Here’s my copycat recipe for the popular Pon de Ring Donut from Mr. Donut in Japan! They are soft, airy, bouncy, and chewy all at the same time! The mochi-like texture is unique and different from traditional donuts. Enjoy them with either a classic or matcha glaze.
When we talk about Japanese donuts, Pon de Ring Donuts (ポンデリング) from Mr. Donuts instantly comes top in my mind. Have you seen them before? Yeah, I’m talking about these slightly quirky, ‘baby teething ring’ looking donuts that hit the sweet spot when snack time is calling.
Besides the funky outlook, Pon de Ring Donuts have a unique chewy (we call it the mochi-mochi) texture that set them apart from the regular donuts. I will say that they are GOOD. And dangerous. My family is crazy about these donuts whenever we’re in Japan, so I’ve challenged myself to make them at home!
Table of Contents
- What is Pon de Ring?
- Pon de Ring vs. Mochi Donut
- Key Ingredients & Tools for Making Pon de Ring
- 5 Helpful Tips to Remember
What is Pon de Ring?
Pon de Ring (ポンデリング) is a Mister Donut’s signature donut in Japan, which is made of a connected circle of 8 dough balls. The name Pon de loosely came from Pao de Queijo, a popular savory Brazilian cheese ball made of tapioca flour.
In case you’re not familiar with Mister Donut, it is the largest donut chain in Japan with over 1,300 stores across Asian countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Thailand. What’s really interesting is Mister Donuts originated from the US and opened its first store in Osaka in 1971. While Japan’s Mister Donuts was expanding over the past four decades, almost all the Mister Donuts in the US changed their name over to Dunkin’ Donuts due to mergers and acquisitions.
You can find the classic Pon de Ring flavors (below) at almost every single Mister Donut in Japan and they also release many seasonal and unique flavors:
- Pon de Ring (with simple glaze)
- Pon de Kokuto (dusted with brown sugar)
- Pon de Strawberry (with strawberry glaze)
- Pon de Angel (cream-filled)
- Pon de Chocola (made with chocolate dough)
- and more!
If you’re curious about all the current and past donut flavors at Mister Donut, you can check out this official page (it’s in Japanese, but use Chrome to translate).
Pon de Ring vs. Mochi Donut
Some of you may be wondering if Pon de Ring is (or is similar to) Mochi Donut. But I have to tell you Pon de Ring is NOT Mochi Donut and here’s why.
Pon de Ring
- Made of tapioca flour and wheat flour (officially mentioned by Mister Donut)
- Soft, airy, bouncy, and chewy
- Made of glutinous rice flour
- Dense and chewy
- Not sold in Japan, but pretty popular in the US
As you can see, the ingredients and texture of these two donuts are very different. If you have tried Pon de Ring in Japan, you would be able to tell them apart. Even though some of the mochi donuts might look like a copycat of Pon de Ring.
In Japanese, we describe Pon de Ring’s mochi-like texture as mochi-mochi (モチモチしてる) or mocchiri (モッチリしている) texture, but it does not always mean that the food being described is made of mochi. For example, bagels with a chewy texture can be described as it has a mochi-like texture.
If you have tried and loved the texture of mochi donuts, check out Mandy’s website, Lady and Pups for the recipe. I’ve made it before and they were excellent.
My Pon de Ring Making Journey
* Please read, only if you’re interested.
Mr. JOC and I spent 2 weeks figuring out the Pon de Ring recipe, sometimes making donuts several times a day! Our focus from the beginning was to achieve the right airy but mochi-like texture of Pon de Ring. If we can’t make it the same due to lack of machinery or unnatural ingredients, we wanted to at least achieve the best possible quality.
Challenge #1: Choosing the right flour(s)
We started by working out the main ingredients – specifically flours. We tried the following flours in chronological order:
- glutinous rice flour only – It tasted like Mochi Donut, but not the same as Pon de Ring.
- glutinous rice flour + tofu (with different ratios) – You’ll find tons of Japanese “Pon de Ring-like (ポンデリング風)” recipes online using the glutinous rice flour and tofu combination, so I had to try at least once. Just like everyone claimed, this is almost Pon de Ring-like donuts but not quite right at all. Why tofu, you may ask? Any food made of rice (in this case, glutinous rice flour) becomes hard naturally when it’s cool. Adding tofu (and decreasing the rice component in the mixture) helps the texture to stay a bit softer.
- tapioca flour only – After further research, I learned that Mister Donut officially said Pon de Ring contains tapioca flour. So I tried making the donut with 100% tapioca flour but couldn’t achieve the right texture.
- glutinous rice flour + tapioca flour (with 3 different ratios) – I thought I should combine glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour and see what happens. The glutinous rice made the donuts denser as expected from our trials #1 and #2.
