Portuguese Doughnuts (Sonhos)

This recipe for Portuguese Doughnuts comes from a cookbook that my Portuguese relatives put together and shared with our family.  Portuguese Doughnuts, also known as Sonhos (dreams), are light and airy doughnuts that are coated in white sugar.

Portuguese Doughnuts

My grandfather was born in Portugal, and he moved to the United States with his family when he was about five years old.  Many of his cousins and aunts/uncles immigrated at the same time (all to California).  I’m so grateful that they saved some of their favorite Portuguese recipes to pass along to our future generations.

I’ve had this family cookbook in my possession for a long time.  And I’ve been eyeing this recipe for Portuguese Doughnuts too.  It wasn’t until I was about to take a trip to Portugal that I finally pulled the recipe out of my collection and decided to give it a try.

Batter for Portuguese Doughnuts

How to make Portuguese Doughnuts:

Begin by heating water, butter and sugar.  Bring it to a boil, and stir in the flour.  At this point, the batter will look like the photo above.  Transfer the batter to a bowl and let it cool.  Then use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Then add the lemon extract and a pinch of salt.

Frying Portuguese Doughnuts

These Portuguese Doughnuts are super easy to make.  Heat up some canola oil in a pan to 375 degrees F. 

If you don’t have a thermometer for checking the temperature of the oil: 

Use the handle of a wooden spoon. When the oil has preheated, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil. If the oil starts steadily bubbling, then the oil is hot enough for frying. If the oil bubbles very very vigorously, then the oil is too hot and needs to cool off a touch.

Drop the doughnut batter into the hot oil by teaspoon (no bigger than an actual teaspoon because they will puff up a lot while cooking).  You can fry about 15 doughnuts at a time.  Fry until they are lightly browned all around. Remove with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain.  It might take a few tries of tasting them to make sure you’re getting the interior cooked just right.

Portuguese Doughnuts

Next, the warm doughnuts get a roll in some granulated white sugar.  That’s it.  They’re definitely best when eaten right away.  Since this recipe makes about 80 doughnut holes, I recommend that you make them on a morning where you have a few people meandering around your kitchen. 

I know that 80 seems like an enormous amount, but it’s really not.  As soon as you put out each batch to be eaten, they’ll be gobbled up immediately!  They’re doughnut holes after all, so it’s just one bite after another.

Portuguese Doughnuts

The texture of these Portuguese Doughnuts is not like your typical sugar doughnut.  Instead, they’re light and airy on the inside with a crispy exterior.  There is only a tablespoon of sugar in the actual doughnut batter, and then a roll in sugar to coat the outside… so they’re not overly sweet.  With lemon extract added in, you might detect a hint of lemon flavor too.

Portuguese Doughnuts

I sampled as many pastries as I could get my hands on in Portugal, and I never did find anything super close to these.  There is one thing to note that is kind of interesting. Most Portuguese pastries are not super sweet and sugary.  Sometimes I’d order something in a pastry shop in Portugal that looked like a decadent treat, and it was really just kind of minimally sweet and okay.  American pastries are vastly different because we use so much sugar and fat in our baked goods.  It’s an interesting comparison for sure.

Portuguese Doughnuts

These little Portuguese Doughnuts are delicious bites of sweetness, and they’re perfect for a weekend morning!

If you’re looking for more Portuguese style recipes, you might like to try:

Portuguese Doughnuts (Sonhos)

Fresh warm doughnut holes rolled in sugar- an authentic Portuguese recipe.

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword felozes, portuguese donuts, portuguese doughnuts
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 34 minutes
Servings 80 doughnut holes
Calories 15 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • pinch of salt
  • canola oil, for frying
  • granulated white sugar, for rolling

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter and sugar.  Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and stir in the flour.  Stir until the mixture forms a ball.  Move the batter to a medium bowl and let cool.

  2. Use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add lemon extract and a pinch of salt.

  3. Fill a medium pot with about 3 inches of canola or vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of 375 degrees.  See Recipe Notes below if you don't have a thermometer to check the temperature.

  4. Drop the doughnut batter into the hot oil by teaspoon (no bigger than an actual teaspoon because they will puff up a lot while cooking).  You can fry about 15 doughnuts at a time.  Fry until they are lightly browned all around. Remove with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain.

  5. Roll in sugar while the doughnuts are still warm, and serve immediately.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

  • If you don't have a thermometer for checking the temperature of the oil: Use the handle of a wooden spoon. When the oil has preheated, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil. If the oil starts steadily bubbling, then the oil is hot enough for frying. If the oil bubbles very very vigorously, then the oil is too hot and needs to cool off a touch.
Nutrition Facts
Portuguese Doughnuts (Sonhos)
Amount Per Serving (1 doughnut)
Calories 15
% Daily Value*
Cholesterol 12mg4%
Sodium 9mg0%
Potassium 5mg0%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Vitamin A 35IU1%
Calcium 2mg0%
Iron 0.1mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Comments

  • Rodger wrote:

    Can you use other oils besides canola oil?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Vegetable oil would be fine. Haven’t tried any others…

  • Kellie wrote:

    Can the dough be made ahead and fried later?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I don’t think that would be a good idea–