quart stock pot over medium-low heat. You want the oil to remain at 370 while you fry – use a candy thermometer for the most consistent results.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla extract. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Melt butter. Stir wet ingredients, including melted butter, into dry until just combined and turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.

Buttermilk Donut Holes

Knead until the dough comes together, four or five times, and don’t overwork.

Buttermilk Donut Holes

Form balls of dough slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball.

Buttermilk Donut Holes

When the oil is at temperature, plunge them carefully, a few at a time, into the oil. Cook until a deep golden brown, about three minutes. Turn off the flame if the oil gets too hot. Keep your thermometer in the pot. Be patient and check for doneness by cutting into one! (My first three were not at all cooked through.) Hint: Make the balls smaller than you think – they really puff up when they fry.

Drain doughnuts on paper towels/brown bag, or as I did, immediately toss in cinnamon-sugar.

Buttermilk Donut Holes

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.


  1. Mmm. My mother used to make doughnuts once in a while, and I remember them fondly. I keep telling myself I’ll make ’em someday, but it’s too much trouble for just a few doughnuts or too many doughnuts for a just few people!

    I’ve been thinking about having a Doughnut Party one of these days: invite a bunch of friends and serve just coffee, tea, juice, and two or three kinds of homemade doughnuts. Now that you’ve upped the ante by suggesting BUTTERMILK doughnuts… well, this is promising.

  2. instead of using whole wheat flour could I use plain flour and also do you have any substitute or recipe for buttermilk?
    Thanks if you reply 🙂

    1. I was going to try just reg flour too don’t think it would matter and you can make buttermilk for baking using milk with a little vinegar

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