These homemade, lemon filled donuts are made with fluffy brioche dough, fried to perfection (no donut pan), filled with thick, tart lemon curd, and topped with smooth vanilla meringue. They're soft, brightly flavored, and taste like lemon meringue pie in a donut!
Though they taste just like what you get at Krispy Kreme, Dunkin' Donuts, Tim Hortons, or your local bakery, both the coating and filling of these lemon curd donuts can be customized to suit your taste buds.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Fried to perfection - Who doesn't love a freshly fried donut? Crispy on the outside, ultra fluffy on the inside, and they taste amazing! Don't be afraid of the deep frying process, with the right tools and instructions it's incredibly easy (and satisfying).
Bright lemon curd filling - This recipe uses my Lemon Curd with Whole Eggs, which is thick, tangy, and not eggy-tasting at all. It's the perfect filling for an enriched brioche dough.
Bakery style at home - No need to head out to the local donut shop when you can make these lemon filled donuts at home. Not only will your guests and friends be super impressed, but they'll be fresh which is the best way to enjoy a donut!
- Eggs. Six large eggs are needed. Three full eggs will be used for the lemon curd, and the other three will get separated (yolks for the dough, whites for the meringue).
- Lemons. Fresh lemons are needed for the curd, and you will also need the zest!
- Sugar. Granulated sugar for all three components.
- Butter. Unsalted butter at room temperature for the curd, and melted for the donut dough.
- Flour. All-purpose flour is used in the donut dough.
- Yeast. Instant or rapid-rise yeast is used for this recipe. Be sure to check the expiration date!
- Milk. Whole milk (do not substitute another type of milk) for the donut dough.
- Oil. I use either canola or vegetable oil to fry the donuts as they have a high smoke point and no flavor.
See recipe card for full ingredients list and quantities.
This list probably feels rather long. That's because I'm listing every single item you will absolutely need for this lemon filled donut recipe. It's beneficial to get everything set up and ready for each component so it goes as smooth as possible!
- Medium sized saucepan
- Mixing bowl
- Fine mesh sieve
- Microplane or grater
- Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
- Rolling pin
- 3-inch cookie cutter or biscuit cutter, or mason jar ring
- Plastic wrap or dish towel
- Sheet pan or cooling rack
- Parchment paper
- Large heavy-bottomed pot
- Metal slotted spoon, spatula, or spider
- Deep frying thermometer, candy thermometer, or infrared thermometer
- Paper towels
- Chopstick or eating utensil - used to poke the hole in the donut.
- Piping bag - to insert the lemon curd (you can also use a zip-top bag). It's best to add a piping tip if you have one (makes it easier to insert), but it's not necessary.
- Glass or metal bowl that fits snugly onto the pot
- Stand mixer with whisk attachment (or hand mixer)
- Kitchen torch
Substitutions and Variations
- Use canned lemon filling or store-bought lemon curd if you don't want to make your own. They can also be filled with lemon jam or preserves.
- Coat the freshly fried donuts in granulated sugar or powdered sugar rather than adding the meringue topping. Rub lemon zest into granulated sugar for even more lemon flavor!
- Make smaller cutouts for donut holes and fill them for a small, poppable version.
- Want to fill the donuts with different flavored citrus curd? Try this raspberry curd, blueberry curd, orange curd or lime curd.
How to Make This Recipe
For the timing of this recipe, you'll need to make the lemon filling for donuts a day in advance of when you plan to fry and serve the donuts so it has time to chill and thicken. Follow this Lemon Curd with Whole Eggs recipe to make the citrus curd.
Brioche Donut Dough
One: Add the donut dough ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook and knead until very soft, stretchy, and passes the window pane test (becoming translucent before ripping).
Two: Add the dough to a greased bowl and cover to rise in a warm place.
Three: Allow the dough to double in size, then turn out onto a work surface and roll it out to ½" thick.
Four: Use cookie cutters to cut out the donut rounds. Large and small can be used.
Hot tip! Take a picture of your dough! This way, you have visual evidence of how far it's risen and when it's ready.
Five: Transfer the dough to 4x4" pieces of parchment paper, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to rise again until puffy (~30 minutes).
Six: Heat the oil and fry 2-3 donuts at a time, for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely
Making the Swiss Meringue
Seven: Whisk and heat the egg whites and sugar in a double boiler.
Eight: Transfer to a stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks form.
How to Fill Stuffed Donuts
Nine: Use a chopstick or similar tool to create a hole in the side. Push down ⅔ of the way and move it in a circular motion to make some room for the filling.
Ten: Use a piping bag, insert it into the hole, and fill until the lemon curd just starts to show in the opening.
Eleven: Spread meringue on top of each donut.
Twelve: Toast the meringue with a kitchen torch before serving for extra flavor and aesthetics.
- When the dough is done with the kneading process, it should feel tacky, but not sticky. If it feel sticky, add 2 tablespoons more flour at a time and re-knead.
- Get the entire frying station set up and ready to go prior to heading the oil and frying the donuts.
- Remove the lemon curd from the fridge right before you're ready to fill the donuts.
- Take care not to puncture a hole through the bottom or sides of the donut when using the chopstick.
There needs to be at least 3 inches of oil in the pot you are frying in. I recommend a dutch oven for this process.
Use a frying or candy thermometer and keep the oil at a steady 350-370℉ during the frying. Adjust the heat as necessary.
The donuts are cooked when they are golden brown on the outside, and light and pillowy on the inside. A 190℉ center is what you're aiming for if you want to get technical.
