This twisted doughnut recipe is the OG Korean version of the donut twists I've served on my food truck since 2010! Known as 'Kkwabaegi' in Korean, these donuts fill the air in your kitchen with the sweet scent of cinnamon sugar and golden, buttery-tasting raised dough.
Making these twisted donuts is the perfect easy brunch project for a Sunday morning. Like my vegan apple fritters, they are leavened with yeast, so there’s a little bit of proofing time while the dough rises, which you can use to get the rest of brunch made.
Donut making can seem daunting, but guess what? You came to the right place for a little guidance on this project. Over the past few decades, I have made and sold thousands donuts.
I've won awards for vegan apple cider donuts and Malaysian banana donuts, and have been featured on the Food Network for donut making. With this recipe, you're going to nail it on the first try. I've fine-tuned every step, making sure you get that perfect, golden-brown crunch and soft, fluffy inside every single time.
The doughy siren song of Korean bakeries and street vendors is singing loud and clear in your kitchen, for real. So, grab your apron, and let's make some seriously magical twist donuts!
🥰 Why you will adore this recipe
✊ Vegan AF: Just like all of the vegan donut recipes I share, this kkwabaegi recipe is 100% plant-based. Are you not vegan (yet)? Neither were the judges of several competitions my donuts have won against fierce conventional rivals. Don’t freak out, this recipe is solid!
🍞 Flour Power: The secret to the perfect texture? Bread flour gives these donuts that dreamy, chewy inside and a beautifully golden crust. Trust me, it's a game-changer in donut science.
🌡️ Temperature Triumph. Don’t just “fry in hot oil”. Exact temperature will make or break any donut recipe, and I have done a lot of testing to find what works best for this specific style of donut. No more guessing games – these donuts are foolproof and fabulous every time.
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide. This recipe has been through the wringer and back. Like all of the vegan recipes I share, after tweaking and perfecting it, I share it with a massive team of recipe testers all around the world who replicate it successfully.
🌾 Notable ingredients and substitutions
Sugar does more than sweeten these donuts; it also feeds the yeast, aiding in the dough's rise. In Korean cooking, sugar is often referred to as 'seoltang'. If you're looking for a less refined alternative, you can make these donuts with coconut sugar, or palm sugar (which I use in tons of Southeast Asian desserts like klepon, kuih dadar, and bubur cha cha).
This leavening agent makes the dough rise, giving these donuts their signature light and airy texture. Instant yeast, known as 'geunsookgi yeast' in Korean, is the same style of yeast I love for making Moroccan Msemen with because it’s a little more forgiving than active dry yeast (used in pita bread, for instance), which can more easily overproof if you aren’t being careful.
Higher in protein than all-purpose flour, bread flour gives these donuts a chewier texture. In Korea, it's known as 'bbang-garu'. If you can't find bread flour, all-purpose flour can be used, but the texture will be slightly different. The other thing I love keeping bread flour around for is making seitan, but you can also make seitan with just pure vital wheat gluten, as I demonstrate in my vegan chicken recipe.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
Sweet Red Bean Filling: In Korea, many pastries and sweets are filled with a sweet red bean paste known as 'pat'. To incorporate this into twisted donuts, you must first roll the long strand of dough into a thin log rectangle. Then spread red bean paste along the center, and wrap the sides around the filling, giving you a long rope of dough filled with bean paste. Let the dough rest and allow time for the seam of the “dough rope” containing the filling to fuse thoroughly. After that, twist and fry as usual.
Black Sesame Seed Coating: Black sesame seeds are my JAM for desserts! You can add a few tablespoons of black sesame paste to the dough when mixing, and then once fried, coat the hot fresh kkwabaegi in a cinnamon sugar mix that has toasted black sesame seeds added to it.
📖 How to make this twisted doughnut recipe
Nail these like an experienced donut chef (or whatever the heck I am) by following these step-by-step instructions with helpful tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Place the plant-based milk in a pot and gently warm it over medium heat to about 110°F (43°C). Use a candy thermometer for accuracy, or aim for the temperature of warm bath water.
Yeast Activation Station:
Transfer the warm milk to a large bowl. Sprinkle in sugar and instant yeast, then stir lightly. Wait around 5 minutes for the yeast to become foamy, signaling activation.
Add bread flour, melted vegan butter, salt, nutmeg, and vanilla extract to the yeast mixture. Stir to start forming the dough. Then, hand-knead or use a stand mixer on medium for 5 minutes to achieve a smooth, elastic dough. If it's sticky, sprinkle in just enough flour to handle.
Rise to the Occasion:
Cover the dough with a kitchen towel (I don't use plastic wrap, and you shouldn't either!). Let it rise in a cozy spot at about 75°F to 80°F (24°C to 27°C) until it doubles, which takes about 1 hour. Then, punch down the risen dough and move it to a floured surface. Divide into 12 pieces.
Twist and Shout:
By hand, roll and stretch each dough piece into a 12-inch (30 cm) rope on a clean dry work surface coated with a bit of flour. Fold and twist each rope piece into spirals, securing the ends. Place the twists on a lightly floured baking pan, leaving space between the twists, and place them in a warm place to proof for 20 minutes. An oven turned off is a good place for that, or anywhere they will be protected from drafty air.
✅Slightly flattening the twisted dough once formed helps prevent it from unwinding as it proofs and bakes.
The Fry Who Loved Me
Heat oil in a deep pot to 355°F (180°C), checking the temperature with a thermometer or by testing a dough piece. It should bubble and float.
The Golden Girls:
Fry the twists in batches for 2-3 minutes per side until golden. Avoid crowding the pot. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the twists to a wire rack over a baking pan for draining.
