This Elephant Ears Recipe features homemade dough that's fried, then coated with cinnamon and sugar making them impossible to resist!
Easy Elephant Ears Recipe
What are elephant ears? Elephant Ears are is a vintage street food dessert that's commonly found at carnivals and fairs. They have many names often related to their shape. These light and airy fried dough pastries are coated with a cinnamon sugar while hot then served. Elephant ears were actually named for their shape and common street fare made famous at state fairs, sold by food trucks and theme parks. I've also heard them call beaver tails and bunuelos by some, and fry bread by others they're all essentially the same thing. Fried dough coated with cinnamon and sugar, although the dough itself may be slightly different. Regardless, all of them are delicious.
How to Make the Best Homemade Elephant Ears Recipe
What kind of dough is used for making Elephant Ears? They're made using deep fried rounds of sweet pastry dough that's been made with yeast. They're coated in cinnamon-sugar and at times served with maple syrup or honey on the side for dipping. I've seen some recipes for elephant ears that use puff pastry for a shortcut. However, this recipe is the classic way to make them from scratch. A few tips for Elephant Ears making success:
- Ingredients you'll need to make Elephant Ears Pastry: All purpose flour, whole milk, salt, butter, rapid rise yeast, ground cinnamon and vegetable oil for frying.
- Kitchen gadgets you'll need: A small saucepan, measuring cups and spoons, a whisk, mixing bowls, a stand mixer or a hand mixer fitted with a dough hook, a Dutch oven fitted with a fry thermometer or a deep fryer and a baking sheet lined with paper towels or parchment paper. You'll also need a spoon or spatula to stir together the cinnamon and sugar for the coating.
- If you don't have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough on a flat surface by hand.
- Please note, you'll need two ¼ ounce each packets of dry yeast for this recipe.
- Depending on the size of the dough rounds, you could yield anywhere from 8-12 elephant ears with this recipe.
- That said, you can also divide the dough according to how many you want to make. If you're treating a larger group, make them smaller and stretch the servings to accommodate.
- I recommend using vegetable oil for frying, not olive oil.
- Tongs will be your best friend for turning and removing fried dough from the oil safely.
- It's important to dust the pastries with cinnamon sugar immediately after removing from the oil so it will adhere to the surface.
- If you're working alone and get a bit behind in the process, you can brush on both sides lightly with melted butter to help the cinnamon and sugar to adhere.
- These types of pastries are best made and eaten while warm. That said, you can store them in an airtight container and reheat leftovers gently in the microwave. Just note, fresh is best.
Elephant Ears and More Dessert Recipes to Add to the Menu
- Make your own warm Glazed Yeast Doughnuts at home.
- Bakery style homemade Chocolate Eclairs filled with homemade pastry cream.
- The always delicious Funnel Cakes with your favorite toppings. You may need a fork for this one.
- For breakfast, brunch or dessert easy Glazed Apple Turnovers.
- New Orleans Style Beignets dusted with copious amounts of powdered sugar. Granted, this one will need a plate.
- You may also enjoy this recipe for Italian donuts called Zeppole from Natasha's Kitchen.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
- 1 ½ cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoon granulated sugar divided
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 (¼ oz each) packets rapid rise yeast
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 quart vegetable or peanut oil for frying
- To make dough: In a small saucepan, combine milk, salt, butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar on medium heat. Heat while stirring until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, Let cool until warm, about 110°F. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit for 10 minutes until mixture is foamy and yeast has bloomed.
- Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add vanilla. Mix on low gradually adding the flour until a dough forms. Once all is added, increase the speed and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (Alternately, knead by hand on a lightly floured non-stick surface.)
- Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let rise 45-60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Combine cinnamon and reserved 6 tablespoon of sugar, set aside.
- To fry: In a large pot or 12 inch deep skillet, heat 2-3 inches of oil to 360-365°F. Keep roughly in this range.
- Pinch balls of dough about the size of an egg. Roll out into thin sheets. Drop into oil and fry for 1-2 minutes per side or just until puffed and golden. (It may take less time depending on the oil temp and thickness)
- Drain on paper towels and immediately sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Serve and enjoy. (May brush with melted butter if desired, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.)
This recipe is awesome thank you for posting it!
Thank you so much!
Perfect, there's nothing like making these at home!
I agree, they're so fun to make, thanks!
What’s the difference from Native American Fry bread then this? Or is that just another name or version for similar!!
These have been called Elephant Ears for as long as I've been eating them, and that's decades. That said, I'm sure there are many variations that may have other names. The Native American Fry Bread that I've had is usually savory but again, that could vary wildly. At the end of the day, does it matter? Whatever people call them they're delicious.
These are called Beaver tails in Canada. Very popular in the Capital of Ottawa!
Love that name, too!
I think these would be fun to make while camping but I don't bring my kitchen aide with me and don't have a lot of room so I am wondering can you make the dough ahead of time? Maybe freeze it in the rounds then thaw out and use?
Hi Pam, you can make the dough in advance, sure. It freezes as well as any yeast-type bread dough. That's a fun idea!