- all-purpose flour + tapioca flour (with different ratios) – We researched more. This time we found this YouTube video that allowed a camera to go into the Mister Donut’s kitchen. Mr. JOC saw a thermometer in the donut dough (see below) and he also remembered seeing a thermometer in the video clip that was looping inside Mister Donut in Japan. This was our turning point! We realized that they are a donut shop after all and also use flour and yeast for Pon de Ring, just like making other donuts! So we tested different ratios of flour and tapioca flour to find out the right texture.
- bread flour + tapioca flour – We also tried using bread flour (more gluten) to increase the bouncy texture. The donuts came out with a good mochi-mochi texture but they weren’t airy and light.
Challenge #2: Dealing with the sticky soft dough
In the YouTube video I mentioned earlier, you can see Mister Donut’s Pon de Ring dough is quite sticky and soft when kneading.
And the final stage of the dough (see below) is still pretty sticky and soft.
Mister Donut does not need to shape the dough into a Pon de Ring shape by hand. The machine squeezes out the dough to create its funky ring shape and shot directly into the hot oil. Obviously, I don’t have that machine in the kitchen and I will need to shape the sticky dough with my hands.
I tested all-purpose flour and tapioca flour ratios to see if I can achieve a dough that’s easier to deal with. However, the ratio for tapioca flour needs to be higher and it yields a pretty soft dough. When you increase the flours, the final texture of the donuts becomes denser and cakey. So I just learned to deal with the soft and sticky dough and figured out some tricks to shape the connected bubble ring of the donuts.
Key Ingredients & Tools for Making Pon de Ring
1. Tapioca Flour and All-Purpose Flour
When comes to baking and flour products, I highly recommend Bob’s Red Mill. The quality of the flours is unbeatable and I genuinely admire the company for their honest ingredients and the processes used in producing the products.
2. Instant Yeast
The two most common dry yeasts are Instant (Quick/Rapid-Rise) Yeast and Active Dry Yeast. You can read this detailed information about different types of yeasts.
The major difference is that active dry yeast always needs to be dissolved in warm liquids (water or milk) before use while instant yeast can be mixed right into the dough. For convenience, I like using Instant Yeast.
The two popular instant yeast brands are Red Star and Fleischmann’s and you can find them at grocery stores. I have tried both brands before, and for this recipe, I used Red Star Quick-Rise instant yeast to make my donuts.
After reading this page on instant yeast, I’ve decided to hydrate/dissolve my instant yeast (even though it’s not active dry yeast) in warm milk (110 ºF or 43 ºC – slightly warmer than body temperature) to give it a good start. It allows the yeast to become very active and ready to work in my dough.
3. Deep Frying Oil – Safflower Oil
From the Mister Donut website and other public articles online, we learned that their donuts are deep-fried in lard, and possibly a combination of other oils such as vegetable shortening. They are both saturated fats that stay solid at room temperature, which allows the donuts to stay crisp and not “wet” after deep frying.
As I wanted to avoid lard or vegetable shortening, we tried deep frying the donuts in our go-to oils for their neutral flavor and high smoke point – vegetable oil and canola oil. However, we did not like the vegetable oil taste that’s been left on the donuts.
After reading this article, we gave safflower oil a try and we agreed that it’s the best oil for frying donuts.
4. Pastry Card
To work with the sticky dough, I learned that this thin plastic pastry card (shown above) became very handy! If I was only using my fingertips, the dough sticks and grows spike tips everywhere I touch and loses its round shape.
This pastry card also helps to divide, scrape, and transfer the mini dough balls, and I didn’t let go from my right hand (except for the time when I was rolling the dough ball with my palms).
5. Thermaworks ChefAlarm
On the contrary, Mr. JOC loves “high tech” gadgets, and set up my deep frying station with our Thermaworks ChefAlarm. I started deep frying and noticed that ChefAlarm warns me when the oil temperature exceeds the low and high temperatures. I didn’t realize how super convenient and helpful it was until I got busy juggling deep-frying and glazing the hot donuts at the same time.
5 Helpful Tips to Remember
- Knead the dough well to activate the gluten – I highly recommend using a stand mixer to knead the sticky dough. To achieve mochi-mochi texture, a strong gluten needs to be formed. We did try kneading without a stand mixer but the final texture of the donut was not optimal.
- Try not to add too much flour – With tapioca flour being the majority of the ingredients, the dough should be soft. To get the ultimate texture for Pon de Ring, try not to add additional flours. I prepared 2 tablespoons of additional all-purpose flour to dust my work surface and my hands. However, I didn’t finish using all the extra flour.
