Mexican Hot Chocolate Donuts

A resounding, sweet smokiness envelops my palate as I bite into the pillowy soft dough. Smooth, silky chocolate ganache then masks the smoke as I begin to taste cinnamon sugar and smell deeply floral notes of nutmeg. This, has been a taste revolution, and I’m already here for round two.

Mexican hot chocolate is an experience. With roots in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations, Mexican hot chocolate is not only a drink, per se, but is an entire category of chocolate products. The Mexica added dried spices and vanilla to early chocolates to mask the bitter taste that came from the fermented and roasted cacao bean. This spiced chocolate was eventually combined with European cane sugars from Spanish colonists, and led to the wide variety chocolate products that exist today. There is no set formula for replicating Mexican hot chocolate today, but dried chiles, cinnamon, and vanilla are usually involved.

While the dough in this recipe is lightly spiced, the real infusions of flavor come from the Mexican hot chocolate ganache and the spiced sugar that the brioche donuts are rolled in, post-fry. I elected to use dried ancho chile powder, which gives the donuts a complex and sweet smokiness, which I prefer to the spicy smoke that comes from cayenne or chipotle. I encourage you to experiment with sweet or smoky paprikas, cardamom, or anise, but I have found that this spice profile fits the bill quite nicely.

Here, I elected to use milk chocolate in the ganache. While non-traditional, the milk chocolate adds a welcome sweetness and does not mask the spices as much as a dark or semi-sweet chocolate would. You can easily switch out the milk chocolate in the recipe for whichever type you prefer.


  1. Why do I need to scald the milk? — In this recipe, the milk is scalded for textural reasons. The warm milk that remains after scalding is perfect for dissolving the grainy sugar and for activating the dry yeast. Old recipes called for the scalding of milk to deactivate yeast-killing enzymes, but, in the days of pasteurized dairy products, that really isn’t necessary. If you don’t want to scald the milk, you can simply stir the white sugar and yeast into the milk before combining with the flour mixture.
  2. I’m scared of frying! — Yes, frying can be scary…that is until you taste the final product. To make your frying experience less daunting, I suggest picking up a digital thermometer, or countertop fryer with a temperature gauge. You can also use a large cast iron dutch oven, which I suggest keeping around, even if you don’t plan on frying anything. I use this one, by Le Creuset. With these tools, you become the master of your frying experience and there’ll be donuts flying around your house all the time!
  3. Where do I buy ancho chili powder? While some are lucky enough to find ancho in their local grocery store, I buy mine from Penzey’s spices, here on Amazon.
  4. Can you please give the cup measurements? Okay, I’m trying to start a movement here. For recipes like this, where ratios are important, and doughs can be easily marred by the addition of too much of this or by not including enough of that — cup measurements just won’t suffice. Please, please, please do yourself a favor and pickup a food scale. You can find the one I use here.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Donuts

By: Scott Smith

“Satisfying smokiness, sugar spice crunch, smooth chocolate ganache, pillowy brioche…shall I go on?… — S”

Makes: 8 Donuts

Prep Time: 30 Min

 Fry Time: 2 Min Each

 Resting Time: 12 Hrs

Ingredients (for the brioche)

brioche dough recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

  • 212 grams whole milk (scalded and then cooled to lukewarm — about 80℉ (27℃)
  • 75 grams white sugar
  • 518 grams all purpose flour
  • 10 grams instant dried yeast (1 tbsp)
  • 9 grams salt (1.5 tsp)
  • 110 grams whole eggs (about 2 large eggs)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch fresh nutmeg
  • 55 grams unsalted butter, softened

Ingredients (for the Mexican hot chocolate ganache)

Ingredients (for the spiced rolling sugar)

  • 200 grams white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Make the brioche

  1. After scalding the milk and cooling it to lukewarm (about 80℉ or 27℃), stir in the sugar and yeast and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg on low speed until combined.
  3. Add the milk, sugar, yeast mixture, along with the eggs and vanilla to the mixing bowl and mix on low until combined (about 5 minutes).
  4. Begin adding the butter piece by piece, mixing well after each addition.
  5. When all of the butter has been added and the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, turn off the mixer, scrape down the bowl, and turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter or workbench.
  6. Fold the left side of the dough over to the right, and then the right side over to the left. Then, fold the top side down to the bottom and the bottom up to the top.
  7. Now, you should have a ‘package’ of dough, with a seam on top.
  8. Lightly grease a medium sized bowl with vegetable oil or non-stick spray. Transfer the dough package to the bowl, seam side down. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment in a warm place for 1 hour.
  9. During the 1 hour fermenting period, make the ganache.
  10. After 1 hour is up, repeat the dough folding process, place the dough package back in the bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Make the Mexican hot chocolate ganache

  1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan or microwave safe bowl, until it is very warm, but not hot (there should be bubbling around the edges). This will take about a minute in the microwave or 2 to 3 minutes on the stovetop.
  2. Add all of the spices and vanilla extract to the warm cream, whisking to combine. Let the mixture steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the warm spiced cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the unsalted butter and whisk to combine. Your ganache is ready when there are no streaks of cream or chocolate showing and the mixture is a smooth chocolate color. Refrigerate until the mixture is firm and no longer runny

Make the Spiced Rolling Sugar

  1. Simply combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk/stir to combine. Set aside!

Back to the Brioche

  1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into an 11 or 12 inch circle. The dough should be slightly less than a half inch thick.
  2. Using a 3 inch ring mold or circle cutter (or the top of a large cup), cut out 8 donuts and gently move them all to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Use a 1 inch circle cutter or the top or a shot glass to cut donut holes out of the remaining dough scraps.
  3. Cover the donuts with plastic wrap and proof in a warm, humid place for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  4. While the donuts are proofing, remove the ganache from the refrigerator, and add it to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the ganache until it is light and fluffy like whipped cream. Return the whipped ganache to the refrigerator. If you do not have a stand mixer, a hand mixer, or brisk manual whisking is fine here.
  5. Now, pour 3 inches or canola or vegetable oil into a large dutch oven, heavy bottomed pot, or countertop fryer. Heat the oil to 350℉ (175℃).
  6. Prepare a cooling rack for the donuts that will come out of the fryer.
  7. Once the donuts have finished proofing, you’re ready to fry. Working in batches of 1 or 2 donuts max, pick up the donuts one by one and carefully place them into the fryer. Fry on each side for 1 minute, and then flip and fry for another minute. The donuts are done when both sides are golden brown. Remove the donuts from the fryer and allow them to cool on the cooling rack for about 5 minutes.
  8. Coat the warm donuts in the spiced sugar by placing them in the bowl and tossing the sugar around. Place each finished donut back onto the cooling rack.
  9. Fit a piping bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Fill the piping bag with the whipped Mexican hot chocolate ganache. Use a pairing knife to make one small incision on the side of each donut. Use the piping bag to fill the donuts with as much whipped ganache as you can, until the filling oozes slightly out of the side.
  10. I love to eat these donuts as soon as I finish piping them and can whip up a double espresso. Now you just have to decide whether or not you’re going to share :) .

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