A simple recipe to make homemade Christmas donuts for any event during the holiday season. Make Christmas time a bit more fun and tasty, and take these to a holiday brunch, or gift to neighbors. Using simple ingredients and baked in the air fryer, this easy donut recipe is also quite a bit healthier than donut shop donuts.
My kids love walking up to the corner donut shop each weekend and it’s become a fun tradition in our new house. But their selection gets a bit repetitive, so I decided to start making fun holiday donuts earlier this year, starting with Valentine’s Day donuts. And what better holiday to have homemade festive donuts for than during the kids favorite time of the year. This Christmas donuts recipe is so simple that you can use it for any special occasion or slow weekend.
Why this recipe works
- The perfect treat for Christmas morning to graze on while opening presents.
- Basic ingredients you’ll have on hand and a fool-proof glaze recipe.
- Healthier than donut shop donuts, which are deep fried in highly processed oils and high in saturated fats.
- Light and fluffy texture that taste just like fried donuts, but with a lot less calories. In fact my kids prefer these because they are not “too sweet.”
- Flour – all purpose flour works best, and I particularly love King Arthur Flour brand
- Yeast – active dry yeast over rapid rise is preferred, and just make sure it’s not expired. SAF Instant Yeast
- Milk – whole milk preferred, warmed to 100 degrees
- Melted unsalted butter
- Sugar & salt
- Vanilla extract
Making a batch of these will take a couple of hours, because they need a double rise. But if you’ve got the time and are up for it, these are relatively easy to make and don’t require an advanced degree in home baking.
Step 1 – activate your yeast!
Begin with fresh yeast and warm milk.
Warn your milk to 100-110 degrees. If your warm is too cold, the yeast won’t activate. Too warm, the milk will kill the yeast culture. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, pour in your milk, teaspoon of sugar and gently stir in your yeast.
If the yeast was fresh and the milk was the right temperature, 15 minutes later your yeast will be fragrant and foamy.
Step 2 – mix in your other ingredients
Add the sugar, salt, melted butter, vanilla and eggs to the yeast mixture. With the mixer on low speed, add in 2 cups of flour, scraping the sides if needed. Add in the remaining flour one cup at a time . Increase the mixer to medium low speed and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is formed into a nice ball.
Step 3 – first rise
Grab a large bowl that has been coated with a light spray of cooking oil. Place the dough into the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The dough will be sticky when you transfer it from the stand mixer to the mixing bowl, so don’t be concerned. Allow to proof in a warm dry place, for about 1 hour; your dough should be almost doubled in size.
Step 4 – roll out and cut out donuts
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place on a well-floured surface. Roll the dough out to about ½″ thick disc, and cut out circles with a biscuit or cookie cutter. I used a 3″ circle and a smaller 1″ circle but use smaller cut-outs to make mini donuts or donut holes.
Step 5 – final rise and then air fry!
Place your donuts and holes on a parchment lined baking sheet or wire rack. Cover with a light dish towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 30 minutes. They’ll almost double in size.
Preheat your air fryer to 350 degrees, and the put a light coat of cooking spray on your basket. Place donuts on the air fryer basket, making sure to give them some bit of room to rise and expand. Spray the tops of each donut with cooking spray, and place them in your warmed air fryer. Cooking time may vary a bit depending on air fryer model, but on average they will cook for 8-10 minutes.
How to make donut glaze
You can dust donuts with a cinnamon sugar blend or to make a glazed donut, follow this easy recipe.
While your donuts are air frying away, make the glaze. Warm butter in a small sauce pan over low heat, until melted. Whisk in powdered sugar, then add vanilla and water, till desired consistency is achieved. Add food coloring to make desired icing colors. I kept a batch white and then went with classic red and green icing.
Keep in mind that as the glaze cools, you may need to reheat back on the stovetop and whisk till smooth again. If the glaze is still a bit too thick, even after reheating it, add just a few drops of water, about 1 tsp at a time, till desired consistency is once again achieved.
To add a little extra pizazz, top with holiday sprinkles, crushed candy canes, or mini chocolate chips. Customizing your donuts is a fun and festive way to celebrate. For best results, you need to immediately toss on the sprinkles after you dip the donuts in glaze. The glaze dries incredibly fast, so if you wait too long, the sprinkles won’t stick.
These truly taste best fresh and warm, so I suggest eating them first thing for Christmas breakfast. If that is impossible though, make sure to store them at room temperature in an airtight container, and eat the next day.
- For best results, dip tops of donuts in glaze immediately after removing from the air fryer. You’ll get the best results by glazing *warm* donuts.
- Do not let the glaze sit too long before using. For best results, the glaze should also be somewhat warm when using.
- Keep a tiny whisk on hand to occasionally stir up your glaze, as it cools a thin shell may start to form. Just whisk away and it should be fine.
- If your glaze begins to thicken too much, which usually happens by the second batch of donuts, simply put the sauce pan back on the stove and reheat till just warm. Add in a teaspoon of water or two if the glaze still seems too thick.
This glaze is extremely forgiving so don’t worry if it starts to thicken and/or harden. It can quickly be remedied and brought back as good as new.
I hope you love these delicious donuts as much as my kids do! If you’re looking for a cake donuts recipe, try my Baked Pumpkin Donuts with a brown butter glaze.
Christmas Donuts In the Air Fryer
- Air Fryer
For the Donuts
- 1 cup whole milk heated to 100-110 degrees
- 1 packet active dry yeast or 2 ¼ tsp
- ¼ cup granulated sugar plus 1 tsp
- 4 ½ cups all purpose flour plus more for dusting and rolling
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 6 tbsp melted butter
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
For the Glaze
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-4 tbsp warm water as needed
- food coloring optional
- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, add the warm milk, 1 tsp of sugar and the yeast. Gently stir together and let sit for at least 10-15 minutes. Mixture should get foamy and fragrant. If it doesn't activate, the milk was either too cold or too hot.
- Add remaining sugar, salt, eggs, melted butter and 2 cups of the flour, and mix on low speed until combined, scraping down any excess. Add in the remaining flour, a cup at a time and knead at medium low speed for about 5 minutes. The dough should look shiny and stick together nicely, into a solid round ball.
- Place the dough in a oiled down mixing bowl (the dough will be sticky to the touch, but should remain held together in a ball). Cover with a light dish towel or plastic wrap, and set in a warm dry place to proof for an hour. The dough should just about double in size at the end of the proofing.
- On a well floured surface, turn the dough and punch it down a couple of times. Roll into a ½" thick disc, and cut out your first set of donuts and donut holes. You should get about 10-12 donuts out of the first set. Knead remaining dough scraps together and roll back out into a flat disc, cutting out the remaining donuts. You should end up with 16 donuts.
- Place donuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
- Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees, and spray a light coating of cooking spray on your air fryer basket. Place donuts in the basket, allowing enough room for them to expand a bit. Air fry for 5-8 minutes. The donuts are done when the internal temperature is about 350 degrees and are lightly browned on top.
- While your donuts are cooking, make the glaze by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. The mix will be very thick. Whisk in warm water, 1 tbsp at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. The glaze should be thin like maple syrup, and not overly runny, like water.
- When the donuts are done cooking in the air fryer, immediately start the glazing process by dipping the tops of the donuts in the glaze, then setting on a wire cooling rack placed over a baking sheet to cool and dry. If using sprinkles, immediately place them on the glazed donut, before the glaze sets and hardens. Enjoy immediately!