What is the difference between sufganiyot and donuts?

Sufganiyot and donuts may look similar at first glance, but they have some key differences when it comes to ingredients, shape, texture, and cultural significance. Keep reading to learn more about how these two fried dough treats compare.

What are sufganiyot?

Sufganiyot are round jelly donuts traditionally eaten in Israel and Jewish communities around the world during the Hanukkah holiday. The name comes from the Hebrew word “sofgania” meaning “sponge” or “puffed pastry.”

Sufganiyot are made from yeast dough enriched with eggs and oil or butter, deep fried, and filled with jelly or custard. The most classic filling is raspberry or strawberry jam, but modern varieties can contain chocolate, vanilla cream, caramel, halva, or other sweet fillings.

In Israel, sufganiyot are especially popular around Hanukkah due to their connection to the holiday’s commemoration of the miracle of oil. As the story goes, when Judah Maccabee reclaimed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, there was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah lit for one night. Yet the flames miraculously burned for eight nights, allowing time for more oil to be prepared. Chowing down on these oil-fried treats is a delicious way to celebrate the “festival of lights.”

What are donuts?

Donuts are a broad category of fried dough confections popular around the world. They trace their origins to Dutch olykoeks and British doughnuts brought by immigrants to early America. Today’s donuts can be yeast or cake based, availing themselves of a near endless variety of shapes, flavors and toppings.

Some of the most common donut varieties include:

  • Glazed – Coated with a sweet glaze icing
  • Jelly – Filled with fruit preserves or another sweet filling
  • Chocolate – Glazed, filled, or frosted with chocolate
  • Cream – Filled with custard, whipped cream, or cream cheese
  • Sprinkled – Coated with sprinkles or other decorations
  • Maple – Iced with maple flavored glaze

Donuts are popular year-round, not just for specific holidays. They can be purchased from dedicated donut shops, grocery store bakeries, and food trucks and carts.

Differences in ingredients

While both sufganiyot and donuts contain basic ingredients like flour, egg, oil or butter, and sugar, there are some differences:


Sufganiyot are made with yeast, giving the dough a light and fluffy texture. Donuts can be yeast based or “cake” donuts made from dough without yeast that fries up denser.


Sufganiyot tend to contain more egg yolks for flavor and richness. Donuts vary in egg content depending on variety.


Sufganiyot are fried in oil, traditionally olive oil. Donuts can also be fried in vegetable oils, shortening, or lard.


Sufganiyot are filled with jelly, custard, or cream. Donuts have a wider range of fillings including fruit, custard, cream, fudge, peanut butter, and more.

Differences in shape

The shapes of sufganiyot and donuts also differ:


Sufganiyot are always round balls. This shape allows the yeasted dough to fully puff up and develop air pockets during frying. The round shape also provides maximum space for fillings.


While traditional ring donuts are the most iconic, donuts come in many shapes including rings, balls, twists, sticks, and holes of all sizes. Fancier shapes like hearts, bowties and crullers are common too.

Donut Shape Description
Ring Signature donut ring shape with a hole in the middle
Ball Round, ball-shaped without a center hole
Twist Formed from two ropes of dough twisted together before frying
Stick A rectangular stick-shaped dough
Hole Rings with very large holes and a thin outer ring

Differences in texture

Texture is another key difference between sufganiyot and donuts:


The yeasted dough of sufganiyot gives them a soft, pillowy, airy texture. They are light and fluffy on the inside with a tender, delicate fried crust.


Donuts can have a cake-like dense texture, or a lighter yeast-raised texture. The texture varies based on ingredients and preparation methods. But in general, the textures tend to be denser and chewier compared to the delicate sufganiyot.

Differences in cultural significance

Sufganiyot and donuts differ greatly when it comes to cultural roles:


Sufganiyot hold deep cultural meaning as a food specifically tied to Hanukkah traditions and observance. They are an integral part of holiday festivities for Jewish communities around the world.


Donuts do not have the same kind of cultural symbolism. They are popular year-round treats enjoyed by people from a variety of backgrounds.