- Don’t deep fry at high temperature – The optimal deep-frying temperature for Pon de Ring donuts is between 325 ºF (168 ºC) and 350 ºF (177 ºC). When the oil is too hot, the donuts will turn brown too soon and the texture of the donut skin gets too crispy. When the oil temperature is too low, the donuts don’t look appetizing and absorb too much oil.
- Use a paper towel to drain oil – From my countless recipe testings, I learned that draining oil on sheets of paper towels works better than on a wire rack. After draining, transfer the donuts to a wire rack to cool and glaze.
- Put glaze when donuts are still hot – You MUST glaze your Pon de Ring donuts while they are hot! The remaining heat from the donut spreads the glaze beautifully when you flip over. Don’t wait until you finish deep frying all the donuts. Multitask deep frying and glazing at the same time could be hectic so find a partner for this project.
For the donut fans and baking aficionados out there, I hope you would try your hand at Pon de Ring. The donut making was no doubt an endeavor, but we were glad that we perfected the recipe and the reward paid off. Otherwise, add the Pon de Ring donuts to your list of must-eats when you visit Japan.
Pon de Ring Donut
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
- 1 cup whole milk (heat to 110ºF or 43ºC–slightly warmer than body temperature; use whole milk for the best results; I do not recommend low-fat or skim milk)
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2½ cups tapioca flour (2½ cups + 2½ Tbsp for 24 donuts, to be precise; I strongly encourage you to use a kitchen scale; if you're using a measuring cup, please follow this method to measure; otherwise, the amount of flour tends to be more than you need; 1 cup should weigh 120 g)
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour (plain flour) (1¼ cups + 1 Tbsp for 24 donuts, to be precise; I strongly encourage you to use a kitchen scale; if you're using a measuring cup, please follow this method to measure; otherwise, the amount of flour tends to be more than you need; 1 cup should weigh 120 g)
- ½ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- 4 cups safflower oil (for deep-frying; see Notes for the amount of oil to use)
For the Glaze
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar/powdered sugar
- ¼ cup whole milk
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp matcha green tea powder (optional)
- Gather all the ingredients and measure everything ahead of time. I strongly encourage you to use a kitchen scale to measure my flours. Prepare one square of parchment paper for each donut you're making. Each square should measure 4 inches x 4 inches (10 x 10 cm). For this recipe, I DO NOT double/triple the recipe. Make in batches, if needed.
- Melt the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove and let it cool slightly. Crack the eggs in a bowl and beat them with a whisk. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl), combine the whole milk (110ºF or 43ºC–slightly warmer than body temperature) and instant yeast. Then, take ½ tsp sugar from the sugar you measured earlier for every 24 donuts you're making and add it to the milk and yeast. Whisk the mixture well. Set aside for 5-10 minutes. Note: If you wonder why I hydrated the instant yeast (even though it’s not active dry yeast), please read the post.
- Prepare a large mixing bowl and sift the tapioca flour and all-purpose flour through a fine-mesh sieve. Whisk to combine.
- Set the stand mixer with a flat beater attachment. Add the rest of the sugar and beaten egg to the milk mixture.
- Add the melted butter and vanilla.
- Beat on low speed (Speed 2 on my KitchenAid Professional HD stand mixer) for 1 minute until combined (or, stir with a wooden spoon).
- Add roughly 2 cups of the flour mixture and beat on low speed (Speed 2) until well combined.
- With the stand mixer running on low speed (Speed 2), add the salt and the remaining flour mixture one scoop at a time. Set aside the mixing bowl that the flour mixture was in for the next step (you'll put the dough in it). Meanwhile, you'll notice that the dough mixture has thickened.
To Knead the Dough
- Now, increase to medium-high speed (Speed 6) and knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Note that this is a sticky dough, so do not add additional flour. Tip: Kneading develops the structure of the dough by folding and stretching the strands of gluten. Hand Kneading: Because of the wet nature of this dough, it’s hard to knead the dough by hand. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of flour if it’s too wet to handle, but do not add any more flour than that. Knead by hand for 5-6 minutes.
- While the dough is kneading in the mixer, add a little oil to the large mixing bowl that held the flour mixture and grease it with a paper towel.
- Stop the mixer after 3 or 4 minutes or when the dough is smooth. The dough should be sticky and stretchy when you remove the flat beater from the mixer.
To Proof the Dough
- Using a dough scraper, scrape down the dough from the sides of the stand mixer bowl. Collect the dough into one big mass, then gently scrape it into the greased bowl. The key here is to make sure the surface of the dough is mostly smooth (so that it will rise well). Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a clean shower cap) and place it in a warm environment to rise until doubled, about 70-80 minutes. I use the Proof setting of my oven at 100ºF (38ºC). I place a bowl of warm/hot water inside the oven, but away from the dough, to keep the oven environment moist. Tip: Make sure the proof temperature is not too high. If the dough gets too warm, it will ferment too quickly (or overferment) and impair the flavor.
