Sonhos | Portuguese Doughnuts

Sonhos, Portuguese for “dreams,” are deep-fried donuts rolled in cinnamon sugar, dunked in caramel sauce, or drizzled with warm fruit jam.

A cut sonhos laying on a white marble surface

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.–David Leite

How to Serve Sonhos

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-sugar, although we have it on good authority that they are also often dunked in honey, warm fruit jam, or caramel sauce.

Sonhos | Portuguese Doughnuts

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes about 30 sonhos

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

5/5 - 2 reviews
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  • For the batter
  • 1 tablespoon butter (1/2 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Large pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • For the cinnamon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • For deep frying
  • Canola oil, for deep-frying
  • For serving
  • Honey, warm jam, or caramel (optional)


  • Make the batter
  • 1. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the butter, sugar, and water to a boil. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a stiff ball forms.
  • 2. Reduce the heat to medium and continue stirring (oof!) until a thin layer films the bottom of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • 3. Plop the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the on low speed for 1 minute to cool the dough.
  • 4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium-high speed until each egg is fully incorporated, about 1 minute for the first egg and less time for each subsequent egg. (About 3 minutes total.) When fully mixed, the batter will be glossy, smooth, and a bit loose.
  • 5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Make the cinnamon sugar
  • 6. In a medium bowl, mix together the cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
  • Fry the sonhos
  • 7. Fill a saucepan with the canola oil to a depth of 3 inches (8 cm). Heat to 300°F (150°C) over medium-low heat.
  • 8. Using a 2-teaspoon cookie scoop or a rounded teaspoon measuring spoon, carefully drop a few globs of dough into the hot oil. Don’t crowd the pan. These suckers really puff up!
  • 9. Fry until the sonhos are golden, 6 to 8 minutes. They’ll quickly float to the top so use a spoon to turn them through the cooking.
  • 10. Transfer the sonhos to paper towels using a slotted spoon then toss them in the cinnamon-sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • 11. Serve warm with honey, jam, or caramel.


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  1. I made these yesterday and was thrilled with the result. I’d tried several other recipes but these were the only ones that were like the delicious ones we had in Portugal: light and airy with a good outside crust, lovely custardy interior and not too oily. Perfect.

    1. Lovely to hear this, Lynne! Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know how well this recipe worked out for you. We couldn’t be more thrilled that these sonhos matched your experience of them in Portugal! This is why we do what we do. Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…!

  2. My mother’s recipe calls for baking powder…Do you rely only on the eggs for raising the dough? I’ll try your recipe anyway. Sonhos truly are dreamy.

    1. Hi, Mel. There are different variations when it comes to this recipe. If you have the elbow grease and can really beat the dough (or do what I do and use a hand or stand mixer), you’ll be just fine.

  3. If I am making these for a big party so it won’t really be possible to serve them warm, does it make a huge difference? Are they just as tasty at room temp?

    1. Robyn, they’re always better warm, but you can serve them room temp. If possible, I’d suggest popping them into a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes before serving. That way they will taste even better.

  4. My Portuguese friend gave me her recipe for sonhos, and it has dry yeast added to the recipe. There are no directions for letting the dough rise. It just says to mix in the yeast and flour, then to heat up the oil and drop the dough by spoonfuls into the hot oil. I hate to make them and waste the ingredients. Have you heard of a recipe for sonhos with yeast added that does not have to raise? I would truly appreciate your expert response.

    Thank you!

    1. Carmela, I haven’t personally. I’m not sure how the dry yeast would have time to activate before it was killed in the hot oil. Im going ask Sofia, one of our recipe testers who’s Portuguese.

    2. Carmela,
      Each time I made them I never added dry yeast, though I do know of people that use self-rising flour, so that the “sonhos” become more fluffy and airy. I actually prefer them a tad more dense, so I believe this may be a difference in personal taste, family traditions and perhaps regions of Portugal? The recipe I always used was from my grandmother, so not sure if the recipe was from Lisbon or the Minho area. Hope this helps. Perhaps you may want to try both ways and see which you prefer? Let us know if you have further questions and make sure to let us know how you like this recipe.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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