Buñuelos are a traditional Mexican treat that goes great with tea or coffee as an afternoon snack. Imagine a delicate, crisp texture, golden in color, and a sweet aroma of cinnamon that is reminiscent of Spanish tortas de aceite. Buñuelos, often enjoyed during festive occasions like Christmas and New Year, are almost impossible to stop eating all year round because they are simply slammin’.
Buñuelos making may seem like a scary challenge, but you've come to the right place for guidance. With decades of experience creating and serving hundreds of thousands of donuts and fried sweets, I’ve got your back. My desserts have been featured on the Food Network, and in the New York Times, and treats like my Vanilla Bourbon Creme Brûlée have won many awards.
Like fried apple cider donuts and Malaysian banana donuts, these Buñuelos are made without yeast, making them an easy project for beginner bakers to knock out of the park. So, let's get started and create some delicious memories with these irresistible sweet tortas!
🥰 Why you will adore this recipe
✊ Vegan AF: Like all of the vegan donut recipes I share, this buñuelo recipe is 100% plant-based. I mean, if you aren’t vegan, don’t freak out. Buñuelos are traditionally made without animal products, anyway.
🔥 Heat Magic: Precise oil temperature is the secret behind the golden and perfectly crisp texture of these Buñuelos. Follow my directions, and you will be in heaven with a consistent, flawless experience with every batch.
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide. Like all of the vegan recipes I share, after tweaking and perfecting these buñuelos, I shared the recipe with a massive team of recipe testers. They double-checked the living daylights outta it and loved the results!
Baking Powder & Baking Soda
I love yeasted projects like apple fritters and pita bread as much as the next guy, but using baking soda and baking powder means these are fast and so much harder to mess up. These are leavening agents that help the Buñuelos puff up during frying. Baking powder adds volume and lightens the texture, while baking soda aids browning.
In traditional Mexican cuisine, "extracto de vainilla" is a common flavor enhancer, but gee golly, the stuff is getting increasingly expensive as the insects pollinating the vanilla orchid are slowly dying. Pure vanilla extract is preferred for the best flavor, but vanilla powder is also a great option, and the little black specs are nice looking in the final pastry (same reason I opt to use them in the FIlipino dessert Suman. Please never use artificial vanilla, as it tastes and smells like cheap perfume that a 13-year-old would wear a crazy, over-the-top amount of!
Oil is used for both frying, and in the dough to help prevent oil absorption. You can use just about any oil with a mild flavor and high smoke point. My go-to oils for frying are canola, peanut, sunflower, or vegetable oil. If you want to replicate Ines Rosales, or other brands of torts de aciete, extra virgin olive oil can be used in the dough, but not to fry in.
Quality cinnamon makes a noticeable difference in the final flavor and fragrance of the pastry. Having a cinnamon you love in your arsenal not only makes sweets like banh flan a dream come true, but also is great in savory recipes like Turkish mercimek kofte and it is also one of the key 7 spices used to make Lebanese Bhararat. If cinnamon ain’t your thing, buñuelos can also be really nice with cardamom or anise used in the sugar mixture instead.
Notice something kinda interesting about this recipe? Considering these are sweets, it’s interesting that there is no sugar in the dough itself. That’s on purpose to create a nice contrast between the crisp, mildly salty pastry and the sugar on the outside. Normally I use regular cane sugar to make buñuelos, but you can swap it out for coconut sugar, or palm sugar (which is my go-to for Southeast Asian desserts like klepon, bubur cha cha, and biji salak). You can also use powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar if you like 'em that way.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
Orange Buñuelos: Use fresh orange zest and swap the water out for freshly squeezed orange juice, offering a refreshing and slightly tangy flavor. It’s no joke delicious. And you can do the same thing with grapefruit, and other citrus.
Tortilla Strip Buñuelos: Feeling super lazy? Some people make buñuelos with strips of flour tortilla fried and tossed in cinnamon sugar. This method offers a quick and easy way to enjoy buñuelos, and thin strips are great served warm over ice cream.
📖 How to make Buñuelos
Never make a soggy, terrible pastry again 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.
Blend me your ear, and I'll sing you a song:
Start by combining the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a big bowl. Whisk them together until they're well mixed.
The best is yet to crumb:
In a separate, smaller bowl, blend the warm water, vanilla extract, and your choice of oil. Once mixed, gradually stir this liquid mix into the flour mixture until you have a smooth dough.
Time to work the dough! Knead the dough for about seven minutes on a surface dusted with flour, aiming for a smooth and elastic feel. Alternatively, a stand mixer with a dough hook on medium setting for four minutes does the trick too.
Now, take the dough and form small balls, each about the size of a golf ball, using roughly 2-3 tablespoons of dough for each. Arrange these dough balls on a tray with a sprinkle of flour, cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and let the dough relax for ten minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a thin, flat circle, about five inches ()r 12-ish cm.) in diameter.
