Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme

Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme

Oh hey.

Sooo…elephant in the room: I kind of fell off the blog radar. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but my days just got all sorts of busy all at once. Job busyness. Life busyness. Before I knew it, a month went by. I’m still climbing out from under a pile of emails. I am terrified of what my feedly looks like. But I’m back, and I missed you guys! Please accept my apology. It comes with mini doughnuts.

kabocha squash

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know I’ve been doing some food stuff outside this space. I’ve done a bunch of posts over on Food52. And you can look forward to more, because I’ll be posting regularly in the Small Batch column! (Once a month, for now, with plans to switch to twice a month in 2014.) I also have a guest post going up elsewhere this week — I’ll tell you more about that once it happens! AND for those of you that can’t get enough of me, I caved and joined Twitter. Follow me and help me learn how to use it! Really. Help me. :)

kabocha squash

kabocha squash

And now, the doughnuts. I fell in love with kabocha squash last year. It’s an unassuming little squash with a surprisingly sweet flavor, and I find myself using it more and more in place of pumpkin and butternut. Last year, it made its way into a lot of savory dishes. This year, I wanted my first kabocha to go into a dessert. Something with warm spices offset by brighter flavors. A buttermilk glaze was an obvious choice, but I kept fixating on getting an herb into the mix somehow. Trying to impart the flavor into the glaze or the doughnut itself seemed a bit too subtle, and what I really wanted was an up-front herbaceousness to complement the sweetness of the doughnut. Which would mean keeping the herb itself somewhat intact. That’s when it occurred to me that candying might work.

Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme

I decided to candy both thyme and rosemary. The latter was my first choice, but my thyme plant didn’t grow AT ALL this year — it stayed exactly the same size for several months as I reluctantly whittled away at it. Which is a shame, because the thyme was the winner in this recipe, by a mile. The rosemary flavor was a little too in your face. But the thyme was sweet and herby without being overwhelming. (Not going to lie, I straight-up ate a lot of little candied thyme bits, knowing full well I didn’t have enough for all the doughnuts as it was. Whoops.)

Candied Thyme

One caveat about candying thyme that I must make: It’s a slight pain in the a** due to all the little leaves. I candied them on the stems and then snipped the leaves off and broke them up as best I could once they’d dried. You could try removing the leaves beforehand and dip the whole lot in egg whites sieve-style, then toss them with sugar and attempt to separate them out on parchment. I’m not sure if that would work better or if you’d just wind up with one big messy clump of sugary bits, but it could be worth a try. Regardless of the tedium, I still think it’s worth it. I declared candied herbs the new sprinkles yesterday, and I kind of wasn’t kidding. They are sweet and crunchy and freakin’ delicious. Buuut if you don’t want to go through all that, I’ve included tips for making a thyme sugar coating below. Just please, don’t skip the thyme! It really takes the doughnut to the next level.

Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme

Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme

Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme

Baked Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme

(adapted from King Arthur Flour)

makes: around 4 dozen mini or 12 regular doughnuts

(Adaptation for thyme sugar coating is listed at the end of the recipe.)

1 1/2 cups of kabocha purée (recipe below)

5 tbsp coconut oil

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp cinnamon

heaping 1/4 tsp nutmeg

heaping 1/4 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp cloves

1 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour


buttermilk glaze (recipe below)

candied thyme (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375° and lightly grease your doughnut pan(s). Sift together salt, baking powder, spices, and flour and set aside.

Place kabocha purée in a large bowl. Melt coconut oil and butter over low heat until just liquified, then mix into purée. Beat in sugars, then eggs. Then stir in dry ingredients until just combined.

For regular doughnuts: Fill each well of your doughnut pan 3/4 full (with around just under 1/4 cup of batter). Tap pan on the counter a few times to get the batter to settle. Bake for 14–16 minutes, or until a toothpick/cake tester inserted in the doughnut comes out clean.

