polenta and rice doughnuts


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

To be honest, I don’t eat doughnuts that often. It’s rare that I make them at home but when I do it has to be a beignet. If I lived in NOLA, I’d probably try to eat a beignet every day, it would be a goal to achieve, one I’d happily strive for. When I think about it, the concept behind a beignet is so simple yet delightful, a yeasted dough, deep fried to crispiness and then sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. If you’ve been to Morning Call or Cafe du Monde in NOLA and eaten their beignets, you are also familiar with the hazard, powdered sugar poses. Don’t wear black clothes and you might not only end up with sugar on your clothes but also in your nostrils which will make you sneeze. But at the point, it won’t matter.

It’s National Doughnut Day today. Now normally, I’m terrible at remembering such things (except for Pancake Tuesday because that is mentally ingrained by my mother in my head) but thankfully, Melissa decided to organize a little doughnut special. I decided to go with something closer to a beignet but with different textures, flours and flavors. 

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Alice Medrich and she is one intelligent yet humble person. But she is also an amazing teacher and the class that I attended was full of information and tips on how to work with whole-grain flours beyond wheat. Her latest work, Flavor Flours is simply an amazing book to learn from. I took some inspiration from her recipe for beignets to create these rice flour and polenta doughnuts. Because the texture is a cross between beignets and doughnuts, I felt doughnuts would be a more appropriate way to describe them. There’s a hint of nutmeg in these guys and I find that confectioner’s sugar and/or honey are the best way to enjoy them. Of course, a little tea or coffee or even hot chocolate on the side would be a good way to wash them down.

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

DSC_3716 - Version 2 2.jpg

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these doughnuts,

  • Use regular rice flour but not sticky sweet rice flour when you make these doughnuts.
  • The texture of the doughnut after frying, should resemble a crispy thin coat that encloses light ball of polenta. 
  • Nutmeg is a great spice here but green cardamom is also perfect in this recipe. 
  • Honey or confectioner’s sugar work well with these doughnuts. Just make sure the doughnuts are warm when you eat them.
  • These doughnuts are best eaten when made fresh and are hot to eat. 

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

polenta and rice doughnuts 

yields: approximately forty 1 inch doughnuts 


100mL water (110F)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon instant dried yeast

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup (3 1/8 ounces/ 87gm) polenta 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3/4 cup (4 1/4 ounces / 117gm) rice flour 

1 large egg at room temperature 

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder, fresh

30mL water, at room temperature

enough vegetable oil for frying (use a neutral oil with a high smoking point)

confectioner’s sugar for dusting (or honey)

1. Place the water in a small bowl or jar, stir in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Allow to sit aside for 10 minutes until it gets foamy. (If it doesn’t foam after the 5 minutes, repeat this step with fresh ingredients).

2. In the meantime prepare the polenta. Bring the 1 1/2 cups of water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan on high heat. Quickly whisk in the polenta by pouring it in a thin and steady stream. Add the butter and continue to whisk for about 4 to 5 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated and the polenta is soft but not mushy. Remove from stove and cover the saucepan with a lid. Leave to cool for about 5 to 7 minutes before using.

3. In a large mixing bowl, add the rice flour and make a well in the center. Add the polenta, egg, salt, and nutmeg along with the yeast from step1. Using a large wooden spoon, stir the ingredients with the water to form a thick dough. The dough will resemble a soft and sticky mixture. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes before cooking.

4. In the meantime, heat the oil in medium-sized wok or saucepan with a deep bottom on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (at about 350F) start to prepare the doughnuts for frying. Using a small ice cream scoop (or two tablespoons), scoop out a single ball of dough and drop it into the hot oil, allow the ball to rise and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the doughnut is evenly golden brown. Place the doughnut on a sheet lined with absorbent paper towels to drain the excess oil. The outside portion of the doughnut should be crispy yet the inside soft. Immediately dust the hot doughnut with confectioner’s sugar or drizzle with honey before serving. Prepare the rest of the doughnuts using the same method. 

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Note: The pretty red Balti was a gift from Le Creuset. 

7 Responses

  1. Nik, this is superbly stunning. I’ve actually never used different grains (except for sweet rice flour), and this is super intriguing. I wouldn’t even begin to know the differences and how differently they interact. I need to learn from you.

  2. These look amazing, Nik! Ironically, I just happened to post a doughnut recipe that uses corn too but I had no idea about it being national doughnut day. Of course, your doughnuts sound by far superior to mine and your photography is as amazing as always.

  3. These look incredible, Nik. High-five for pulling this out during your hectic week!! It was so, so crazy wonderful to meet you this week, you are so much fun and just awesome. 🙂 I’m hoping I find myself in the Bay sometime soon!

  4. I’m not a huge donut/doughtnut person, but I definitely would eat a beignet everyday if I were in New Orleans as well. I love the idea of using cardamom as a flavoring for these, such a great way to take them from simple to superb. Lovely photos, too.

    (Side note, forgive me, but there is a little type in Alice’s name in the first paragraph. It is clearly a slip of the fingers and I am sure you’d want to correct it.)

  5. When we were in NOLA, we ate beignets twice in a day. And not just one at each serving, but, like, three. Let’s just say I have no will power whatsoever. And that’s why I have yet to make doughnuts at home. Because I’d be unable to stop myself from eating the whole batch. But, gosh, these do look so so so good. Thinking about caving and giving these a try.

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