You Tiao (Chinese Donuts) 油条

Homemade You Tiao (Chinese Donuts) are crispy on the surface, extra airy, fluffy, and tender inside. Learn how to make the classic Chinese breakfast staple with safe ingredients while achieving the best texture, just like the street vendors.

You Tiao on newspaper

You Tiao is a savory donut that has a beautiful golden color, is lightly seasoned with salt, with a crispy crust and super airy and fluffy interior that is mostly air. It is addictively TASTY!

These savory fried donuts are usually served with soy sauce, rice congee, or douhua (dou fu nao in Northern China) to create a breakfast that is hearty and delicious. It’s something I ate all the time growing up in Beijing and is one of the things I’ve missed the most since moving to the US.

In the old days, you could easily find You Tiao everywhere, mostly sold by street vendors with a small cart by the side of the road. It was common practice for vendors to use chemicals that did not comply with food safety regulations in order to achieve the perfect texture. In recent years, most of the street food vendors have disappeared and you need to go to a breakfast place or a restaurant chain to find You Tiao. However, none of them are as fresh, crispy, and fluffy as the unsafe ones that the street vendors used to produce.

Cut up You Tiao

Why this recipe

We tried to develop a dough that has a golden ratio of crispy outer layers and light and airy insides, using common ingredients that you already have in your pantry. The challenge was to recreate the very light texture without using the hard chemicals that street vendors use. After many tests, we eventually did it!

  • You only need four ingredients.
  • The dough is very easy to handle and does not require any equipment to knead it.
  • This recipe makes shorter donuts, which require less oil and are easier to make in your home kitchen.
  • The result is perfectly crispy and light You Tiao just like the street vendors serve.

Definitely give this recipe a try if you’ve been missing the authentic taste of China.

Ingredients

The ingredients for You Tiao are super simple. You probably already have them in your pantry.

Ingredients for making You Tiao

Cooking equipment

I hate deep-frying food, but there’s no way around if you want to make the best donuts. I found the best practice is to use a smaller pot (mine is about 9” / 22 cm across and 4.5” / 12 cm tall), so you can use less oil. The dough will be easier to work with and it will cause very little splatter on your counter.

Cooking oil

I usually buy a 48 oz. (1.4 L) bottle of cheap vegetable oil and use the whole thing. Once I’m done cooking, I wait until the oil cools down completely and pour it back into the original bottle. Depending on my upcoming cooking plans, I’ll either throw away the bottle of used oil or reuse it for other fried foods.

Cooking process

There are 4 steps to making You Tiao. 

Step 1 – Prepare the dough (1st rise)

  1. Sift the flour
  2. Dissolve the baking soda and baking powder in water to activate them
  3. Combine the liquid and dry ingredients
  4. Mix until it forms a coarse dough
  5. Knead the dough for 5 minutes
  6. Rest the dough for 30 minutes
Prepare dough step-by-step

Step 2 – 2nd rise

Once the dough is rested, knead it a couple of times. You’ll notice the dough is much smoother now. Cover the dough again and rest it for the 2nd time.

NOTE: The 2nd rise is crucial for the final texture. We found that the dough that rests overnight in the fridge has the best taste and texture. But if you’re short on time, you can rest the dough at room temperature for 2 hours.

Step 3 – Shape the You Tiao

  1. Divide the dough in half and roll it into a long strip.
  2. You can use both hands to gently stretch the dough to help to shape it.
  3. Cut the dough into small rectangles
  4. Press half of the rectangles with a skewer (or the back of your knife)
  5. Place the unpressed rectangles onto the pressed ones
  6. Press the dough again.
Making Chinese donut dough step-by-step

NOTE: You want to make the two rectangular dough pieces attach together when frying, but easily be torn apart once cooked. So you should press them together, but not too hard.

Step 4 – 3rd rise & cook

  1. Rest the shaped You Tiao again while heating the oil
  2. Stretch the dough pieces into long strips
  3. Fry the dough strips, 2 to 3 at a time
  4. The doughnuts are done once they are golden brown on both sides
Cooking Chinese donut step-by-step

Now you can enjoy these savory donuts with soy sauce or any breakfast beverage you like!

Storage

You Tiao taste best when served fresh. But you can store them and reheat them later. I’ve tried storing them at room temperature, in the fridge, and in the freezer. They all worked, but I think that frozen You Tiao have the best texture when reheated.

To get the fried dough crispy again, you should heat it up at 400 °F (200 °C) in the oven or use an air fryer. You can even overcook it a bit so the surface will be very crispy (in this case, the inside may become a bit chewy).

Afterthought

I admit that you’ll need to spend some time and effort to make this Chinese breakfast classic. But the result is so rewarding! The donuts will turn out crispy, fluffy, and airy. It tastes SO GOOD that it’s hard not to overeat. Traditionally it’s a breakfast item. But I can eat it any time of day, when I’m craving a salty snack.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Chinese savory donuts

Other delicious Chinese breakfast recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Homemade You Tiao (Chinese Donuts) are crispy on the surface, extra airy, fluffy, and tender inside. Learn how to make the classic Chinese breakfast staple with safe ingredients while achieving the best texture, just like the street vendors.