Heat the Oil
Pour oil into a deep pot and heat it to 355°F (180°C). No thermometer? No problem. Just test the oil by dropping a tiny piece of dough in; if it sizzles and floats, you're good to go.
Another One Bites The Crust:
Fry each dough circle in the hot oil, one or two at a time, until they turn a lovely golden brown and crispy, usually about 90 seconds on each side.
We Got That Drip:
Once golden brown, lift the Buñuelos out of the oil with tongs or a slotted spoon and place them on a wire rack set over a baking pan to drain off any excess oil.
Mix sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Then, coat the warm Buñuelos in this sweet mixture to fully coat them.
Ready to Serve
Enjoy your Buñuelos while they're warm, basking in their sweet cinnamon sugar coating.
- Optional: Pre-cook on a Skillet. Before frying in oil, some folks like to lightly pre-cook the rounds of dough on a hot skillet or comal, as you would a tortilla. This step makes it easier to handle the dough and place it in the hot oil, ensuring even cooking and a perfect texture with fewer bubbles. Personally, I like the bubbles, and I find the uneven surface to be crispier and better at catching cinnamon sugar, so I don’t do it with this pre-cooking step.
- Optimal Oil Temperature: Ensure that your frying oil is very hot (around 355°F/180°C). If the oil isn't hot enough, the dough will absorb more oil than necessary, resulting in greasy Buñuelos. Using a thermometer to check the temperature can be very helpful.
- Fry One Or Two at a Time: Don’t overcrowd your pan, air fryer, or deep fryer. Buñuelos cook quickly, and frying them one at a time helps prevent them overlapping, causing the dough cook unevenly.
- Manage Air Pockets: Buñuelos can sometimes develop large air pockets when frying. To manage this, use metal tongs or a slotted spoon to gently press the dough, keeping it fully submerged in the oil for the first 10-15 seconds of frying. This method ensures both sides cook evenly and reduces the size of air pockets.
- Warm Sugar Coating: Apply the cinnamon sugar coating while the Buñuelos are still warm. This helps the sugar mixture adhere better and evenly coats each Buñuelo.
- Only Goofballs Use Frying Pans: I have seen so many recipes calling to fry in a skillet over medium heat. It's the worst advice in the world! Use a Dutch oven or other thick-bottomed pot with high sides to prevent oil spills and splatters from making a mess of your stove. Alternatively, you can make these in an air fryer or deep fryer if you own one.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
After the Buñuelos have cooled down, wrap them in paper towels, or place them into large cookie bags. Make sure not to store them in a completely air-tight container as they loose their crisp that way. They can last up to three days when stored at room temperature without getting stale. If you like, you can briefly warm them in an oven, or toaster oven at 350°F (175°C) for a few minutes before serving to bring them back to life, and make them fragrant and magical all over again.
While both Buñuelos and Sopapillas are made from fried dough, they differ in texture and shape. Sopapillas typically have more baking powder, which helps them puff up and remain soft, whereas Buñuelos are rolled out thinner and fried until crispy on both sides.
In a couple of areas of Mexico, Buñuelos are traditionally vegan. Outside of that, they often include ingredients like butter, eggs, and sometimes lard in their preparation. The basic ingredients for traditional Mexican Buñuelos usually consist of all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and a liquid, which could be water, milk, or tea infused with star anise and tomato leaf. Butter or lard is often used to give the dough its rich flavor and texture.
After frying, you're gonna be left with excess oil that doesn't have a strong flavor from your cooking. Some tasty options include Tempeh Mendoan, Bakwan Sayur, Vegan Fried Chicken, Thai Spring Rolls, or Crispy Onion Bhaji, all of which can be great uses for the leftover oil.
To store the leftover oil, first let it cool and then strain it with a fine mesh strainer to remove any food particles. Transfer it to an airtight container and store it in a cool, dark place. It's best to use the stored oil within a few weeks. Remember that repeatedly reusing oil can lead to oxidization of the oil and that’s not healthy to consume.
✌️My faves to serve with this dessert:
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- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a small bowl, mix warm water with vanilla extract, canola oil (or your choice of oil). Gradually stir this liquid into the dry ingredients until combined.
- Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 7 minutes until smooth and elastic, or use a stand mixer on medium speed with a dough hook for 4 minutes.
- Divide the dough into small balls, about 2-3 tablespoons each, roughly the size of golf balls. Place them on a lightly floured tray, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let them rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
- Roll out each dough ball on a lightly floured surface into a thin circle, about 5 inches (13cm) round.
- Heat oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot to 350°F (175°C). If you don’t have a frying thermometer, test the oil's readiness by dropping in a small piece of dough; it should sizzle and float.
- Fry each rolled-out dough circle in the hot oil until golden brown and crispy, about 1 minute per side.
- Remove the buñuelo from the oil and drain on a wire rack suspended over a baking pan.
- For the cinnamon sugar topping, mix sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Roll the warm buñuelos in this mixture.
- Serve your Mexican buñuelos warm, coated in sweet cinnamon sugar.