Gramma John’s Buttermilk Donuts

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Gramma John’s Buttermilk Donuts have been a favorite in our family for decades. They are delicious and perfect for freezing.

Gramma John's Buttermilk Donuts | Life as Mom

My childhood summers were spent in South Dakota and Minnesota. Though I was born and raised in California, my parents both grew up in Minnesota. With loads of family on both sides, and my dad hankering for farm-stomping, we spent every summer on the road, driving to the midwest and then hopping from family to family for visiting.

The highlights of my summer were hanging out my cousins Laurie, Kristin, and Jenny, and playing cards with my Gramma John. Oh and eating at Aunt Peggy’s house. And Aunt Sandy’s house.

My Gramma John was a character. She married young and survived an abusive husband. She raised eight kids as best she could on a farm with little money. I only knew her in her town-living retirement years, when she would babysit my cousins, garden in her backyard, can and bake in her basement kitchen, and play cards and watch soaps all afternoon. 

Gramma John was one of my best friends growing up. We were great penpals right up until she passed away in 2000. She listened to me when no one else did. And quite honestly, I miss her terribly, though she’s been gone for almost 16 years.

One of my sweetest memories of her is sitting in her last kitchen in a small apartment in a retirement building. She was able to fit a small deep freeze in that minuscule kitchen.

In said deep freeze were stacks of lefse and plastic boxes filled with buttermilk donuts. When she wasn’t looking, I’d sneak donuts from the freezer, eating them before they had a chance to thaw completely. Mmmm. They were good.

I was 18, and could eat all the donuts without gaining an ounce. Those were the days.

Gramma John's Buttermilk Donuts | Life as Mom

A few years ago after watching a few seasons of Good Eats, FishPapa started pining for a fryer. He’s not one to usually request kitchen appliances, so I figured he had really thought it through.

When my dad said that a neighbor had a brand-new, commercial fryer to give away, I said yes. I figured if it wasn’t exactly what Alton recommended, we could probably find a home for it. As it turns out, it is exactly what FishPapa wanted in a fryer.

We’ve tested Alton’s recipe for Yeast Doughnuts. They are excellent. They puff up light and fluffy and crisp. FishPapa would recommend that you omit the nutmeg. He isn’t crazy about nutmeg.

But, my heart belongs to Gramma John and her Buttermilk Donuts. And honestly, when I’m too lazy to go to the garage for the fryer, I just make these in a pot. No fryer required.

I hope you will give these a spin. They aren’t super fancy. They’re what FishChick9 would call “a friendly dessert”. They’re not too fancy to eat. And you have my permission to eat them cold from the freezer.

This recipe makes a very sticky dough. My cousin Laurie and I recently compared notes when I sent her a picture of my donut dough and asked if hers was as sticky. Turns out her dad, my Uncle Donny, used only egg yolks when he made these donuts. I am going to be testing that theory soon to see how they fare. I’ll update this post when I do.

Tools that come in handy when making this recipe:

Do you make donuts?

Buttermilk Donuts | Life as Mom

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About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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  1. Jackie says

    Oh my goodness! Those donuts look super yummy! The only way I ever knew to make them was taking biscuit dough and putting a hole in the center. Then fry them up in a pan of hot oil. I will definitely be trying the ones you shared! And way to go on the new FREE fryer! YAY!

  2. Bridgett says

    Can you make substitute regular milk for buttermilk?

  3. steph says

    YUM! I have never even thought about making donuts. My mouth is watering right now.

  4. JessieLeigh says

    My grandma always made fresh donuts and they were out of this world delicious!

    I have made them only once, a cinnamon-applesauce recipe. They were good and my husband was a huge fan, but I burned myself something fierce doing it! Until I can master the technique, I’ll have to live vicariously through you. 😉 Yours looks delicious!

    • Trisha says

      Would you be willing to share that recipe, JessieLiegh?

  5. Chawksgirl4ever says

    wow they look really yummy!nope i have never made donuts before.maybe someday

  6. Stephanie says

    I have not made donuts in a long long time. We had a fryer but when it died I never replaced it. We were too in love with it, but my waist line wasn’t !

  7. Katie @ 3 Blondes and a Redhead says

    Oh my goodness, I’m DYING over here. You don’t show a picture of a homemade donut for pregnant gals to see!!! I don’t have a fryer or the energy to try these at the moment, so I may have to make a run to Dunkin Donuts. I. Am. Drooling.

  8. Heather says

    These look very yummy. That is so cool that you got an awesome fryer for free. 🙂

  9. CountryMama@The Cozy Country Home says

    Jessica…they look great!! What did you dip them in when they were done? Did you have to dip them in butter and then cinnamon and sugar?
    I made fried donuts once with biscuit dough from a can and they were horrible!! I also bought a donut pan and tried to make baked ones (with a healthy sneaky recipe) and they were worse!! No one ate them and we wasted so many ingredients! But maybe if they tasted as good as yours look they will!

  10. Kara says

    I have worked with my great-grandma’s recipe to make little jelly donut holes for my kids. I love them!! They are so fatty and bad that I make them a rare treat, but I just love homemade donuts!

  11. Suz says

    Yum… my mom used to make doughnuts once and awhile as a treat for us when we got off the bus. She didn’t fry them, but had a handy machine like a waffle maker that made doughnuts… made more of a cakey doughnut.

    thanks for bringing back the memory… now I’ll have to see if they still make those machines so I can do the same for my son when he gets of the bus in a few years 🙂

  12. Allie Z says

    Speaking of donuts… we just made donuts this weekend!!

    I followed this recipe:

    I will follow the recipe again if I’m making crumb donuts. If I’m making a regular glazed donut, I’ll omit the cinammon. No complaints from the kiddos or hubby though!!

    What city do you live in? I just stumbled onto your blog!! We live in Phoenix, and there are Albertsons here, but these are owned by the LLC so they run different deals. I figured I’d ask before running to stock up on the flour!


  13. Allie Z says

    open mouth, insert foot. i just read that you are now in san diego. funny thing, i just moved from carlsbad to phoenix. my feet are wet…


  14. Not silly. I wondered the same thing when I looked at that post the other day. I think those were the yeast donuts from Alton Brown. Gramma’s look a lot like the baked kind.

  15. I’m going to try to make these gluten free, they look delicious!

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