Malassadas | Portuguese Doughnuts


This recipe, adapted from the one my dad’s mom used to make in the Azores, has a flood of memories attached to it. I would sleep over at her house many a Friday night, and on Saturdays she’d make these for my cousins, Fatima and Joe, and me. Hot out of the sugar-cinnamon bowl is the only way to eat them.

In the Azores, some cooks shape these over their knees until they’re practically the size of lunch plates, just like my grandmother used to do. Others stretch and flop them out in their hands. I’ve made these smaller so they’re easier to work with, and fiddled with the recipe a touch, but beyond that, welcome to my childhood.–David Leite

Portuguese Doughnuts | Malassadas

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 4 H, 30 M
  • Makes 24

Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer

5/5 - 3 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the The New Portuguese Table cookbook

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  • For the doughnuts | malassadas
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons or 1/4 ounce)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm water, 110°F (43°C)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • For the cinnamon sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • Make the doughnuts | malassadas
  • 1. Heat the milk, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, just until steam begins to curl from the surface and bubbles form around the edges, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool until lukewarm.
  • 2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  • 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the eggs on medium-high until thick and luscious looking, about 5 minutes. Switch to the dough hook, add the milk mixture, the yeast mixture, and the flour, and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms, about 7 minutes, adding more flour if needed. The dough should be just slightly tacky but not sticky.
  • 4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, shape into a ball, and place in a lightly buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until double in size, about 2 hours.
  • 5. Lightly coat a 13-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and turn the dough onto the pan. Press and poke it with your fingers, much like making focaccia, to help stretch it until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly coat the top of the dough with cooking spray, loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest until double in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Make the cinnamon sugar
  • 6. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl.
  • Fry the doughnuts | malassadas
  • 7. Fill a medium saucepan with 3 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (177°C) on a deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer. Monitor the heat to keep a steady temperature. Using scissors or your hands, cut or pull a 2-to-3-inch piece of dough from the baking sheet and stretch it into a 4-to-5-inch circle, then lower it into the oil and fry, turning it frequently, just until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on the size. Drain the doughnut on paper towels for 30 seconds and then toss in the cinnamon sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough. Devour warm.

Recipe Testers Reviews

I think I have a love for Portuguese desserts because I seem to try my hand at a different Portuguese recipe every Valentines Day. This year, I made these malassadas, and they did not disappoint! The dough came together exactly as the instructions say. My dough was tacky to the touch. I made a mistake with the first rise and only let it go 1 1/4 hours...ooops! I guess I was overly anxious to get these in my tummy and I miscalculated the 2-hour rise. Regardless of that fact, my dough did continue to double on the second rise and these were a cinch to fry and coat with sugar. I bet if I let the first rise complete the full 2 hours my malassadas would have been slightly more puffy and airy, but these were still really delicious and enjoyed by the family. I used olive oil to fry these and they were not oily at all. I coated a half batch with plain sugar and half batch with cinnamon sugar, they were both great. I plan on making these again. Thanks to David for sharing his childhood recipe!


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  1. These were the best! Tasted just like when I was a kid. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with the world! You rock!

  2. I cannot wait to make this, My vovó died 3 years ago today and while thinking of her I thought of how much I missed her donuts. I would beg her for these all the time but it hurt her hands to make them. She made them all by hand, I was pretty sure she coated them in icing sugar though, I may try these coated in icing sugar and also cinnamon sugar to see what I prefer but I can’t wait. No one was allowed to watch her make these or have her recipe, which she knew by heart, so thank you for posting this.

    1. Cheryl, sorry for your loss. It never goes away, does it? Icing sugar may melt into the surface. But please let me know how it goes; I’m always open to new interpretations of a classic.

  3. Hi, I am just making this for the first time, and have not had them since my childhood in Fairhaven, MA. Can you freeze the dough? Or refrigerate it to have more the next day? Thanks.

