Hawaiian Hibiscus Doughnuts


The past week I was lucky enough to spend 7 days on the magical, and often rainy, island of Kauai. In between swimming with sea turtles and hiking the Na Pali coast I got to spend some quality time with my family. Inspired by the tropical flowers and fruits, we whipped up a little something delicious for a morning treat. I had already exhausted the use of banana and coconut before even leaving for my trip so I wanted to utilize another Hawaiian ingredient.

How do you capture the tastes and smells of Kauai in a baked good? Salt water, greenery, and rain falling on the pavement hardly make for a yummy pastry but a flower blooming just outside our condo porch was perfectly inspiring. Hibiscus!

However finding the ingredient hibiscus was a little harder than imagined. In college, I had an amazing roommate named Laura who’s grandmother would always send her Japanese goodies and jars of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup from Oahu. In those days, we usually used the flowery syrup to compliment cocktails but for a more family friendly breakfast, I chose to make a hibiscus glaze for my fluffy doughnuts. After three or four stores searching for that magical Wild Hibiscus syrup I was out of luck: Up a creek without a paddle. But fixated on hibiscus doughnuts. I wouldn’t settle for anything else.

Then I had it…  Tea! If herbed simple syrup is just a simple matter of infusing water and sugar with herbs, tea, theoretically should work the same. I picked up some Hibiscus and Raspberry Tea and got to work. In little to no time the condo smelled of fruit and flowers and I had pungent hot pink syrup cooling in the fridge. Tea infused simple syrup is probably going to make future appearances. It’s that good. 

These doughnuts can stand on their own. Really. But, I mean, look at that color. 

See? Little brother approved.

Mahalo and enjoy!

Yeast Doughnuts

  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1/3 cup whipped butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 48 oz canola oil

Warm milk on stove until hot to the touch. Whisk in sugar until dissolved. In separate bowl empty yeast packet and pour warm milk over. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until dissolved. Set aside in a (very) warm place for ten minutes undisturbed until slightly frothy and bubbly.

In a separate mixing bowl beat together butter and sugar with a heavy duty whisk until fluffy. Add in eggs and beat until smooth. Next add in salt and vanilla and whip. 

Pour in yeast/milk mixture from above step and stir gently until combined. 

Finally, with a wooden spoon, mix in flour at a slow and steady pace. Turtle speed here guys. You don't want to over-mix your dough or your doughnuts won't get fluffy. Dough will make an incredibly sticky lump. Cover your hands in flour and place the lump o' dough on a well-floured surface to knead for five to eight minutes. Your hands will get tired. That's a good thing. Once your hands are good and messy and tired, place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 and 1/2 hours. That's enough time to watch Frozen and belt out all the good songs. 

About 20 min before your dough is done rising, begin to heat canola oil in large pot on the stove. The oil should be very, very hot before adding in dough but be careful to heat it gradually to prevent it from burning. 

Once dough has risen, roll the giant lump out on a floured surface. You can use a rolling pin but I can attest that when you don't have one in handy (like in a condo in Kauai) you can simply flatten the dough out with your hands. You want it to be about 1/2" thick. Use a water glass/coffee mug to cut rings into your flattened dough and a water bottle (mouth opening side) to cut out the center. These work perfectly fine; no fancy cookie cutter necessary. 

 Add in doughnuts to hot oil, about three or four per batch. Cook for 1 min before turning over and then heat until toasty brown. Remove batch from the oil with tongs and place on paper towel-lined plates. This recipe makes 12 to 16 doughnuts depending on the size of your cup. Let cool for ten minutes or more before dipping into hibiscus glaze (recipe below).

When the doughnuts have cooled, dip one side of each into hibiscus glaze and then make another round for the second coat to ensure pink glaze is vibrant and thick. Now you're done! Dig in!

Hibiscus Glaze

  • 8 Hibiscus Tea Bags
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Heat water on stovetop until boiling and add tea bags. Steep tea for five to ten minutes or until water is reduced halfway. Remove tea bags and add in sugar. Whisk until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Once concentrate is cooled to room temperature add to powdered sugar in large mixing bowl. It will be difficult to whisk at first but stir until smooth. Consistency should be somewhat sticky so as to coat the doughnut with a rich pink glaze. Set glaze aside until doughnuts are ready.