You Tiao (Chinese Donuts) 油条

Homemade You Tiao (Chinese Donuts) are crispy on the surface, extra airy, fluffy, and tender inside. Learn how to make the classic Chinese breakfast staple with safe ingredients while achieving the best texture, just like the street vendors.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: street food
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Resting time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 12 donuts
Calories: 103kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 200 g (1 and 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 115 g (1/2 cup) water , cool to room temperature
  • 4 g (1 teaspoon) baking powder
  • 2 g (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 6 g (1 and 1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 1 egg white
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Instructions

Prepare the dough

  • Prepare a large bowl with a mesh strainer on top. Sift the flour into the bowl.
  • Combine the water, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl. Stir to mix well.
  • Add the water mixture and egg white into the flour. Stir with a fork until a coarse dough forms.
  • Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

2nd Rise

  • On a clean working surface, knead the dough the second time for another 2 minutes. Cover it with plastic again and let it rest for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge (*See Footnote 1).

Make donuts (see the blog post above for step pictures)

  • While heating the oil, prepare the donut dough: Divide the dough into two even pieces. Work on them one at a time.
  • On a lightly oiled surface, roll the dough into a long strip. You can use your hands to hold both ends of the dough and stretch it gently so it’s easier to form a long shape. Once the dough is 4” (10 cm) wide and 1/4” (0.5 cm) thick, cut off both ends so it forms a rectangle.
  • Cut across the rectangular sheet, making 1” (2.5 cm) width 4” (10 cm) rectangles.
  • Dip a skewer or the back of a knife into water. Press it into the center of half of the rectangles. Place the unpressed strips on top of the the pressed strips and press into the center again, so the two pieces of dough are attached to each other. (*Footnote 2)
  • Once the donuts are formed, let them rest for another 10 minutes.

Fry the donuts

  • Heat a tall medium-sized pot with 3” (7 cm) of oil over medium heat until it reaches 375 °F (190 °C).
  • Line a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet.
  • Work on the donuts one at a time. Use your fingers to pinch the two ends, and gently stretch it into a thin long strip that is about 8” (20 cm) long. Then gently lower it into the oil. You can cook 2 to 3 donuts at a time, depending on the size of your pot.
  • Cook each side for 2 minutes or so, until it turns golden color for a soft crispy texture, or a golden brown color for a crispier texture.
  • Use a pair of tongs to remove the donuts from the oil, gently shake off the excess oil, then transfer them onto the cooling rack.
  • Enjoy the donuts while they’re hot or warm.

Store

  • To store the leftover donuts, wait until they cool down completely, then transfer them into a ziplock bag. Store them in the fridge for 2 to 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month.
  • To reheat the donuts, preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C). Place the donuts on a baking tray and bake until heated through, 5 minutes for refrigerated or 8 minutes for frozen donuts.

Notes

  1. We found that the flavor and the texture of the donuts will be slightly better if the dough rests in the fridge overnight. However, 2 hours’ resting works well enough.
  2. The goal is to attach the two pieces of dough to fry them together. But the dough shouldn’t be pressed too much, because you also want to be able to easily separate them after frying.

Nutrition

Serving: 1donut | Calories: 103kcal | Carbohydrates: 12.9g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4.7g | Saturated Fat: 0.9g | Sodium: 244mg | Potassium: 56mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 0.1g | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked with Maggie closely to develop and test this recipe.

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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8 thoughts on “You Tiao (Chinese Donuts) 油条

  1. JACQUES

    Dear Maggie, I love all your recipes and enjoy many of them
    Concerning deepfrying oil in your doughnut recipes, what I do,is once the oil is cool,I use a paint Filter to strain it in a glass jar
    that I keep in the refrigerator and that way, I can use it several times to deepfry other delicaticies
    LOVE YOUR RECIPES

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Becca, you can use a stand mixer. I didn’t because the dough is super easy to put together and it doesn’t require a lot of kneading. Happy cooking!

      Reply
  2. Amy

    Hi Maggie, I am Amy and trying to do Yao Tiao. Is there any difference if we use 1 egg instead of 1 egg white. Please explain.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Amy, it will slightly change the texture. We tested different dough and the one using egg white is more fluffy crispy, the texture we like the most.

      Reply
  3. Sophie

    Hi Maggie, your recipe was great. I just wanted to let you know that reheating oil can be carcinogenic and so to be on the safe side, I always get rid of my oil after cooking instead of keeping it to use again. I know it can be very wasteful, but it’s better to be safe than sorry 🙂 here are some links about it if you would like extra information:
    https://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/reheating-vegetable-oil-releases-toxin-study-525569.html
    and
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120222093508.htm
    Thanks for your recipe!

    Reply
  4. Hue

    5 stars
    Maggie, thank you so much for this recipe! It’s the first you tiao recipe I’ve tried from the internet that worked. I tried other recipes but had issues with them not rising after frying. I remember having these so often in my childhood but purchased from the local supermarket purchased, and now I don’t live close to any so I have to make them. I had issue with the dough being too wet with the proportions in the recipe (like cake batter, not doughy in the slightest), so I doubled the flour and added another teaspoon of baking powder to compensate. I don’t think this is your recipe’s problem though; there’s likely differences between all-purpose flour brands. Will be making these more often to go with congee in the future! 😀

    Reply
    1. Marilyn

      I just ran into the same issue! Had to add an additional 1/2 cup of flour so that the dough was at least somewhat workable. My only guess for why this happened is maybe we used large eggs? How did yours turn out with the additional flour and baking powder? If you could help shed any light on this Maggie that would be greatly appreciated!

      Reply