For mini doughnuts: Pipe batter into wells, filling halfway. Tap pan on the counter a few times to get the batter to settle. Bake for 8–10 minutes, or until doughnuts are springy to the touch.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.

Once doughnuts have cooled, place a sheet of parchment or a silpat under your cooling rack. Dip each doughnut in the buttermilk glaze, giving it a moment to let any excess run off. (A chopstick works well for this task, especially with the mini doughnuts.) Dip the top of the doughnut in a bowl of candied thyme, then return to the rack. Let sit until glaze has hardened.

If using thyme sugar coating: Dip doughnuts in glaze as per above and let sit on rack until most of the excess glaze has dripped off — 10–15 minutes. Then place in a shallow bowl of thyme sugar and turn to coat, and return to the rack and let glaze continue to set.


Kabocha Purée:

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut kabocha squash into quarters and remove seedy guts. Arrange squash quarters in a baking dish and add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan. Cover pan with foil and roast for 40–60 minutes, or until squash is soft and tender. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour, then scoop flesh from the squash and place in the bowl of your food processor. Blend until smooth, adding liquid (water, or give it a little extra fall flavor with some apple cider) as needed. You want the final consistency of your purée to be quite smooth, but not so runny that it pours easily. (Use your leftover purée for gnocchi or ravioli!)


Buttermilk Glaze:

Whisk together 2 cups of powdered sugar and 4–6 tbsp buttermilk (I went with 4 because I like a thicker glaze, and I don’t have the patience to dip twice) until well combined.


Candied Thyme:

1 bunch of thyme (If I try to guesstimate how much you need in “sprigs,” it will likely be inaccurate. Instead, I will just say that the amount pictures above — around 2 dozen sad, puny sprigs — was only enough for about 1/4 of the doughnuts.)

1 egg white, beaten until frothy


Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Dip each thyme sprig in egg white and shake off excess, then dip in shallow bowl of sugar and turn until just coated. Place on the baking sheet. Let sit at room temperature until dry (anywhere from 1–8 hours). Alternatively, you can speed up the process a little by letting them dry in a 150° oven for 1–2 hours.

Once the thyme had dried, snip or break leaves off of the stem, then do your best to break up any clumps. (You can do this with your hands, but some gentle work with a knife or a pestle will also get the job done.)


Alternative Thyme Sugar Coating:

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

2 tbsp fresh thyme

Pulse sugar and thyme in a food processor or spice grinder until the thyme has been well chopped and the mixture is near the consistency of granulated sugar.

Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme


  1. says

    seriously, this is the embodiment of autumn ~ everything that makes the season more bearable, in my opinion. i can imagine myself tucking into a few of these on a sunday morning, with a steaming cup of coffee, maybe some crocheting nearby, but mainly just shoving thyme-y sweetness in my face.

  2. says

    Yay you’re back!

    That’s awesome that you are doing so well, congrats! I didn’t know you were on Food52 – I joined so I can save some recipes, so maybe I will seek out that column now.

    PS: if you learn how to use Twitter, let me know. It’s so much effort. I can’t bear talking so often, the words I can muster I just put it into photos.

    • says

      Thank you, Phi! I just joined Food52 pretty recently, and I’m so glad I did. It’s been really nice to branch out. Now I just need to find a healthy balance between the blog and other things!

      And twitter…yes…kind of overwhelming. So far I enjoy it in the a.m. when I’m still running on a coffee high, but then I need to shut it down for a little bit and let my brain recover. :)

  3. says

    Well, you’ve gone and done it again – blown my mind with your creativity and flavor combinations! I absolutely love the idea of herb-sprinkles, especially in combination with a squashy dessert like this. I think I can forgive you for being away so long, but only because you came back with such an incredible recipe. ;)

    P.S. – congrats on all the Food52 features! I’ve only read a few of them so far, but they look great. :)

    • says

      Hehe, thanks Willow! :) I really can’t believe almost a month has gone by since my last post. At least it gave me plenty of time to create a delicious doughnut!

