“Dreams” Portuguese Doughnuts

Sonhos are fried cakes like small doughnuts but much lighter in texture. There are many variations on the theme all over Portugal. Generally speaking, fried cakes are intended for the Christmas season, but, being so popular, sonhos are made at other times as well, and some specialty patisseries sell them freshly made on a daily basis.–Edite Vieira

LC Sonhos Note

Sonhos, in Portuguese, means “dreams.” We can think of no more fitting name for something so dreamy. This recipe suggests dusting the deep-fried dough with cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar, although we have it on good authority that they are also often dunked in a simple syrup or caramel sauce.

Portuguese Doughnuts Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes 24 sonhos


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Ground cinnamon


  • 1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, butter, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to form a ball. Take the pan off the heat and place it in your kitchen sink after you partially fill the sink with cold water. (This helps cool down the mixture.)
  • 2. After the mixture has cooled a bit, beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Continue beating the dough to aerate it. Add enough oil to a deep pot to fill it partway and heat it over medium heat until the oil registers 360°F (180°C) on a candy or deep-fry thermometer. When the oil is ready, deep-fry spoonfuls of the dough until golden. Using a slotted spoon, tongs, or a spider, transfer the doughnuts to paper towels to drain.
  • 3. To serve, dust the hot-from the-oil sonhos with a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon to taste. Serve warm.
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  1. Carla Pinheiro says:

    Dear Edite:

    I have tried most if not all of your recipies and they are delicious. You remind me of my very talented late aunt Maria Alcina,who had been cooking for very rich families and was pretty much loved not only for her caring nature but also by her creativity and great flavour in her dishes. I hope one day to follow in her footsteps.

  2. breana says:

    I had these at school today and they are YUMMY!

  3. Maria says:

    Can the massa for the Sonhos be made in advance and deep fried later.

  4. Teresa says:

    I have the most wonderful memories of my Portuguese grandfather’s sonhos – two towers of fluffy doughnut-y wonderfulness, one sticky and drippy with honey and one coated in powdered sugar, that we would devour after a big fish dinner on a Sunday afternoon. Thanks for making my day with a great memory.

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