- After 70-80 minutes, pour the oil into the Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot (see Notes for the amount of oil to use). If you have a thermometer, set it up. I used ThermoWork’s ChefAlarm. A clip attaches the probe to the side of the Dutch oven, holding it securely in place and keeping it from flopping around. Set the alarm on your thermometer to a low of 325ºF (168ºC) and a high of 350ºF (177ºC).
- In a medium bowl, combine all the glaze ingredients except for the matcha powder. Whisk it really well to make sure there are no lumps of confectioners’ sugar. Keep the matcha powder to the side for now.
- The image below shows that the dough has doubled in size after 75 minutes of proofing.
To Shape the Dough Balls
- Prepare 1-2 Tbsp of all-purpose flour and put it at the corner of your work surface. Lightly flour the work surface and your hands.
- Using the dough scraper, remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to the lightly floured surface. Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough and press the dough down with your hands to release any air bubbles.
- Use the dough scraper to form the dough into a rough log shape. Cut the log into two equal pieces.
- Set one piece of dough on your work surface. Shape the other piece into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Cut the piece on your work surface into quarters and roll them into balls. Work with one dough ball at a time, and keep the other balls under plastic wrap so they don't dry out.
- Each dough ball will make roughly 3 Pon de Ring donuts. Using the dough scraper, cut the first dough ball into 24 small balls. Each ball size should be ½ to ¾ inch (1.5 cm) in diameter. If you have a digital kitchen scale, each ball should weigh 5 grams.
- Roll each small dough ball between your hands, but try not to spend too much time. Overkneaded dough often results in a hard crust and a dense, dry interior. Since the dough is very sticky, the dough scraper is very helpful for picking up each piece of dough.
To Form the Donuts
- Now, form the donuts. Use one square of parchment paper to hold each donut. Using the dough scraper, transfer one ball at a time to the parchment square, forming a ring as you go. You will need 8 balls to make a Pon de Ring shape.
- The total weight of the Pon de Ring should be roughly 40 grams (8 balls at 5 g each).
- Continue with the rest of the dough.
- To make sure the balls won’t separate in the hot oil, use a pastry brush to dab water on the dough where each ball attaches to the neighboring one (make sure they are connected). Cover the donuts with a damp paper towel or light cloth (make sure it’s not heavy) and allow them to rest for 15-20 minutes. Continue with the rest of the dough. If you are taking a very long time, it’s very helpful to work with a partner or keep the donuts in the refrigerator to slow down the proofing so the dough doesn't overproof.
- When you’re finishing up with the last batch of dough, start heating the oil in the Dutch oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line one baking sheet with a paper towel. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and put a wire rack on top.
- Pick up one parchment square with a donut ring on top. Using your hand or fine-mesh skimmer (the kind that has a flat mesh), carefully place the donut with the parchment paper into the hot oil.
- Let go of the donut and paper and set the timer for 1 minute 15 seconds for the first side. Tip: Only add enough donuts for a 5-10 degree drop in temperature. I only add 2 donuts per batch. If the oil cools down too much, the donuts won’t fry properly.
- When the timer beeps, flip the donuts quickly using chopsticks or tongs. Fry the second side for 45 seconds; set a timer. Using tongs or chopsticks, carefully remove the parchment square from the donut and discard.
- When the 45-second timer beeps, scoop up the donuts with the skimmer or tongs and drain the oil well. Then, transfer to the paper towel to drain any additional oil. Repeat with the remaining donuts, then turn off the heat.
- While the donuts are still hot, dip each one into the glaze, making sure to coat both sides well.
- Place the glazed donuts onto the prepared rack to allow the excess glaze to drip down. The glaze will set and harden on the donuts after 30 minutes.
- After making 12 glazed donuts, you can add the matcha to the leftover glaze. Whisk really well to combine.
- Dip each donut into the matcha glaze, making sure to coat well. Place them onto the rack to allow the excess glaze to drip down. The glaze will set and harden on the donuts after 30 minutes.
- Just like any other deep-fried food, it’s best to eat the donuts while they are warm. Enjoy!
- Enjoy the donuts on the same day you made them. You can keep them at room temperature for a day in an airtight container. Reheat in the microwave for 15-20 seconds before eating.
- Oil: Avoid using vegetable oil (read my post). Please adjust the amount of the oil based on how wide and tall your pot is. My Dutch oven is 3.5 QT and I used 1 QT (1000 ml, 4 cups) of safflower oil. The Dutch oven is heavy and thick, and it conducts and retains heat very efficiently. The high sides also help prevent splatters during frying. What to do with leftover oil? Please read this post.
- Helpful Tools: Stand mixer, dough scraper/pastry card, kitchen scale, thermometer, Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Please read the post.