  4. says

    Eeeeeeeeee!!!! I was so excited when you first told me about these, and holy crap. They looks just as amazing as I imagined them in my mind. Now I want to candy all the herbs…rosemary, sage, oregano, it would all be so tasty in candied-form! And God, I love squash. Its such a versatile vegetable (or is it a fruit? I can never figure out how they classify those things) and tastes so amazing in sweet and savory dishes. Can only imagine how ridiculously tasty these little guys must be!!

    • says

      Seriously all I can think about now is candying herbs for everything. The candied thyme was magical. Candied rosemary was a little bit more intense, but I think it would be delicious in smaller quantities.

      Also, I have read about what makes a vegetable a vegetable and a fruit a fruit a hundred times, and I still don’t know if I understand it. I think a squash is a fruit because it grows from the flowering portion of a plant? And “vegetable” refers to other edible parts of plants that aren’t produced by flowering? But then you bring alliums into the mix and I have no idea what’s going on anymore! :P

  5. says

    I love the idea of candied herbs as sprinkles. I have only ever candied mint and basil, but I imagine thyme and rosemary candy up real nice (despite being a pain in the bum). I fell hard for kabocha squash last year too and just happen to have one sitting on my counter right now. I think my boyfriend already has savory plans for it, but perhaps next time I will snag one to make these lovely little things.

    • says

      The kabochas are so delicious, I actually don’t know if I like them more for sweets or savories. (I was lucky to have a bunch of leftover purée from this batch, which will definitely be making its way into some sort of pasta.) :)

  6. says

    Heeeey there stranger! It’s been a long time. And are you back with a bang or what? These donuts (doughnuts) look spectacular! My family LOVES kabocha, among other squash – we used to roast it and eat it straight from the oven, when it was still piping hot and practically melted. So good. I love its subtle sweetness, so I can definitely see it working really well in this recipe. And also, I love the idea of candying thyme (which I think is the cutest herb ever)! Its taste works so well paired with sugary things, definitely a great idea.

    Ah, Twitter, I pop up on it so sporadically, I have to re-learn it all over again whenever I sign in. I don’t know how people are able to balance ALL their social media without their heads imploding, but I’m also super-disorganized, haha. But, it’s fun to get into Tweet conversations. Must go look for you now! Oh, and good job on the Food52 column! So exciting!!

    • says

      Hi Linda!! :)

      I have been tempted to eat this stuff right from the roasting pan too. Do you eat the skin? I heard it’s edible, but I haven’t tried it yet. And I still can’t get over how perfect that flavor of thyme was for candying. (Also, it looked absolutely adorable when it was weighed down with all the sugar — it kind of made me look forward to winter and snow-covered trees!)

      I also don’t know how people balance all the social medias. Like really, I can barely keep up as it is, and now I’ve thrown Twitter into the mix. It’s going to be interesting. :P

  7. says

    Beautiful photos! (And donuts!) I love the idea for candied thyme, too; that seems so original and interesting (though it also seems pretty labor intensive!)

    I have donut pans, but have only used them once so far to make failed (too moist) pumpkin donuts. I guess next time I will be using your recipe instead! I absolutely love kabocha, but almost always just pan-fry it or turn it into soup. You’ve definitely inspired me to make some kabocha puree this season to stick in my freezer, though, and just as I’m using the last of last year’s pumpkin puree, too.

    • says

      Thank you, Allison! The candied thyme was definitely a little tedious (although once I tasted a piece I knew it was worth it). :)

      I love having squash purées on hand. You’re inspiring me to think way ahead into the winter and make some big batches to stick in my freezer!

  8. says

    i can’t get over how awesome these are. i want to candy herbs and use them on EVERYTHING. and kabocha. i must admit that i’ve never been quite sure of the pronunciation and thus i have been shy around it in the past… but i do love a good squash, and a squash in a donut, that just seems so darn lovely.

