Let’s be honest, we’ve all had those days where all you want to do is stuff your face with a dozen donuts, and what’s better is when those donuts are fresh out of the fryer!
However, there isn’t a worse feeling in the world than finally taking a bite of donut, only to be overwhelmed by an intense, nauseating oily taste. Most of the time, disappointing donuts are due to the type of oil used to fry them in.
So, what is the best oil for frying your donuts? Any oil with a neutral flavor will work best for frying donuts. Canola oil and sunflower oil are neutral oils that are readily available and very cost-effective. We recommend using canola oil because of its light color, mild flavor, and high smoke point.
In this article, we will take a look at what the ultimate oil should be, different oil options to frying your donuts in, and what some of the top donut shops in the world use to fry their donuts in.
How Donuts Are Fried
Let’s start with a brief look at how donuts are made, specifically the frying part.
When making donuts from scratch (highly recommended, by the way), you start by activating the yeast. This step is important to create that nice fluffy texture donuts have.
Next, you follow the steps in the recipe and combine a bunch of ingredients until you finally knead and shape your dough into donuts.
Now, the frying part begins.
First of all, let’s clear up a huge misconception about donut frying: the frying of the dough does not give a donut its texture.
It is very important that when you make donuts from scratch, you follow all the steps to create an airy dough before frying it. The frying part simply crisps up the outside.
So, the perfect donut should be cooked all the way through, lightly crisp on the outside, and have the perfect golden brown color. You also shouldn’t be able to taste any excessive oil.
All of this is determined solely by the oil you are frying your donuts in.
Oil Requirements For Frying Donuts
The most important aspect when choosing an oil is to ensure that it has a neutral flavor. By this, we mean that it shouldn’t impart any strong flavors into your dough during frying.
This can be determined by tasting the oil: Dip the tip of a teaspoon in the oil and give it a taste to determine which one has the most neutral flavor.
Your oil should be able to reach temperatures between 345–390 degrees Fahrenheit without smoking or reaching its flash point (the point of ignition).
Choose an oil with a smoke point of at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent any mishaps in the kitchen.
This point has nothing to do with a certain oils’ ability to fry perfect donuts, rather the feasibility of using said oil regularly.
When frying any type of food, the oil eventually needs to be replaced. When frying donuts, you need quite a lot of oil to do so, so we wouldn’t recommend using a very expensive oil as it will end up costing you a fortune.
The Best Oils For Frying Donuts
We will now look at a couple of shortening and oil options and discuss many different aspects of each. This will enable you to make an informed decision about which one is best to use.
1. Sunflower Oil (Refined)
This oil is made from pressed sunflower seeds. You might think that it has a very intense flavor, like those in the flavored categories, but most sunflower oils are refined, meaning it went through a refining process that stripped it of its natural intense flavor and color.
This means you get a very neutral-flavored oil (which will not impart any foreign flavors in the dough) and also a light color, meaning your donut can fry for longer before turning too dark.
It also has a very high smoke point, between 450–500 degrees Fahrenheit, making it great for frying virtually any item, especially donuts.
Sunflower oil is also very affordable (you can check the current price on Amazon here) and can even be purchased in bulk containers at extremely low prices.
2. Canola Oil – Our Recommendation
Canola oil can be found in both refined and unrefined forms. Any unrefined oil has a much lower smoke point, a much darker color, and a more expensive price tag.
However, canola oil in its refined form is a very popular choice when deep frying. And for a very good reason.
It has a very high smoke point, making it perfect for cooking your donuts through before giving it its color on the outside.
Refined canola oil has even less flavor than sunflower oil. This means that your donut dough will be affected even less than if using sunflower oil.
It also has a lighter color than sunflower seed oil which is also very beneficial when you are frying the donuts for a long time on a lower heat.
And because it is made from flowers and not seeds, it is much cheaper than sunflower oil (check the price on Amazon here) and is available virtually anywhere in the world.
Other Oils to Consider (And What Not to Use)
Below are a few oils that are okay for frying donuts, but they aren’t the best. There are a couple of options on this list that we recommend to avoid completely when frying anything. Let’s start with what to avoid.
Shortening refers to any fat that is solid at room temperature. Margarine is the best-known example of a vegetable shortening.
There are more reasons why shortening wouldn’t work than why it would, so we will be discussing those.
Firstly, shortening tends to burn at high temperatures (become brown or black). This alone, despite the fact it can just reach the correct temperature to fry at, means that you will be frying in brown oil which will be immediately imparted onto your dough.
Secondly, you need to melt down the shortening before using it. Unfortunately, once you have done that, even if the melted version didn’t turn brown, you wouldn’t be able to store it conveniently or effectively.
Shortening also has a much shorter shelf life than other oils and even if it isn’t as expensive on a small scale, it would become very expensive if used for frying (which requires a large volume of liquid).
However, there are other types of shortening that franchisees use along with other oils to fry their products in.
Butter is the worse possible option you could use for deep-frying. Even though it is very expensive, it has a smoke point of only 250 degrees Fahrenheit before burning completely.
Butter also doesn’t have a neutral flavor or color, meaning it will affect the dough too much during deep frying.
When we say flavored oils, we don’t mean oils that have been infused with other ingredients, rather oils that are obtained from flavorful ingredients.