This could be for a couple reasons. The oil temperature was too low (or at the correct temperature) and they were not cooked for long enough. Or, the oil was too hot, so the outsides cooked and browned too fast before the inside could finish cooking.
Well, pretty much exactly that! Additionally, most baked donuts are make using a cake-type batter with baking soda or baking powder, and most fried donuts are make using yeast. There are fried cake donuts and baked yeast donuts though, but the above description is what you'll typically find.
Yes. Due to the lemon curd filling, any leftover donuts must be refrigerated. Alternatively, you could store the unfilled donuts at room temperature and fill them with lemon curd prior to enjoying any leftovers.
The assembled donuts can be stored at room temperature for one day before needing to go into the refrigerator.
These lemon filled donuts should be eaten the same day they are assembled. Alternatively, you could store the fried donuts in a zip-top bag for a day, then fill the next day.
Freezing the donuts
If you need to freeze the donuts, do so at the stage after you cut them out. Place the cut donuts on a sheet pan and flash freeze for 30 minutes, then transfer to a zip-top bag and remove all air. Store for one month in the freezer.
Transfer the donuts to the fridge to thaw, then place on parchment lined baking sheet, lightly cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for one hour in a warm location. Fry as instructed.
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Lemon Filled Donuts with Meringue
- Microplane or zester
- Fine mesh sieve
- Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
- Rolling Pin
- Cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, or drinking glass
- Large, heavy-bottomed pot
- Candy or deep frying thermometer and digital kitchen thermometer
- Spider or metal slotted spoon/spatula
- Piping bags or ziptop bag
- Chopstick or eating utensil
- Baking sheet or cooling rack
- Kitchen torch
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons lemon zest
- ⅓ cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast one pack
- ¾ cup whole milk warmed to 110℉,
- 3 large egg yolks reserve the whites for meringue
- ¼ cup unsalted butter melted (57g)
- 1 quart vegetable oil or canola oil
- 3 large egg whites
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- Zest about two lemons until you have 3 tablespoons of zest. Cut and juice the lemons until there is ⅓ cup of lemon juice - remove any seeds. Cut the butter into tablespoon pieces and place a fine mesh sieve on top of a bowl.
- Add the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest to a medium saucepan over medium low to medium heat.3 large eggs, ½ cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons lemon zest, ⅓ cup lemon juice
- Whisk constantly until the curd thickens considerably and it just starts to bubble, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the curd to the fine mesh sieve and pass it through into the bowl using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Scrape the underside of the sieve to remove all curd.
- Adding one tablespoon of butter at a time, whisk it in completely to combine before adding the next tablespoon of butter.6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Cover the lemon curd with plastic wrap, placing the wrap directly onto the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for 1-2 hours.
- Add the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, whole milk, egg yolks, and unsalted butter to the bowl of stand mixer fitter with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until combined, but shaggy.3 cups all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast, ¾ cup whole milk, 3 large egg yolks, ¼ cup unsalted butter
- Increase to medium to medium high speed and knead for 10-12 minutes. The dough will have pulled away from the sides and be soft and very pliable. If the dough is still sticking to the sides, add 2 tablespoons of flour at a time until it peels away from the sides (some may still be stuck to the bottom.
- Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or cooking spray, add the ball of dough, and cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to a slightly warm location to rise for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.
- Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper squares (4x4") so it's ready for the cut donuts later on.
- Once risen, turn out the dough and roll it out to ½" thick. Use a 2½ inch cookie cutter to cut out rounds of dough and transfer to the pieces of parchment paper on the cookie sheet.
- Cut out as many as possible, then re-knead & re-roll the scraps and cut out additional donuts. You should be able to get 12 donuts out of the dough.
- Cover the donut rounds lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes until puffy.
Frying the Donuts
- Add the canola or vegetable oil to a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat until it reaches 350-360℉ on a thermometer. You'll want to keep an eye on the temperature in between every batch, keeping it as close to this temperature as possible by adjusting your heat accordingly.1 quart vegetable oil
- Add the donut and parchment paper to the oil, then remove the parchment paper with tongs. Fry 2-3 donuts at a time for about one minute on each side until a nice golden color.
- Remove to a wire rack or cookie sheet lined with paper towels and repeat until all donuts are fried. Cool completely.
- Fill a saucepan with about 1 inch of water and turn to high heat. Add a heat proof bowl over top that fits securely. You don’t want any of the water touching the bottom of the bowl.
- To the bowl, add the egg whites and sugar and whisk to combine. Continue lightly whisking until the mixture is warm and the sugar granules have dissolved. Check this by rubbing your fingers together in the mixture. If you can still feel sugar granules, continue cooking. If you have a thermometer, cook it to around 150℉/66℃.3 large egg whites, ¾ cup granulated sugar
- Once the mixture is ready, transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a handheld mixer) and whip on medium speed for about a minute. Turn to high speed and whip until stiff peaks form.
- Once the meringue hits stiff peaks, add the vanilla then mix once more to combine. The meringue is ready when the bowl can be turned upside down without any movement or sliding and holds a peak on the tip of the whisk without falling.1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- Transfer the lemon curd to a piping bag and snip a small hole for the tip.
- Use a chopstick to puncture a hole into the side of the donut, insert it about ⅔ of the way, and carefully move it in a circular motion to open up the space for the filling.
- Gently squeeze lemon curd into each donut until it just peeks out of the hole. You will feel some pressure as it's almost filled and the donut will feel heavier.
- Use an offset spatula or spoon to add a dollop of meringue to the top of each donut and add swoops or swirls.
- Use a blow torch to lightly toast the meringue portion of each donut.
- The donuts are best enjoyed immediately after assembly, and should be eaten the same day.