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  • Writer's pictureGeorgiana

Fluffy Cheesy Romanian Donuts

Traditionally they are called "Papanași" in Romania. I ate papanasi for the first time more than 20 years ago, at the Orizont hotel restaurant in Predeal. I don't remember their taste from back then, but I still relive the moment when my mother asked the waitress who was serving us if she could share the recipe for those perfect papanasi.

Although traditionally they are served with sour cream and jam, I like them simple, only with jam, and more important rose jam. I also recently discovered the combination with blueberry jam, which is equally amazing.

This is the only recipe of papanasi that has been made in my family since then, and they are so perfect, that it is very difficult to find in any restaurant some papanasi that are light, fluffy and rich in cheese.

Did you know?

* Fried papanași (also called Moldavian papanași) have their origin according to the name in Moldova and are considered to be a traditional Romanian dessert.

*However, their roots come from the boiled papanași that actually originated in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

* However, legend says that the origin of these donuts (with holes in the middle) dates back a long time, in Denmark. The captain of a ship, trying to steer the ship and eat a donut at the same time, because of the strong waves lost his balance and stuck the donut in one of the spokes of the rudder. This way came the saving solution for so many housewives who were unable to properly cook the dough in the middle.


The secret of fluffy papanasi lies in the quality of the cheese used. We need a fatty cheese, but at the same time dry, without too much whey in the composition, or sourcream. The fresh cream cheese is not suitable for this recipe, we need farmers cheese or some kind of dry cottage cheese.

If the cheese used contains too much liquid, the dough will need more flour, and when frying the papanasi they will absorb too much oil. The result will be a thick and oily dough.


*for 12 pieces (6 servings)


- 500g farmers cheese (dry cottage cheese)

- 3 eggs

- 350-400g flour (depending on how dry the cheese is)

- zest of a lemon

- 1 teaspoon vanila extract

- 1 teaspoon baking soda

- a pinch of salt

Note: the fresh cheese should be as dry as possible, without whey or cream in the composition. See the explanations above!

To serve: powdered sugar, cream and jam according to preferences. As you can see in the pictures, I prefer them only with sugar and jam (especially the rose one, which is absolutely delicios).

Steps to follow:

(1) Mix the cheese with the eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, salt and baking soda with the help of a fork until we get a homogeneous dough. There is no sugar in the ingredients list, and you won't feel it's missing in the end either. Trust me on this!

(2) Add the flour and knead the dough until there is no more dry flour in the work bowl. We will get a rather sticky dough, but DON'T ADD extra flour. Only if the cheese had too much whey in the composition, 50-100g of flour can be gradually added. Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes until we start forming the donuts.

(3) Flour the work surface and your hands, and take a consistent amount of dough, which we roll with our hands on the surface and then give it the shape of a doughnut. At the same time, for each papanas we will form a ball of dough, the size of a big cherry, which will be the top of the papanaș when serving.

The dough will be enough for about 12 donuts and 12 balls.

(4) Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat (the oil level needs to reach halfway up each donut). When the oil is hot enough, fry 3-4 papanasi at a time over medium heat for 2-3 minutes on both sides. Don't turn the heat up, as you can end having raw donuts in the middle or you can burn them on the outside.

(5) Remove the donuts from the pan on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Dust them with sugar and serve with jam and sour cream. I recommend using a high-quality fat sour cream for a perfect desert.

I recommend trying them with blueberry jam or rose jam, as these are the best pairings ever.

Happy Baking!



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