This includes peanut oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, and olive oil to name a few.
Unrefined Flavored Oils
Most of these oils are mainly found in their unrefined forms. This means that they haven’t been processed in ways that will strip them of their natural flavors and colors.
The color of these oils is very intense gold. This will provide a beautiful golden brown donut color, however, way too soon. Your donut dough will still be raw in the center while the outside is already the perfect color.
You would then need to continue frying the donut until it is fully cooked, but then has a dark brown color and slightly burnt flavor.
The flavors of these oils will immediately be imparted into the dough and you will be left with a weird-tasting (or weirdly good tasting) donut.
Unrefined oils have a very low smoke point. We recommend only using fats and oils with smoke points above 400 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent accidents from happening.
Flavored oils are very expensive and not viable to use as a deep-frying oil. Their harvesting and processing methods are much more complex than for instance, sunflower oil.
The ingredients these oils are obtained from are also more expensive ingredients than seeds and flowers, therefore contributing towards this high price tag.
Refined Flavored Oils
You do get these oils in a refined form however, they are much more scarce.
These refined flavored oils will have a less intense color, that could help with the color issue we mentioned before. Their color is, however, still much darker compared to canola oil and you will most likely run into the same issue with timing.
You will also still have flavor imparted into your donut dough, albeit much less intense.
Because our pallets are not accustomed to non-traditional oils (like sesame oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and even olive oil), anything other than those will be immediately noticed and registered as strange-tasting – more with dessert items than savory.
When the oils have been refined, their smoke point increases, but some of these oils, even in their refined form, still don’t have a high enough smoke point to be used as a deep frying oil.
And lastly, even if for argument’s sake these refined versions could perform exactly the same as canola and sunflower oil (which they can’t), they are more expensive than those oils and will still result in money wasted by constantly having to be replaced.
Types of Oils Chart
|Fat type||Flavor||Color when in liquid form||Smoke point|
|Vegetable shortening||Semi-neutral||Yellow||360 °F|
|Almond oil (unrefined)||Intense||Mid-gold||430 °F|
|Peanut oil (unrefined)||Intense||Intense gold||440 °F|
|Olive oil (unrefined / extra virgin)||Intense||Intense gold||320 °F|
|Olive oil (refined)||Semi-neutral||Pale gold||450 °F|
|Sesame oil (unrefined)||Intense||Intense gold||350 °F|
|Avocado oil (Refined)||Intense||Intense gold||520 °F|
|Coconut oil (unrefined)||Intense||White||350 °F|
|Sunflower oil (refined)||Neutral||Hints of gold||490 °F|
|Canola oil (refined)||Neutral||Hints of golf||450 °F|
What oil does Krispy Kreme fry their donuts in?
Krispy Kreme is very open about how they fry their donuts and which oils they use.
It isn’t shocking to find out that they use a combination of different fats. The reason for this is because different fats have different qualities. Each donut manufacturer has specific goals in mind when making their donuts (to stand out from competitors).
Some might want crispier donuts, some might want healthier donuts. Krispy Kremes’ goal is to create a donut with zero grams of trans fat per one serving (donut).
They achieve this by using a blend of palm oil, soybean oil, cottonseed, and canola oil. Of course, we do not know the ratios of each, and this oil would be manufactured by someone else, not them specifically.
A fun fact, Krispy Kreme requires that all its suppliers be RSPO members and adhere to sustainable farming of ingredients, mostly palm oil.
What oil does Dunkin Donuts fry their donuts in?
We haven’t been able to find a definitive answer as to what Dunkin Donuts fry their donuts in.
Our closest guess based on research is that they used to fry their donuts in oils containing tons of trans fats, but a couple of years ago, they made the shift to palm oil.
Of course, we think, like with Krispy Kreme, they use a combination of oils to achieve their best result.
What kind of oil do bakeries use to fry donuts?
It is next to impossible to state exactly what kind of oil bakeries use for frying their donuts, however, if we were to take a guess it would definitely be a cost-effective oil, thus eliminating any refined or unrefined oils from our above mentioned “flavored” categories.
Another factor to take into consideration is that most bakeries focus on the flavors that their dough provides and do not want to add any flavor during deep-frying.
They also would definitely need oils that have been refined (i.e. higher smoke point) to be able to continuously fry donuts.
This will also eliminate oils from the unrefined categories leaving us with only a handful of options.
Like Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme, they most likely buy their oil from a supplier that consists of a blend of oils like palm oil, sunflower oil and canola oil.
What We Recommend
You could try to buy a frying oil blend from a supplier, however, it is very unlikely that they will sell in such a small quantity.
Our ultimate recommendation would have to be canola oil. Canola oil in its refined state is easily accessible in virtually any store, anywhere across the world and is a very cost-effective oil to use, both short and long-term.
They are also sold in lots of different quantities, allowing you to buy the exact amount you need.
It can be re-used easily as it has a very high smoke point, meaning it will last much longer than oils that burn easily.
Canola oil has the perfect color, almost translucent, and will cook your donut through before making it too dark and crispy on the outside.
It also has a very neutral flavor that will not overpower the flavor of the actual donut or even its toppings and fillings.
Now, you never have to second guess about which oil is best to use for frying your donuts.
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