  4. David…can I make them the night before…do the first rise, refrigerate, pull the dough out in the morning, do the last rise and fry?

    1. Rebecca- did you refrigerate and do the second rise in the morning? How did they turn out? I’m thinking about doing both rises, refrigerating, and so all I have to do in the morning is cook them. Any thoughts from anyone? Anyone done that?

      1. Vanessa, I wouldn’t let the dough rise twice and then refrigerate it. I think you’ll have better results by refrigerating after the first rise and then letting the dough rise for the second time tomorrow.

  5. ALOHA All!! As a kid my mom made these, also many of my aunties as well. Malasadas are a must have in Hawaii, they are prepared the same except they are round and are sometimes filled with cream or ones favorite jam or jelly. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these! Thanks so much for sharing thi as recipe.

    Mahalo nui loa.

    1. Deborah, yes, I had Hawaiian malassadas when I was on Oahu. They were incredible!! You’re more than welcome. This recipe is more rustic. Hawaiian malassadas are fluffier than these.

    1. Hey, Jana. they are similar. But coscoroes tend to be more a Christmas dish (while malassadas are year-round). But the big difference I see is that coscoroes are not made with yeast.

  6. Hi David, We get malasadas from the local bakery here in RI and I was wondering how are they different from the dough boys (fried dough) my mom makes? she used bread dough the malasadas taste like a egg based dough. love both.

    1. K, I’m not sure exactly what goes into dough boys. From what I remember from back home, they’re sugared bread dough, which is simply flour, yeast, water, and salt. Malassadas contain butter, milk, eggs, and sugar in the dough, so they’re richer.

      1. Ahh so it is more of an egg dough that makes perfect sense the dough consistency is more eggy and rich than bread dough

  7. Hi, my Dad ‘s family came from Maderia Island. I visited the island long ago. I want to know if a bread machine can be used to mix the dough? I sure would like to try your receipe. THANKS


    1. Jeanne, Madeira is gorgeous. I love the north side of the island, especially. Regarding using a bread machine to make the malassada dough, I’m at a loss. I’ve never used one, so I don’t know what adjustments–if any–you need to make to a recipe. I’d say give it a whirl. And if you do, please come back and let us know if it works. We can then help others.

  8. Maria and David, I grew up in Fall River too But now I live in Brazil..I remember the Espirito Santo Church feast where the portuguese ladies made the Malassadas!! My mom is from the Azores and I have to get her recipe. Great meeting u guys here. Miriam

    1. Miriam, thanks for this. I’m substituting my family’s recipe for this, so please take a look in about a day. It doesn’t contain liquor and should look even more familiar.

  9. hi everyone. i did make this dough. so easy and the donuts were delicious. i love it from when my mom taught me. i have missed her so much. i will never forgot about her passing. i want to say thank to my mom so much for everything she taught me in the azores, portugal, where we were born, rabo de peixe.

    1. maria, I’m so happy you made this recipe. It’s amazing how some dishes remind us so much of our family. I remember my ávo Leite making malassadas when I was a kid. How I loved to eat them warm from the skillet–after their dip into the granulated sugar pool, that is!

  10. I am from Sao Miguel and have first hand experience helping my mom make these. I’m not sure which island this recipe is from but I NEVER saw my mom stretch it over her knees or top it with anything besides granulated sugar. Growing up in Fall River, malassadas were available just about any Sunday from the local bakeries or the Portuguese churches and they were in the same style as my mom’s. Will share recipe if you’re interested.

    1. Maria, hello! I, too, am from Fall River, MA, and I remember eating these all the time. Both of my grandmothers along with all my aunts made them. One of my grandmothers was aware of some cooks using their knee to shape them. I’d love to see your recipe.

      1. Aloha Dave,

        Love following your post. I’m a Hawaii poi dog (multi-ethnic) but my Portuguese Ohana was from São Miguel Achada. My mom and Vovo would make Malassadas/fihlose for holidays. She used to make plenty for Fat Tuesday for the family and Pão Doce/Massa Souvada.

