Youtiao are fried strips of dough cooked until light and pillowy. These Chinese “oil stick” doughnuts are typically served for breakfast with soy milk, rice porridge, or soups.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Chinese Soul Food from Sasquatch Books. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
Youtiao (油条) is known by many names in America. It is often referred to as oil stick donuts, Chinese cruller, or Chinese fried dough sticks.
Chinese Oil Stick or Chinese Cruller
These light and airy fried sticks of dough are a popular Chinese breakfast staple.
Youtiao isn’t something one would normally make at home. It’s so much easier and cheaper to simply buy them.
However, if you don’t have access to Chinese breakfast spots, it’s easy to make at home!
I grew up surrounded by Chinese restaurants. My family frequented one restaurant that specialized in Taiwanese breakfast. Youtiao served with a bowl of warm savory soy milk was my absolute favorite!
Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food by Hsaio-Ching Chou
The recipe shared in this post comes from Hsaio-Ching Chou’s new cookbook, Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food. As a fan of her previous work (Chinese Soul Food), I was very excited to explore more vegetarian Chinese dishes.
Note: I made these Chinese Green Onion Pancakes from her first cookbook.
Hsaio-Ching makes it easy for you to cook your favorite (or soon to be new favorites!) Chinese dishes at home. The introduction is very detailed providing in-depth explanations for ingredients and tools.
Many of the Chinese ingredients may seem intimidating at first. However, Hsaio-Ching demystifies these ingredients equipping you with a clear understanding.
There are many recipes I’m interested in trying at home, such as: soup dumplings (better known as xiao long bao or XLB), sticky rice in lotus leaf, and Taiwanese cabbage and tomato soup.
Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food is a must have for those interested in more vegetable focus Chinese food!
Making Youtiao Dough From Scratch
As I mentioned before, youtiao isn’t something normally make at home. It’s not a difficult recipe by any means. However, it does require a bit of preparation.
The dough needs to rest in the fridge overnight (8 to 12 hours). The following morning, the dough must sit at room temperature for an hour before assembly.
Besides the time constraints, it’s a rather easy recipe! You only need a handful of ingredients:
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- baking soda
- kosher salt
- vegetable oil
These are ingredients you probably already have at home!
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in vegetable oil and water. Use a sturdy spatula to combine ingredients in a dough.
- Gather dough with your hands and press together.
- Knead for 3 minutes to form a ball.
- Place back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Knead dough for another 2 minutes. Pat or roll to a rectangle about 6 by 8-inches in size. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight, at least 8 hours.
Assembling Doughnut Sticks for Frying
IMPORTANT: Take rectangular dough out of the fridge. Let sit at room temperature for one hour.
- Roll room temperature dough to a rectangle about 20 by 5-inches. Cut the dough into 20 even sized strips.
- Take a pair of dough strips and take them together.
- Take a chopstick and place it lengthwise in the middle of the stacked dough. Press dough firmly to create an indentation. You want the top piece to stick to the bottom piece.
- Repeat with remaining pairs. Place assembled dough on parchment lined baking sheet.
Ideally, you should end up with 10 pairs. Don’t worry if the strips are not all the same size.
The cookbook says the recipe will make between 8 to 10 donut sticks. I made the recipe twice. Both times, I ended up with 10 sticks of different sizes.
Frying Chinese Oil Stick Donuts
If you happen to have a deep fryer, use that! For the rest of us that don’t have one (yet), fill a large Dutch oven pot with about 3 to 4 inches of oil.
Use an oil suitable for high temperatures, such as vegetable oil or canola oil.
I highly recommend attaching a candy thermometer to the pot to regulate and monitor the oil temperature.
Heat oil to 350 degrees F. When oil is ready, fry the assembled dough in batches. Do not overcrowd the pot!
Gently stretch the assembled dough and then carefully place it in the oil. It will sink and then puff up and float to the top.
Turn the dough a few times to ensure even cooking. Fry until rich golden brown. Remove from the oil and transfer to paper towel lined baking sheet.
Youtiao is best served warm, ideally within hours of frying.
It will be soft and pillowy out of the fryer. The youtiao takes on a pleasant chewy texture when soaked into soy milk.
Wrap any leftovers in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Reheat in a toaster oven before serving.
Enjoy it with a bowl of savory soy milk or sweetened soy milk. To make one serving of savory soy milk, you will need:
- 1 cup unsweetened soy milk (the fresher, the better*)
- 2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
- 1 teaspoon chopped green onions (scallions)
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- dash ground white pepper
- garnish with chopped pickles (such as Chinese mustard greens, cucumbers, or assorted preserved vegetables)
Bring soy milk to a boil. Pour into serving bowl. Immediately, top with vinegar, green onions, sesame oil, and white pepper. DO NOT STIR.
Let mixture sit for 3 minutes to allow vinegar to cause soy milk to curdle.
Take one youtiao stick. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Place over warm soy milk. Stir together and serve immediately!
Unsweetened Soy Milk
Ideally, you’d want to use homemade soy milk. However, high quality store-bought unsweetened soy milk works just fine!
It is best to purchase this soy milk at Asian supermarkets. This recipe will not work with the American soy milk found such as Silk.
You need soy milk make with only two ingredients- soybeans and filtered water. THAT’S ALL.
This unsweetened soy milk has a very short shelf life. It usually needs to be consumed within 3 days of opening.
Savory soy milk may be a little intimidating, especially if you’re still new to tofu.
Here’s a more familiar options! Turn youtiao into churros!
Coat the freshly fried dough sticks in granulated sugar or cinnamon sugar for a sweet donut treat!
Youtiao Chinese Doughnut
- 2 cup (260 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil plus more for frying
- ¾ cup water
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add 2 tablespoons oil and water. Stir until clumps begin to form.
- Gather dough with your hands and press together. Knead for 3 minutes to form a ball. Place back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.
- Knead the dough for another 3 minutes until smooth. Press or roll dough into a 6-by-8-inch rectangular disc. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight (8 to 12 hours).
- In the morning, remove dough from the refrigerator. Let sit on the counter to warm up to room temperature for 1 hour (up to 2 hours).
- Fill a large Dutch oven pot with about 3-inches of oil. Attach candy thermometer to pot. Heat oil to 350°F.
- Meanwhile, roll dough to a rectangle about 20 by 5 inches. Cut the dough into 20 even strips. Take a pair of dough strips and stack them together. Repeat with the remaining strips, trying to match similar sizes and lengths together. You should end up with 10 pairs.
- Take a chopstick and place it lengthwise in the middle of the stacked dough. Press down firmly to create to an indentation and to adhere the top piece with the bottom piece. (*Don't press so hard that it cuts through the dough.) Repeat with remaining pairs. Place assembled dough on parchment lined baking sheet.
- Line another baking sheet with paper towels. When the oil is ready, fry the assembled dough in batches. Do not overcrowd the pot. Use your fingertips to pick up each end of one strip. Give it a gentle stretch as you carefully place it in the oil. It will sink and then puff up and float to the top. Turn the dough a few times to ensure even cooking. Fry until rich golden brown. Remove from the hot oil and transfer to paper towel lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Serve immediately. Enjoy with savory soy milk or sweetened soy milk. Alternatively, you may also coat the freshly fried dough in granulated sugar or cinnamon sugar for a sweet version.
- These are best eaten and served immediately after frying.
- Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Gently reheat in a toaster oven before serving.
- 1 cup unsweetened soy milk*
- 1 to 2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped green onions (scallions)
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- dash white pepper powder
- 1 piece youtiao, cut into 1-inch chunks