There is truly nothing like biting into a freshly fried donut. That’s why Krispy Kreme serves them hot and fresh! But you might be wondering: which oil is the best for frying donuts at home? My top choice is refined coconut oil, because it meets all the requirements of the best oil for frying donuts and then some. Keep reading for the full breakdown.
How Donuts Are Fried
The best donuts have a soft, airy inside and a crispy brown outside. Donuts are usually fried in around 3 inches of oil at around 370-380°F. It’s important to remember to flip your donut once, and the donut should cook for a time of around 150 seconds or about 2 minutes in total. The oil simply cooks and crisps the donuts, it’s not responsible for the texture of the dough inside. The famous interior texture is all the work of the yeast dough. A good, trustworthy recipe for yeast donuts is crucial, and this one from Sally’s Baking Addiction is a good choice.
Features of the Best Yeast Donut
- Minimal oiliness, not at all soggy
- Even medium golden color
- Should maintain consistent shape after frying and should not collapse
- Dough should be sweet, but not overly so
- Airy, tender texture inside
Features of the Best Oil for Frying Donuts
For frying donuts, the home chef needs to consider a few factors to select the right oil. Unlike other deep fried foods, donuts are unique in that they require a neutral tasting oil, a high smoke point and an inexpensive cost.
High Smoke Point
Donuts are deep fried, which means the oil needs to be at a temperature of between 370-380°F. Any oil that has a smoke point below that temperature is unusable for frying donuts.
It is crucial that after going through all the hard work of making donuts from scratch, that a bad tasting oil doesn’t run them. This means any oil that has an intensely savory or very strong flavor is out of the equation. The oil should be mostly neutral, however, some savory flavor can add a great depth and contrast against the super sweet frosting. For this reason, you’ll see why one of my recommendations is only somewhat neutral of an oil, and may a good choice for a more daring palate. That being said, a true neutral oil is probably closest to the taste you’re accustomed to.
Because you need a few inches of it’s important to keep in mind the cost of the oil you use. For example, high-smoke point ghee would be a great choice for frying if only it wasn’t so expensive. Keep in mind that you will need around 3 inches of oil in the pot at all times, so it’s important to choose an oil that won’t break the bank.
The Best Oil For Frying Donuts
1. Refined Coconut Oil
Refined coconut oil is a perfect choice for frying donuts. It’s important that the coconut oil is refined though, because unrefined or virgin coconut oil is not well suited for frying donuts. Refining the coconut oil removes the coconut flavor, so the oil is neutral. Refined coconut oil does not have a taste at all. Refined coconut oil has a smoke point of around 450°F, which is well above the temperature range we need. You don’t have to worry about the refined coconut oil burning and ruining the donuts. Coconut oil is also an extremely stable oil, with a long shelf-life, that doesn’t go rancid and oxidize easily. Buying a large tub of it is makes it a cost-effective choice, too, especially since you can reuse the strained oil.
2. Palm Oil
Palm oil is a good choice because it has a high smoke point and neutral taste. Many chain donut shops use palm oil to fry in, as it’s cheap, and meets all other criteria. Palm oil is also considered a healthier oil, like coconut oil. It has a smoke point of around 455°F. A large tub of this neutral oil is a very economical oil to fry in.
3. Tallow and/or Lard
This option is more out-there if you’re not familiar with cooking with traditional animal fats, but it’s a great choice. Tallow and lard are both the oils used in traditional, original donut recipes, and that has to count for something, right? In fact, some old-school doughnut shops still use these animal fats to fry in. Tallow is rendered beef fat, and lard is rendered pork fat. The smoke points of both of these fats are around 400°F, which is perfect. Again, this is a more daring choice for a more adventurous foodie, but if you can get your hands on some tallow and lard from a local farm, it will surely not disappoint.
For more information about tallow and other animal fats, check out my other article Tallow vs Lard.
Oils To Avoid
Butter is not at all well-suited for deep frying. Firstly, it would be pretty expensive to buy enough for frying. Second, butter has way too low of a smoke point for deep frying. It burns at 200-250°F, way under the temperature range needed for frying donuts. Butter just will not work for deep-frying donuts.
Olive oil is a poor choice for frying donuts because it is not neutral, and it does not have a high smoke point. Olive oil burns at around 375°F, which is below the range we need. It also just has way too savory and strong of a flavor. The donuts will have an odd olive taste, and be burnt on the outside while raw on the inside. Simply put: don’t use olive oil for frying donuts.
Vegetable shortening, also known as margarine, might seem like a good, cost-effective oil to choose, but it has too low of a smoke point to work. Vegetable shortening has a smoke point of around 360°F. It will burn and blacken the donuts. Also, vegetable shortening is very prone to spoiling, and in general is just not a very healthy oil.
Canola Oil/Vegetable Oil
Canola and vegetable oils such as sunflower are not good choices to fry in, in my opinion. These are often the most recommended oils, but they have some serious issues that make them less than desirable. All vegetable oils, including canola and sunflower, have to be extracted with chemical solvents such as hexane. They also have to use chemical deodorizers on them, in order to make them have the neutral taste consumers demand. These oils are also very unstable due to high amounts of omega-6, and go rancid very easily. I also find that they sometimes have a rancid or bitter taste, which I don’t prefer. Overall, I believe there are much better options than canola/vegetable oils, though I understand why they are often recommended.
- Remember to give the donuts space when frying; don’t overcrowd
- Using a thermometer, ensure the temperature is always between 370-380 F
- Use enough oil so the donuts float; don’t forget to add a little more between batches if needed
- An enameled cast iron dutch oven is a chef-recommended pot for deep frying
- Make sure you drain the donuts properly using a cooling rack and paper towel- don’t skip this!
Which oil does Krispy Kreme use?
Krispy Kreme states that they use a blend of palm, canola, cottonseed and soybean oils.
Which oil does Dunkin Donuts use?
It’s somewhat unclear which oil Dunkin Donuts uses to fry the donuts. It seems that they likely use a palm oil blend, as palm oil is listed in their ingredients, but they don’t explicitly state which oil or oils exactly that they use to fry.
Can I reuse the oil after frying?
Yes, as long as the oil isn’t burnt, you can strain it and reuse the oil. If the oil smells or looks really different, though, it’s best to toss.
Refined coconut oil is the perfect choice for frying donuts. Some say that coconut oil is too flavored for frying donuts, but this just isn’t true. Refined coconut oil has a completely neutral taste, and I even use it to fry savory foods such as fried chicken. I can assure you that refined coconut oil is perfectly neutral tasting and will not impart an off-flavor on the donuts. It is important to remember, though, that the same is not true with virgin or unrefined coconut oil, which is too flavored and has a too low a smoke point for frying donuts.
I recommend saving money on refined coconut oil by buying in bulk. I have two of these tubs sitting in my kitchen cupboard right now. Go ahead and fry those donuts, you won’t be let down!