Similarities between sufganiyot and donuts

While sufganiyot and donuts have distinct differences, they do share some traits in common:

  • Both are types of fried dough
  • Both are round in shape (or round-ish for ring donuts)
  • Both are sweet treats often enjoyed with coffee/tea
  • Both can be topped or filled with sweet ingredients like sugar, icing, jams, nuts, etc.
  • Both make tasty snacks or desserts

Buying tips

Ready to try one or both of these fried treats? Here are some buying tips:


  • Purchase close to Hanukkah, when they are fresh and abundant
  • Look for sufganiyot at Jewish bakeries, delis, and grocery stores
  • Seek out sufganiyot made with high quality ingredients like real jelly and enough egg yolks for richness
  • Jelly-filled sufganiyot are traditional, but try unique flavors too


  • Visit an artisanal donut shop for fresh, gourmet options
  • Seek out limited-time flavors at large chains like Krispy Kreme
  • Check the bottoms – the oil should give an even golden-brown color
  • For the lightest texture, eat yeast donuts the same day they are made

Sufganiyot recipes

Want to try making sufganiyot at home? Here are a couple highly rated recipes to get you started:

Classic Sufganiyot

This sufganiyot recipe from The Spruce Eats will give you a traditional jelly-filled Hanukkah treat with a light and fluffy texture. It uses a standard dough enriched with oil and eggs, requiring a minimum of 12 hours for the yeast to rise and develop flavor.

Sufganiyot from Scratch

Epicurious offers a more involved sufganiyot recipe starting from the basics with yeast, flour, and water. Tips are provided for achieving the perfect airy texture. Fill them with homemade raspberry or apricot jam.

Easy Sufganiyot

This easy recipe from Taste of Home uses dough from refrigerated biscuits for a quick sufganiyot option. Just separate and stretch the biscuits before frying and filling them as sufganiyot. Jelly and Bavarian cream fillings are included.

Sufganiyot with Custard Filling

The Nosher provides a recipe for baking sufganiyot in the oven instead of frying them. The baked version is lower calorie but keeps a soft texture. They are filled with a rich vanilla custard.

Donut recipes

Ready to try making donuts yourself? Get rolling with these top-rated recipes:

Classic Donuts

Martha Stewart’s versatile yeast donut recipe will let you create perfect rings ready for all your favorite glazes, fillings, and toppings. Tip: Letting the dough rise slowly in the fridge overnight results in maximum flavor.

Pumpkin Spice Donuts

These autumnal treats from Sally’s Baking Addiction use pumpkin puree in the dough and are spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Glaze them with a brown butter and maple frosting.

Cake Donuts

Fluffy cake-style donuts are made easy with this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. She shares tips for frying as well as a step-by-step guide to glazing.

Apple Cider Donuts

Sweet apple cider flavor shines in this surprisingly easy donut recipe from Foodie Crush. They recommend using mini donut pans to make cute bite-sized versions of this fall favorite.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about sufganiyot and donuts:

Are sufganiyot just jelly donuts?

No, sufganiyot differ from jelly donuts in a few ways. Sufganiyot use yeast-leavened dough versus cake dough typical for jelly donuts. They also have cultural significance as a Hanukkah tradition.

Why do people eat sufganiyot on Hanukkah?

Fried foods like sufganiyot are eaten on Hanukkah to celebrate the miracle of oil associated with the holiday. Their round shape and jelly filling are also symbolic.

Can you make donuts without yeast?

Yes, cake donuts are made without yeast using baking powder to leaven the dough instead. They have a denser, cakier texture compared to fluffier yeast donuts.

What is the most popular donut flavor?

The classics never go out of style. Glazed donuts are hands down the most popular donut flavor, with chocolate and vanilla frosted also rating high.

The verdict

While sufganiyot and donuts are both delicious fried dough treats, they have distinct differences when it comes to ingredients, shape, texture, and cultural significance. Sufganiyot hold a special place as an iconic Hanukkah food, while donuts are beloved year-round snacks with endless flavor possibilities. The next time you have the opportunity, bite into both for a tasty fried food experience.

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