Ever heard of a sweet potato donut? Peru has, and you won't be sorry you tried it!



Oh, boy! Fried foods are right up there with bread and cheese combinations for me. In fact, I’m sure they are for many people, which is what inspired my “How the World Eats Fried Foods” episode. And when I saw a recipe for sweet potato donuts called picarones, I couldn’t resist.

This picarones recipe comes from Andrea, who lives in Ontario but is originally from Peru. Made from pumpkin, yeast, beer, flour, sugar, lemon, brown sugar, and anise seed, these donuts immediately seemed different from all the rest. Andrea grew up in Canada while most of her family remained in Peru, so their infrequent visits were always special. She has fond memories of bonding with her relatives over picarones during trips to Peru.

The fried dough used to make picarones is made from squash or sweet potato, and the final product is served with a spiced syrup made from chancaca (a solid brick of brown sugar) cooked down with orange peel, cinnamon, and cloves. The complexity of flavors—anise seed in the batter, the squash with the sweet potato, the molasses flavor with chancaca—make a unique combination that is distinctly Peruvian. The idea of this fall-inspired donut with a brown sugar citrus syrup sounded irresistible, and I was right!

My picarones were a beautiful golden brown color with a crispy exterior and a soft, moist interior. On their own, the donuts were not very sweet due to the use of beer and yeast, but the brown sugar syrup perfectly complemented this delicious base. I could eat an entire plate of these on my own!

When you make this, be sure to watch the dough as it fries; I recommend using a spoon to keep the holes intact. Once you’re done, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy this classic fried food with a tall glass of milk. It’s the perfect evening snack!  

Watch the Video


For donuts

  • 1 Tbsp dry baking yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp ground cornmeal
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp crushed anise seeds
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato or cooked butternut squash or pumpkin
  • oil for frying

For syrup

  • 1-2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 lemon or orange peel shreds


For donut dough

  • Dissolve sugar and yeast in the warm water, use a small bowl for this.
  • Mix cornmeal, salt, anise seed, 1 cup flour and beer in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and mix.
  • Add sweet potato (or squash or pumpkin) and 2 cups of flour. Mix together to form a soft dough texture.
  • Cover with a towel and let the mixture rise in a warm place for around 2 hours. You can also let the mixture rise in the refrigerator for 4 to 12 hours if covered with film.

For syrup

  •  Add the Syrup ingredients in a saucepan and leave to boil over medium heat level. Reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer until a thick syrup forms after 15 minutes or so. Remove saucepan from heat.

To fry donuts

  • Heat oil in a dutch oven or deep fryer. Drop tablespoons of dough into hot oil and fry until crispy golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with hot syrup.


Recipe inspired by kiwilimón
Course: Dessert, Snack
Region: Latin America
Keyword: Comfort food


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