    • says

      Oh man, I never even considered the possibility that there was a way to pronounce “kabocha” other than the way I’ve been saying it… Considering that I regularly manage to bungle word pronunciation (I was made fun of incessantly by an ex for once calling “crudites” “crew-dytes”), I’ve probably been saying it wrong! Oh dear.

      Candied herbs on all the things!! Let’s make this revolution happen. :)

  9. says

    Love the combination of flavors here! I never thought to candy spices but am so hooked on the idea after seeing your pictures (who cares if it’s a little labor intensive – it has to be sooo much better than those chemical-laden, flavorless, sprinkles).

    I have a twitter but don’t really get how to use it… that makes me sound old but I promise I’m not! Hah

    • says

      My feelings exactly! They were so delicious (and made of real, natural things) — totally worth the effort.

      I don’t know if I’ll ever understand Twitter. The 140 characters thing is an interesting exercise in restraint for me though! So maybe that’s good, because I can be a little wordy. :)

  10. says

    Welcome back! I fell in love with kabocha squash last year, too..I love the idea of incorporating it into a donut – and just saw you on Cup of Jo!!! Congrats!!

  11. Anna says

    Hi, I was wondering if I could sub whole wheat pastry flour and pumpkin puree for the kobocha? I don’t have access to such an exotic squash. :(

    Also, would these totally not work fried? I’m trying to gain weight, but in a healthy-adjacent way (which is why the whole wheat). If I get a positive response to these question, I shall be trying candied sage “sprinkles”.

    • says

      Subbing in pumpkin purée would work just fine, and whole wheat pastry flour should be fine too. As far as frying goes, that wouldn’t really work with this recipe. :( These ingredients come together to create a soft batter, whereas you want an actual workable dough for fried doughnuts so you can shape them beforehand. You could try searching for a fried pumpkin doughnut recipe online, and then incorporate the glaze and candied thyme from this one. Hope that helps!

  12. says

    It’s been said above – these doughnuts look divine!

    Also, don’t look at your feedly. Just do a mass delete and start fresh. I say this because my feedly is going to implode at any moment, and I’m worried the interwebs will collapse as a result…

    • says

      Thanks, Rachael! :)

      And yup, that’s totally what I did with my feedly. (I actually couldn’t find the “mark all as read” option at first, which added nicely to my anxiety.)

  13. says

    These doughnuts are so insanely creative! I’ve never heard of anything like them before, but looking at them I know I’ll love them. The candied thyme sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s one of my absolute favourite herbs.

  14. says

    Beautiful photo! Delicious recipe! Doughnuts! So exciting all around.

    I wonder if perhaps the thyme didn’t grow because it was in a small pot? My rosemary didn’t grow much at all either, and I think it’s because I never re-potted it out of the small plastic container it came in, so the roots couldn’t grow.

    • says

      Thanks, Leah! :)

      I was wondering if the roots might have been crowded too. (It was in a large planter box between a parsley and a coriander plant.) I’ve grown it the same way for the past couple of years without any issues, though, so I think this plant may have just been kind of a weenie. Too bad, since thyme is one of my favorites!

  15. says

    Oh wow. I’m imagining biting into one of these warm from the oven, glaze crackling, sweet spices and crunchy thyme bits mingling. YUM!!! Pure genius, Carey, and the photos are stunning! :D

  16. lynx artemis says

    o yum. i have a lemon thyme plant i am excited to try to use this way. muffin tins would probably work, yes?

  17. says

    I’m right there with you on the blog radar. I didn’t post all of October and I feel super guilty about it. I’m back now too though! It felt good to post again.

    The first photo of the whole squash is…stunning. Along with all of the others. You are totally amazing.

  18. Maya says

    Hi! These look beautiful. I know this is an old post but I just found it and I have a question:

    I’ve been making these pumpkin spice doughnut that, when cooled, I brush with butter and roll with cinnamon and sugar. My problem is that after a couple of hours the sugar mix kind of disintegrates into the butter and it just looks sticky and unappetizing. Do you have any tips on how to prevent this? Thanks!!


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