Loukoumades, Greek fried donut balls, are also known as lo'met el adi in the Levant countries or zalabya in Egypt. These heavenly fried dough balls are super crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. They're drizzled with a simple syrup right after they come out of the oil. The simple syrup gives the perfect amount of sweetness to these addicting little bites. As a kid, I remember they were only made in the month of Ramadan and on very special occasions. I would always be so excited whenever I knew we were having some. I used to love them just plain, but now I love sprinkling some crushed pistachios on top. The BEST combo, trust me.
I'll explain the recipe step-by-step so you can learn how to make the best loukoumades Greek donuts. I've also recently seen people use all sorts of toppings and sauces on these crispy Greek donuts, so you definitely have room to get creative. My all-time favorite is definitely my simple syrup (which I'll also show you how to make in this recipe), but you can definitely go for Nutella, white chocolate, honey, nuts, cinnamon, whatever you like!
Ingredients You'll Need:
- Flour: You'll need plain old regular all-purpose flour for this recipe. You can try to replace it with a gluten-free flour mix like Bob's Red Mill, but any other flour won't give you the same light and fluffy texture.
- Instant Yeast: This yeast is different from active dry yeast. Its particles are smaller, which means you don't need to dissolve it in warm water and can just mix it straight into the dry ingredients. It also has a longer shelf-life. You can buy it in individually-packed packets or more commonly in larger tins.
- Powdered Milk: My family has always added some powdered milk to the batter. It helps to keep it light and airy when it's fried. Alternatively, you could cut the amount of water in half and replace it with fresh milk (1 cup water and 1 cup of milk).
- Sugar: The batter only has a tiny bit of sugar to help activate the yeast, but you'll need more for the simple syrup, which is sugar-based with a hint of orange blossom.
- Lemon Juice: Use a splash of freshly-squeezed lemon juice to add a unique flavor to the simple syrup, and also to help it thicken up faster.
- Orange Blossom Water: If you've had any Syrian, Palestinian, or Lebanese desserts, you'll know that their unique floral notes come from this ingredient, which compliments sweets very well. If you don't have this on hand, it can be omitted.
- Water: For the loukoumades dough, you'll need warm water (slightly higher than room temperature, not hot because it might kill the yeast). You'll also need some more water to make the simple syrup.
- Salt: A pinch of salt in the loukoumades batter really brings it together.
You'll also need:
- Deep Frying Pan
- Frying Spoon or Strainer
Tips and Tricks
- Make the simple syrup while your batter rests. You should give the simple syrup enough time to cool and thicken before you pour it onto the deep fried dough balls. This will also save you time since the batter has to rest for an hour anyways.
- Make sure your water is the right temperature. Yeast needs lukewarm water in order to help the dough rise. It should be slightly above body temperature, because it could kill the yeast if it's too hot. If your kitchen is too cold, you can preheat your oven to 40C, turn it off, and place the dough inside to rise.
- Don't overcrowd the pot. Only fry a couple of loukomades at a time, depending on how big your frying pot or pan is. This will give them enough space to expand and fluff up and prevent them sticking together.
- Serve immediately. Homemade loukomades are always absolutely delicious. But they're a hundred times better when they're hot, crispy, and freshly-fried.
- Dip your spoon in water before scooping the dough. You'll be using two spoons to shape the dough. Dip the spoon that's scooping the batter in water after every dough ball. This will prevent the dough form sticking to the spoon and causing misshapen dough balls.
How to Shape Loukoumades Balls
I know it might look and feel tricky the first time you make loukoumades, but you just need to do a couple of practice ones and you'll get the hang of it.
It's actually a simple technique where you use one spoon to scoop the batter (I find a teaspoon makes a perfect size). Use the other spoon to scrape off the batter and drop it into the hot oil. Remember to dip your scooping spoon in a bowl of water between every dough ball so the batter doesn't stick to it. Once you repeated the process and have a couple of dough balls frying in the hot oil, use a slotted spoon or frying spoon to move them around the oil and make sure they fry evenly.
How to Serve and Reheat
I find that the best way to serve these loukoumades is to just serve them plain with the syrup on the side. Some people like to soak them in syrup as soon as they're out of the frying oil, but this can make them a little more on the softer side. By keeping the syrup on the side, each person will also be able to control just how sweet they want theirs to be. You can also sprinkle some powdered sugar, cinnamon, or crushed nuts on top. And at larger gatherings, I like to serve them on a big plate with several topping/dipping options: simple syrup, Nutella, white chocolate, crushed Oreos, just get creative!
Although I don't think you'll be left with any leftovers (my family always fight for the last piece), they can be reheated in the oven. Preheat your oven to 350 ℉ (180 ℃) and bake them for 10-15 minutes.