        I am the torch bearer for all things Portuguese in our family food wise fifth generation Pacheco recipes. So from time to time, I make linguiça and chouriço So coming from Hawaii to California (where I grew up) and back to Hawaii to see your grandma’s Malassadas brought back plenty memories of the Festa time when young.

        Oh, BTW, my mom laughed about the knee comment and my grandma said the ladies with the fat knees made the biggest ones. LOL! So funny and we did both sugar and cinnamon sugar.

        So seeing yours confirms that ours are more authentic and traditional because ours are flat and rustic not round like a Pão de Belém or Leonard’s bakery here on Oahu (Ono though), but that’s what locals are used to.

        But this was a pleasure. If you’re ever on Oahu would love to talk story over some malassadas and coffee (I’ll make em).



        1. Glenn, so good to hear from you. Yes, this is the authentic version. The ones in Hawaii, especially Leonard’s–which, BTW, are awesome–are a bit Americanized. And I just might take you up on your offer when in Hawaii next.

    2. hi maria. my name is ana crespo. I used to live in fall river so I know exactly what you are taking about. is there anyway you could email me the recipe? I moved with my husband and children and want my kids to grow up with the same traditions I had as a kid. my email is also if you have the recipe for sweet bread, rice pudding and queisadas de nata that would be fantastic any other recipes you would like to forward I would love to try :-) thank you

    3. Maria, I would love the recipe. Growing up with the donuts was always a treat and a party for us kids.

    4. David, I am going to try this recipe because my grandmother used to make us this soft donut and put sugar on it. I first tasted them when I was 8 yrs. old when my father took me to Portugal to meet his family. I pray; this is the same recipe.

      Maria…..can you please share your recipe?

  11. I want to make these for my daughter’s wedding. Can they be cooked ahead of time and frozen? And if so, do I put the sugar on them before freezing or after i take them out? Thanks.

    1. Tracy, some cooks do fry then freeze malassadas, but, to me, they never taste same. Any fried dough is best eaten right then and there. Obviously, it would be hard to make a whole raft of malassadas on the spot at a wedding. My advice is to fry up a batch, sugar half of the doughnuts, let them all cool, then freeze them. Defrost them and see if either version works for you.

      1. My family is from the Azores and we would freeze these all the time. When I was in college my mother would make these in large batches and freeze them so I could take ziploc bags full to school with me. They freeze very well and last months in the freezer. The key is to sugar them first, let them cool and then wrap them in aluminum foil and put in a freezer-proof ziploc bag before freezing. We would do 2-3 malassadas per foil wrap so you had serving size portions ready. When you want one, pull it out of the freezer still wrapped in foil, let them sit for a few minutes then pop them into a toaster oven or regular oven at about 300-350 still in the foil. They come out just as crispy on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside. I usually sprinkle with a bit more sugar and cinnamon after since much of the original sugar will melt in. Nothing compares to freshly made malassadas, but this is not a bad substitute when you can’t have them fresh!

    2. I grew up in London and when I was a child every Saturday morning in our local market a man would be there with his fancy cart and huge cauldron of oil and container of batter and would make what we called fritters which came out oval, puffy with crinkled edges. I’ve tried to make this batter and have followed several recipes but cannot get those lovely little air-filled fritters. Many years ago I was in Framingham, Mass. at a restaurant called The Old Mill where they served the exact same thing that I used to have as a child – should have asked for their recipe! Any ideas??

            1. These fritters were in batter form – not stretchy dough. A deep ladle would be dipped into the batter and then ladled batter into the hot oil and, removinh ladle as the fritter formed in the oil.

    3. My mom used to freeze them, as she would always make big batches. The sugar should always go on a malassada when they’re hot out of the oil so the sugar sticks. Once cooled, then u can freeze them. Same great taste still even after a few days.

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