From jam doughnuts to beignets and churros, the world is a veritable feast of deep-fried goodness. Join us on a trip around the world in doughnut form.
Apparently just the act of planning travel adventures is good for your mental health. I’m not actually going anywhere anytime soon (not many of us are!), but I thought I would give myself a severe case of wanderlust by looking at some of the places I’d like to go when I feel safe to travel.
That made me a bit sad after a while though; until I found a recent SBS Food (a tv network in Australia) article on doughnuts!
I love doughnuts – I love any kind of deep-fried dough, really – and whenever I travel to a new place, I always add whatever the local deep-fried goodness is to my list of things to eat.
So, in absence of actually being able to freely travel, this is a glorious list of doughnuts – some I’ve tried and some I am keen to try based on my extensive ‘research’. By which I mean looking at doughnut types and drooling on my keyboard.
Let’s dive into deep-fried doughy deliciousness.
Jam doughnut – Basically everywhere
A deep-fried ball of yeast-risen dough filled with sweet jam and coated in sugar or cinnamon sugar.
It would be remiss of me to not start with the humble jam doughnut. It’s a classic in Australia and there is some form of it in most countries, including the berliner in Germany; jelly donuts in the US; sufganiyah in Israel; krapfen in Austria; koblihy in Czech Republic and so many more.
It needs to be a yeast-based dough, not a cake dough or it tends to be too heavy and the texture isn’t chewy enough.
Churros/Porras – Spain, Portugal, Mexico
A dough pastry, piped in long strips and fried.
The are plenty of regional differences when it comes to churros—the ones we likely know and love in the UK and Australia are not necessarily representative. They are typically eaten for breakfast or even a nice little afternoon snack, never for dessert (which doesn’t stop me).
My friend Molly explains churros in great detail on her blog, Piccavey.
Loukoumades – Greece, Cyprus
Balls of leavened dough, deep-fried and soaked in syrup or honey.
Ah, loukoumades—or as they are often called in Australia, honey puffs. They are a staple at Greek festivals all over the country and it’s just not a proper day out at one of these festivals without a plate of these fried delights coated in icing sugar (because there isn’t already enough sugar on them!).
Some form of these are found in Turkey, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries too, and they also go by the name Lokma or Luqmat al-Qadi.
Gulab jamun – India
Small balls of dough made from milk solids, flour and a raising agent, fried and then soaked in a rose water scented sugar syrup.
I love the texture of gulab jamun (soft but not soggy and almost like a nut meal) and the sticky syrup. While it’s usually eaten as part of a festival or major celebrations, it’s hard to say no to them as dessert after a feast in your local curry house. As with many of these doughnuts, there isn’t one specific recipe and each region will have its own version.
Spurgos – Lithuania
Deep-fried balls of yeast-risen dough filled with sweet or savoury fillings.
When I went to Kaunas in Lithuania, I went to the most magical doughnut shop. It was like going back in time and the grandmothers of the city were dishing out golden fried delights all day to a queue that never seemed to dissipate completely. Unlike some of the other doughnuts I’ve had, these were very much on the oily side. My favourite was a savoury version full of seasoned mince.
Khfaf – Algeria
A yeast-risen dough, pulled flat and deep-fried.
Thanks to my grandmother’s Algerian heritage, I’ve had the joy of Khfaf—she calls them beignets—since I was a small child. You can coat them in sugar, but I like mine slathered with my grandmother’s homemade jam.
Beignet – New Orleans
Deep-fried, light and fluffy doughnuts made with yeast dough and dusted with powdered sugar.
While the word ‘beignet’ covers off on quite a few things (including doughnuts and fritters), what I’ve had on my list ever since I can remember are the specific beignets from New Orleans. You know, those world-famous pillows of dough under a mountain of icing sugar? They were even designated the official State Doughnut of Louisiana in 1986. I cannot wait to try them.
Oliebollen – The Netherlands
A yeast-risen dough, usually containing sultanas, currants, raisins and sometimes zest or candied fruit, shaped with two spoons and dropped into hot oil or lard.
These ‘oil balls’ are traditionally eaten around New Year. When I was in Amsterdam – not around New Year – I looked in every bakery window to see if anyone was selling off-season oliebollen. I sadly went home without trying one.
Koeksister – South Africa
A traditional South African pastry made from plaited, fried dough that is left to infuse in a flavoured sugar syrup.
South Africa is another place I’m yet to visit, but thanks to friends who grew up there, I’ve been able to try them. I even made them myself once. While they are a bit like the gulab jamun in that they are soaked in syrup, these have a denser texture and tend to have a crunchy crust while the syrup reminded me of something you might pour over baklava.
Langos – Hungary
A yeast-risen bread dough, hand-stretched and deep-fried. Typically topped with savoury ingredients.
I haven’t been to Hungary yet, but I have eaten many langos. At open air markets in Australia they’re a fairly common sight. It’s kind of like a pizza but with a deep-fried base. On offer in Australia is usually the langos rubbed with garlic and then topped with sour cream and cheese. It’s basically the perfect dish. I cannot wait to get to Hungary.
Gogoși – Romania
A yeast-risen dough, cut into circles or plaited and then deep-fried and coated in icing sugar.
I got to try gogoși when I visited Romania back in 2018. The tour guide called them ‘Wallachian doughnuts’, presumably because that is the region they come from. They are light and airy and almost melt in your mouth – they are certainly not as heavy as some doughnuts.
Travelling the world one doughnut at a time
Here’s a nice little fact for you: In Brazil, doughnuts are referred to as ‘sonho’ which means ‘dream’.
This is in no way an extensive list – otherwise this post may never actually end! These are the ones I’d like to try or have already tried (I suspect this list will probably grow over time).
Just go and take a look at the Wikipedia page about doughnuts and you’ll see that your adventure in doughnuts has just begun. Tell me your favourite in the comments.