The Ancient Greek Dessert That Beats Donuts At Their Own Game

Greece is beloved for its traditional dishes that boast flavorful spices, hearty grilled meats, and fresh fish and vegetables — but its desserts are not to be overlooked. Walk the streets of downtown Athens or stroll through one of Greece's many drop-dead-gorgeous islands, and you'll find no shortage of delightful sweets, pastries, cakes, and puddings that give scrumptious a new meaning.

If you love donuts, there's one Greek dessert that just might blow your mind: loukoumades. These tiny balls of deep-fried dough are not only steeped in sugary goodness, but also in history — believed by some to be the first-ever dessert recorded in writing by the Greek poet Callimachus, who referred to the bite-sized sweets as "honey tokens."

Made with a yeasty, pastry-like dough, loukoumades are rolled into bite-sized orbs, then deep-fried to achieve an irresistible golden crispness. After frying, they're typically immersed in a luscious honey syrup, enhancing their inherent sweetness and lending them a distinctive Greek flair. Think of them as Greece's answer to donut holes, but with an undeniably superior taste.

Loukoumades: the original donut holes

Before there were Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins, there were loukoumades. And we're talking long before — some claim that these tiny treats hit the scene as far back as 776 B.C., when they were served to the lucky winners of the inaugural Greek Olympic Games.

Their origin may be debated, but their deliciousness is not. Today, you'll find the poppable street food pretty much anywhere you go in Greece, and most likely served up at any concert, fair, or festival in the country. But various versions of loukoumades are also enjoyed throughout the Balkans as well as Persia, Egypt, Turkey, and Italy.

Served warm, loukoumades are puffy, fluffy, and exploding with syrupy sweetness. After they're soaked in a honey syrup, they're usually dusted off in delicious toppings like cinnamon, chopped walnuts or pistachios, chocolate glaze, or toasted sesame seeds. These sweet bite-sized treats take everything you love about donuts and make them a whole lot more delicious.

How to make loukoumades at home

If you don't think you'll make it over to Greece anytime soon, don't worry — you can bring Greece home and make loukoumades in your own kitchen. The best part? These magical fried honey puffs only require a handful of ingredients, and you most likely already have them in your pantry.

To make loukoumades, you need 1 cup of lukewarm water, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of active dry yeast, 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1 cup of lukewarm milk, and 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. First, you'll mix the water, yeast, and sugar, and after the yeast is foamy and activated, you'll add the rest of your ingredients to make the dough. Knead it until it's smooth, and then wrap the dough and let it rest and rise until it doubles in size.

From there, you simply roll the dough into small balls (about the size of a golf ball) and deep fry them in some hot frying oil, turning them for around 2 to 3 minutes until they're crispy and golden. Once you have your fried dough balls, you can soak them while they're still hot in a cooled honey syrup (a simple syrup made from honey, water, and sugar) and roll them in crushed nuts or sprinkle with cinnamon or sugar.