Malassadas is called by a lot of names: Filhos, Portuguese Donuts, Fried Dough or Beaver Tails.  The name may vary but one thing we all agree on is that they are delicious!!!
Growing up my mom would make malassadas just for special occasions. Her malassadas would be light and airy with a hint of lemon. Sometimes she wouldn’t the dough but instead make little balls of dough, which was like our version of donut holes. I remember eating them as quickly as they were being made.

Here’s My Aunt Lilia’s Version of Malassadas/Fried Dough

  • Author: Maria Lawton
  • Yield: About a dozen
  • Category: Baked Goods



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3 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
7 Large eggs at room temperature
1 stick of butter, melted
1/4 cup of sugar
2 envelopes of active yeast 1/4 oz in each envelope
1/4 cup of lukewarm water to dissolve the yeast
Zest of 2 lemons
Milk as needed for dipping hands
3 cups of oil for frying
3 cups of sugar for dredging
Cinnamon for sprinkling* optional

Looking for some ideas for deep frying solutions? Here are two solutions: the first is a solution for the stove top. It’s sold by Portugalia Marketplace and is available in three sizes:

Small: 8in x 3in

Medium: 10in x 3.25in

Large: 11in x 3.75in

The second is a self contained unit from Hamilton Beach. It’s sold by Amazon, and it has a 2 liter oil capacity and cool touch sides!


In a small bowl dissolve the yeast packets with the ¼ cup of lukewarm water and leave aside.
In a small saucepan melt the stick of butter and leave aside.
In a large bowl beat together the eggs, sugar, butter and lemon zest until creamy. Then add in small intervals the flour and salt and continue to mix well. Lastly, you will add the dissolved yeast into the mix and blend well. Knead the dough by hand until everything is well incorporated.
On the few occasions that I have made this recipe, the batter was a little on the wet side and I did need to add a few tablespoons of flour to the mix during the final kneading..
You will cover the large bowl with some kitchen towels and place the bowl in a warm place, free of drafts, and wait till the dough doubles in size.
*This can take an hour or two depending on the weather. If it’s a cold day expect it to take a little longer. My Aunt Lilia suggested that I turn the oven on in the kitchen and have the bowl of dough near by. The extra heat will help in those extra cold days to make it rise faster.

Directions for frying:
Once the dough rises and doubles in size, you are now ready to fry the dough.
In a large, deep pot such as a dutch oven, heat the 3 cups of oil over low heat. Using a small bowl of milk to dip your hands, take about 1 tablespoon of dough in your hand. The dough is on the sticky side so make sure you have enough milk on your hands to stretch out the dough until it is round and thin. Then drop it into the oil very gently, make sure to turn them on both sides until they are a golden brown.
* It’s very important to make sure that the oil does not get too hot. What will happen is that the outside of the Malassadas will fry up quickly and also begin to burn but the inside will stay raw and undercooked. So be very careful and keep a close eye.

As soon as they are done frying I always place them first on a tray lined with paper towels so that any excess oil can be absorbed. Then I have another deep-sided tray filled with sugar ready, and while the Malassadas are still warm, dredge them through the sugar; you can also sprinkle some cinnamon if you like. I wasn’t raised with that, but I have heard that sometimes they would also add it.



Since I have posted this recipe before I was given a couple of great suggestions that I need to pass along…xoxo
1. From Bibiana… instead of using milk use cooking oil to dip your fingers when working the dough.
2. From Anna…Let the dough rise in a oven with door closed and light on… No drafts to worry about and the light gives it a little warmth.

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10 thoughts on “Malassadas”

  1. I use my Mom’s recipe which is very similar although she didn’t include the lemon. Her go-to for handling the dough before frying was warm water. I had called her in desperation the first time I made them because I couldn’t get the dough off my hands and she laughed and told me she used warm water. We also use a deep fry thermometer to keep an eye on the oil. I’ll be making about 5 lbs. of flour and feeding a crowd the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Its a tradition. A few years ago my own daughters and a niece stepped up and learned the technique for shaping and frying. It does take a little practice. Love your cookbook.

    1. Thank you so much ❤️
      Enjoy recreating wonderful memories. It’s so special and important to pass those techniques on to our family… keeping our family recipes together for the next generation ❤️ Enjoy a nice warm and freshly fried one for me!! Yum!!

  2. The recipe I got from my elderly neighbor from Madeira does not include lemon zest.
    My coworker’s Portuguese mom often uses powered sugar for dredging instead of granulated which gives the malasados a glaze-type coating.

    1. That absolutely doesn’t surprise me at all. Depending on if from the Azores or from Madeira… there’s a few differences. Even on one island, you can find small tweaks from village to village such as adding lemon zest or orange zest to not using any zest… there’s no right or wrong. As long as you enjoy Malassadas done your way… is all that really matters ?

      1. A doughnut place here in Sacramento California just opened that makes an “Everything but the bagel Malasada” that’s been filled with cream cheese and topped with sesame, poppy seeds, onion and garlic. Seems that is no longer a malasada and it spurred me to make a batch this morning. Our recipe is a best guess copy of Agnes’ Bakeshop in Kailua Hawaii. (Portuguese coming to the islands to work the sugarcane fields contributed malasadas to local cuisine and were said to come primarily from the Azores). Our recipe uses 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of potato flour (adds to springy texture), 1/3 cup butter, 2 fewer eggs and no zest. I think it’s close to perfect but will try 1-2 extra eggs next time. I enjoyed reading your recipe and story.

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