Bunyols de vent (Catalan doughnuts)


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Bunyols de vent (not to be confused with Bunyols de Quaresma) are enjoyed across Catalonia on All Saints’ Day (Tots Sants). The day is a bank holiday and is dedicated to the memory of the deceased, particularly one’s ancestors.

Even though All Saints’ Day is one of the oldest festivals in the Christian world, it’s not that well known outside Christian communities. That might be because it’s sandwiched between two better-known, more marketable holy days: Halloween and All Souls' Day on the 2nd of November.

It is custom for the living to visit the dead on the 1st of November with many families parading up and down cemeteries across the country, cleaning graves and arranging flowers. Then the dead supposedly visit the living on the following day. It’s all very intimate and celebrations are held privately with family.

The origin of bunyols, however, is not strictly Christian. Sephardi Jews were making these lovely fried morsels to celebrate Janucá (Hanukkah) as far back as the 10th century – they called them bimuelos. Christians did what Christians do best and adopted them to celebrate All Saints' Day, due to both being celebrated at a similar time of year.

From the end of October, bunyols can be seen in most bakeries and children will even make them in school to bring home. Mums and grandmothers make batch after batch of the sugary treats (this is my mother-in-law's recipe) and they will tell you the trick is to keep the oil temperature just right – too low and the dough will sink to the bottom of the pan, too high and the bunyols will develop a crust which will make it impossible for them to expand.

The 'de vent' or 'made of wind' epithet is because bunyols can (and do) expand to twice their size when fried. They are airy and wonderful so it’s quite easy to get carried away and eat a dozen of them before you feel like you may have over-indulged. They are definitely better enjoyed with a tall glass of ratafia, a herb-based liqueur from Catalonia.




  • 250ml of milk
  • 50g of sugar
  • 50g of unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 200g of self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 100ml of ratafia, (if you can't get hold of ratafia, you can use rum or any aniseed-flavoured liqueur like Sambuca or Pastis)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • vegetable oil, for frying
Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan with the sugar, butter, pinch of salt and the lemon zest
Once boiling, add the flour and work the dough with a wooden spoon. When the dough is smooth and it doesn’t stick to the sides, remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to cool
When the dough has cooled down, add the eggs one at a time and combine thoroughly. Add the ratafia (or liqueur of your choice) and mix into the dough
Leave the dough to rest for half an hour
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and take a tiny portion of the mixture with a metal spoon. Work the mixture into a ball with the help of another spoon
Drop the ball carefully into the oil and fry the bunyol until golden. The bunyols will double in size. Be careful not to heat the oil too much, otherwise the bunyols will be raw inside when cooked on the outside. It should be a gentle fry
Drop the other bunyols into the pan being careful not to overcrowd it. The bunyols will turn on their own once each side is cooked, but keep an eye to ensure they are golden all over
Once the bunyols are cooked, remove them from the frying pan and place them on kitchen paper to drain. When they are still ever-so-slightly oily, roll them in sugar
Leave to cool for at least an hour before eating them. If you try them while warm they will seem undercooked!
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