- Maintain Dough Consistency: If you can help it, avoid adding extra flour to the dough. It should be slightly tacky, as this high hydration is key to achieving light and fluffy donuts. If the dough is too sticky for you to work with, make sure your hands are clean of dough and very slightly oiled so that you can work with it more easily without needing to add more flour.
- Control Oil Temperature: Use a thermometer to ensure the frying oil is between 350 and 355°F (178-180°C). If the oil is not hot enough, the donuts will absorb more oil and turn greasy. Conversely, if the oil is too hot, the donuts might burn on the outside while remaining uncooked inside. On most stoves, you will arrive at the right temperature over medium-high heat, but keep an eye on the thermometer if you are making a larger batch, as the heat of the oil will change over time.
- Yeast Quality: Ensure your yeast is active. That’s part of the reason I like to bloom mine first in warm plant-based milk. That way, you can see if your yeast is active, and start over with fresh yeast instead of wasting a bunch of time and ingredients on a batch of donuts that will never rise.
- Kneading and Proofing: Proper kneading is crucial for texture. Being lazy-as-hell like I am, I LOVE having a good quality stand mixer to do the work for me, which frees me up to wash the dishes and do other boring stuff while the robots take over the planet.
- Butter Consistency: Use pliable, room-temperature vegan butter for easier incorporation into the dough. Cold butter can make kneading more difficult and affect the texture of the donuts.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Kkwabaegi, also known as Korean Twisted Donuts or Korean crullers, are deep-fried sweet, yeasted donuts. They are twisted into a spiral shape and often rolled in cinnamon sugar, and typically served fresh and hot.
You can store Kkwabaegi at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two days. Like all raised donuts, they can get a little bready as they age. It’s best to have them warm when they are first made, but if you have to store them, ensure they are completely cooled before packing them into a container.
When eating them later, slightly warm them briefly in an oven or toaster oven to bring them back to life. Simple bake at 350°F (175°C) or air fry at 325°F (162°C) for 2 to 3 minutes.
You absolutely can make these without deep frying! Simply prepare the yeasted dough and form and proof the twists as you would for regular frying first.
To cook Korean donut twists in an air fryer:
Preheat Air Fryer: Preheat your air fryer to around 350°F (about 180°C).
Prepare Doughnuts for Air Frying: Lightly brush or spray the doughnuts with a thin coat of oil to help them brown.
Place in Air Fryer: Arrange the doughnuts in the air fryer basket in a single layer, ensuring they don't touch each other.
Air Fry: Cook the doughnuts for about 4-6 minutes, then flip them and cook for another 4-6 minutes, or until golden brown.
Coat with Sugar: If desired, while the doughnuts are still warm, roll them in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon for a traditional finish.
Serve: Enjoy the Kkwabaegi warm!
If your dough isn't rising, it could be due to inactive yeast, or milk that was too hot, or a proofing area that's too cool.
The oil from these donuts will barely have any flavor from this particular project.
Of course you can use the oil for making other kinds of donuts such as vegan bomboloni, but the fun don't stop there, honey...
A few fried food projects I’d recommend while you have some extra oil on hand are Tempeh Mendoan, Bakwan Sayur, Vegan Fried Chicken, Thai Spring Rolls, and crispy Onion Bhaji.
If you aren’t going to use the oil within 24 hours, strain it through a fine mesh strainer to remove debris, cool it completely, and store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Use it within a couple of weeks, but remember that reusing oil many times is unhealthy.
Kkwabaegi are made from a dough consisting of flour, yeast, lukewarm water or milk, and sugar. The dough is twisted into a spiral and then deep-fried until it turns lightly golden brown. Then, they are typically coated in cinnamon and sugar and served hot.
✌️My faves to serve with these donuts:
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Kkwabaegi (Korean Twisted Doughnut Recipe)
- Large bowl
- Kitchen towel
- In a pot over medium heat, warm the plant-based milk to approximately 110°F (43°C). If you have one, use a candy thermometer to check the temperature, otherwise, just go for the rough feel of warm (not scalding) bath water.
- Pour the warm milk into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and instant yeast to the milk. Stir gently to combine and let it sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast activates, indicated by a foamy appearance.
- Add bread flour, melted vegan butter, salt, nutmeg, and vanilla to the yeast mixture. Mix with a spoon until the dough starts to come together. Then, knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it forms a smooth, elastic ball, which should take about 10 minutes, or mix it in a stand mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, just enough to make it manageable.
- Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place, ideally around 75°F to 80°F (24°C to 27°C), for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size. After the sweet dough has risen, gently punch it down to release air. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 12 equal portions.
- On a clean lightly floured, clean surface or large cutting board, roll each dough ball into a long, thin rope, about 12 inches (30cm) long. Fold each rope in half and twist the two pieces around each other to form a spiral, pressing the ends together to seal. Once formed, slightly flattening the twisted dough helps prevent it from unwinding as it proves and bakes.
- Place the twists on a lightly floured baking pan, leaving space between the twists, and place them in a warm area to proof for 20 minutes. An oven turned off is a good place for that, or anywhere where they will be protected from drafty air.
- In a deep, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat to 355°F (180°C)). Ideally, get an accurate temperature by using a thermometer. Otherwise, test the oil's readiness by dropping a small piece of dough into it; it should sizzle and float to the top.
- Carefully place a few dough twists into the hot oil, avoiding overcrowding. Fry them for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and puffed up.
- Remove the twists from the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs, and drain them on a wire rack suspended over a baking sheet to drip off excess oil.
- For the cinnamon sugar mix, combine sugar and ground cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Roll the fried doughnuts in this mixture until fully coated.
- Serve the doughnut twists while warm for maximum magic!