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Recipe: Vegan Papanasi

Vegan papanaşi drizzled in cherry syrup and vegan sour cream

Sweet, sour and fried, these fruit preserve and sour cream-topped doughnuts are practically a Romanian icon. You will find papanaşi on the menu of many local restaurants throughout the country, and they’re a point of pride for home cooks, with each family having their own particular way of making them.

On our last trip to Transylvania hubby got obsessed with papanaşi. They are near impossible to find outside of Romania (except for Romanian kitchens) and I knew that if he was going to ever eat them again I would have to make them myself. Some toing-and-froing with my mum on the phone and a little kitchen experimentation has yielded this veganized recipe.


Traditionally these fried doughnuts are made from a particular Romanian type of cottage cheese dough and drizzled with a fruit preserve (usually homemade also), and sour cream or crème fresh. They're topped with a little doughnut hole on top that resembles a cute little hat. Unlike traditional fried doughnuts, the cottage cheese pastry isn’t very sweet. Instead, the sweetness is imparted by the sour cherry preserve drizzled over the papanaşi before serving. I have chosen cherry preserve because I absolutely love anything with cherries, but feel free to use the fruit preserve of your choice.


This veganized recipe maintains all of the flavour and texture of the traditional one, minus the dairy. And although there are a few parts to it, as we have to make the tofu cottage cheese and vegan sour cream, it’s easier than it looks. Give it a try!


For the tofu cottage cheese:

1 block of firm tofu (about 350 grams)

1 tsp lemon juice

Pinch of salt


For the vegan sweetened sour cream:

150g (small pot) vegan Greek yoghurt (or coconut yoghurt)

1tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

For the doughnuts:

1 ½ cups tofu ricotta

1/2 cup (100 g) coconut or plant based yogurt

1 tbsp egg substitute (I use JustEgg or Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer)

2 tbsp fine brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extracta pinch of salt

2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring

1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder

Zest of 1orange or lemon

For frying:

1/2 cup (100 mL) light olive oil for frying or sunflower oil

To serve:

1-2 tbsp sweetened sour cream on each doughnut

1 tbsp sour cherry preserve with whole cherries (Maraschino cherries in syrup like Luxardo are perfect for this if you can find it)

Step 1

Cut up the block of tofu into small pieces and then crumble it with your fingers. Add tsp of lemon juice and pinch of salt to the mixture.

Mix together the tofu, coconut yogurt, egg substitute, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Add the flour, baking powder and citrus zest with your hands until the mixture comes together and you can make a large ball with it. Make sure there are no clumps. If the dough is too sticky, refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to work with. If it’s too dry add a bit more yoghurt.

Step 2

Wet your fingers a little and roll the dough into 12 5cm balls, and 12 smaller donut hole sized balls. These little round balls will go on top of your papanasi. Take one larger ball, flatten it a little with your palm, and make a hole in the centre with your finger (or with a wooden spoon handle), gently stretching the hole to create a doughnut ring. Repeat with the remaining larger balls. Leave the smaller balls as they are.

Step 3

Heat the oil in a deep pan until hot, then reduce the heat to medium. Carefully place the dough rings and balls into the oil with a flat wooden spoon, and fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Step 4

To serve, place the doughnut rings on a plate and cover each with a dollop of vegan sour cream, then top with a spoonful of preserve. Add a small doughnut ball on top of each ring.

Serve while still warm.


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