Malasadas (Portuguese Donuts)

Malasadas (Portuguese Donuts)

Fat Tuesday's tomorrow and I can't help but get a little nostalgic for home. One of my favorite Fat Tuesday traditions is heading to Leonard's Bakery (a.k.a. the best malasada spot in Hawaii, ever) and picking up a big box of malasadas to share with coworkers, friends, and family. Let me back up for a minute and tell you about malasadas. While commonly associated with Hawaii, malasadas are actually Portuguese donuts, which are fried up until golden brown, rolled in sugar or cinnamon-sugar, then sometimes filled with delicious fillings like haupia (coconut pudding), chocolate, or vanilla custard. And they are so ono (delicious). Light and fluffy on the inside and fried to perfection, if you haven't had a Portuguese donut yet, add 'em to the list because they're a definite must! 

I should also note that while these are pretty much mandatory for Fat Tuesday, they are not exclusively enjoyed on this day. They're perfect for every other day of the year. In fact, Moses's family's tradition is to eat them for the new year and his mom, who he lovingly refers to as the malasada queen, makes a giant batch of malasadas every new year's eve. A few years ago, I watched her prepare them and quickly learned why Moses calls her the queen. She made it look so easy--and here's the thing, donuts take time. They just do. They have to proof and proof again and then you have to carefully drop them into the hot oil and work quickly to fry them up fast. Funny thing is, when Moses's mom made them, you'd never think for a minute that there was any work involved because she made it look like second nature--as if she made them every day. Truth is, I definitely had to test this recipe and learned a few tricks along the way. With any luck, next Fat Tuesday, I'll look more like a malasada queen and less like, well, less like I did this year. Round one of malasadas didn't look so hot. Round two's looks were much improved *insert party popper emoji here*. 

Below you'll find a brief glimpse into the malasada process. A special thanks goes out to the lovely Lily Diamond, you might know her as Kale and Caramel, for her amazing hand modeling skills. I invited her over to eat some malasadas, see Lily is also from Maui, so I knew that all I had to say was malasadas and she'd be over in a heartbeat. What she probably didn't anticipate was that I'd put her to work but it's way more fun and a million times faster to make a malasada filling assembly line versus go it alone, so I hope she didn't mind. I highly recommend you invite some friends to eat some malasadas, then casually suggest they all jump on the malasada filling assembly line!

A couple tips for success: 

  • You can make your fillings while you're waiting for your donuts to proof or you can make them first. The haupia needs at least a couple hours to set up in the fridge and the chocolate pastry cream needs a few as well.
  • Don't forget to oil your parchment and oil it well. I learned the hard way that parchment paper doesn't always release. And when you're dropping your beautiful puffed up rounds that took hours to rise, you're gonna want them to release easily. Nothing's more disappointing than deflating those perfect rounds and losing the fluffy, puffy texture you worked so hard for. 
  • Don't start frying until your rounds have doubled in size. Make sure they're in a warm spot (this part is pretty crucial). 
  • When you're filling your donuts, handle them with care. They've already been perfectly coated in sugar and they're pretty delicate (remember, light and fluffy?!) so handle them like a newborn baby. Easy does it here. Make sure you've got a sharp paring knife and something slender to open it up and make some space for your wonderful fillings.
  • Finally, plan ahead! These malasadas are not difficult to make but they do take time (at least four hours in total). Good news is that most of the time is actually inactive (your donuts will spend a lot of time proofing) but inactive time is still time. If you're planning on inviting your friends over. Invite them over for frying, sugar rolling, filling time.

One last thing before you get to the good part (the recipe!!). I feel like I should talk about haupia for a minute, since I do a good job of forgetting to explain Hawaiian words. Haupia is coconut pudding and it's AMAZING and super simple to make. You pretty much just need four ingredients: coconut milk, water/whole milk, sugar, and cornstarch. And the water/whole milk isn't always used. Heat it up, let is cool down to room temp and pop it in the fridge to set up. Easy as can be and oh so good!

Malasadas (Portuguese Donuts) w/Haupia (Coconut Pudding)

Adapted from Saveur's Leonard's Bakery Hawaii Malasadas

Makes 2 dozen donuts



  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp. water, heated to 110°F
  • 1 tsp. + 1/3 c. + 1 c.  sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3  c. milk
  • 1/3 c. half & half
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 2/3 c. bread flour (12 oz.), sifted
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Cooking spray


  • 2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch




  • Mixing bowls
  • Stand mixer
  • Silicone spatula
  • Baking sheets lined with greased parchment paper
  • 2" round biscuit cutter
  • Small saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Deep-fry thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Spider (for frying)
  • Dutch oven
  • Kitchen towels
  • Wire rack
  • Paring knife
  • Chopstick, thin metal straw, etc (for opening up filling hole)
  • Pastry bag(s) with medium round tip



  1. In a medium bowl, mix together yeast, 1 tsp. sugar, and 2 Tbsp. water (heated to 110°F); let sit until activated and foamy, around 10 minutes; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat eggs on medium speed until fluffy. Add vanilla extract and white wine vinegar and mix on medium for an additional 30 seconds. Add yeast mixture, 1/3 c. sugar, butter, milk, half & half, and kosher salt and mix on medium speed until combined. Set to lowest speed and slowly add flour. Increase speed to low (versus the lowest speed) and beat until dough is smooth (at least 3 minutes). Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set bowl in a warm place to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a roughly 9″ square that's about 1/2" thick. Using 2" round biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible; gather and reuse scraps. You should have exactly enough dough for 24 rounds. Place on pre-greased parchment paper-lined baking sheets, leaving at least 3″ between rounds; cover with clean kitchen towels and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, at leat 1 hour.
  3. Place remaining sugar in large bowl and set aside. Heat 2″ oil in a dutch oven until a thermometer reads 350°. Using scissors, separate the donut rounds by parchment into a grid of squares/rectangles. This will create a nice vessel to transfer the rounds into the oil for frying. Working in batches, place donuts in oil, paper side up, peel off and discard paper. Fry for around 2-3 minutes on each side. Donut should be puffed and golden. Transfer to a baking sheet with a wire rack and let donuts cool completely. Roll donut in sugar to coat then set aside to be filled.


  1. Combine coconut milk, 1/2 cup of water, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a light boil. Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/2 cup of water together in a bowl to make a slurry and add to the pan. Whisk until the mixture returns to a light boil and thickens. Remove from the heat and bring to room temp then transfer to fridge (cover with plastic wrap) and cool for at least 2 hours.


  1. Donuts will already be coated sugar so handle carefully. Using the tip of your paring knife, cut a 3/4" long slit on the end of your donut. Slide the chopstick, end of metal straw, etc. in the hole and carefully move from right to left a couple times to create a pocket for the filling.
  2. Fill small pastry bags, fitted with medium round tip, with haupia, chocolate pastry cream, and strawberry jam/preserves. Twist top to seal the bag but be careful when handling haupia bag, as haupia isn't as thick as the pastry cream or jam.  Carefully insert just the tip of the pastry tip into the slit you made. Gently squeeze pastry bag until doughnut feels just full. If you're doing multiple flavors, fill halfway, then repeat with another filling. You should be able to feel the pastry cream filling the donut and you'll know when you've filled it too much (it will overflow). It'll ultimately take a couple tries to find the right amount. Repeat with remaining donuts. 
  3. Serve and enjoy immediately as these donuts are best the day they are made.
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