These fried sourdough discard funnel cakes are so much fun to make! They're crispy and golden brown but so light and fluffy on the inside with just a bit of tangy flavor from the sourdough.
My go-to recipe for sourdough discard has always been my sourdough discard scallion pancakes. But I recently found myself wanting to do something sweet with my sourdough discard instead.
These fried sourdough discard funnel cakes totally hit the spot.
Funnel cakes are my faaaaavorite food at carnivals and fairs. The swirly ropes of deep fried batter, the fact that you have to eat them quickly, can eat them on the go, they're great for sharing, the infinitely customizable toppings... they're just fun!
In researching this post, I was delighted to learn that the modern version of the funnel cake actually originated in my home state of Pennsylvania in the Pennsylvania-Dutch community.
I also love funnel cakes because they're just like, the ultimate practical festival food. The batter is simple and so easy to make in bulk, and they take less than 2 minutes to fry to golden brown perfection.
Funnel cakes are a brilliantly simple and economical food to make when you need to feed that many people and feed them quickly.
Making funnel cakes with sourdough discard actually makes them completely impractical in a carnival scenario — you'd need SO MUCH DISCARD to make that many funnel cakes.
But this is a small batch funnel cake recipe for you to make at home, and is a very practical way use your sourdough discard instead of throwing it away!
Fried sourdough discard funnel cakes are made from a batter that's really similar to pancake batter. No speciality ingredients here! You probably have almost everything you need to make them in your kitchen already.
- Sourdough discard - Fed or unfed sourdough starter/discard works. The longer it's been since you last fed your starter the stronger the sourdough flavor will be.
- Flour - All purpose flour is fine, you don't need anything fancy for these.
- Sugar - For a more intense sourdough flavor, cut the amount of sugar in half.
- Milk - Whole milk preferred, but any milk you have is fine. Get it to room temperature by microwaving in 5-7 second bursts, stirring in between.
- Egg - One large egg. To quickly get it to room temperature, submerge it in hot water while you get the rest of the ingredients out.
- Baking powder - This is what helps the funnel cake batter puff up in the oil.
- Salt - I use diamond kosher crystal salt, which is half as salty as other brands of salt. If you're using a different brand, cut the amount of salt in half.
- Vanilla - Extract, paste, or the seeds of a whole vanilla bean.
- Powdered sugar - For dusting!
- Neutral oil - Peanut, canola, vegetable oil - nothing fancy! You just need enough for the funnel cakes to be able to float at least an inch off the bottom of the pan. That will depend on the size of your pan, but I'd suggest you want at least 5 cups of oil.
Instructions - How to Make Funnel Cakes!
Developing the batter for these fried sourdough discard funnel cakes was simple — probably one of the easiest recipes I've worked on.
You basically just whisk your liquid ingredients together, then whisk your dry ingredients together, and then mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Then you let the batter rest to activate the baking powder before frying.
What really took some troubleshooting was figuring out the best way to actually fry these funnel cakes. The ropes of batter have a tendency to spread out and fill the whole surface of whatever pot you're using, which makes them hard to flip without splashing hot oil everywhere.
My solution is to leave a wire spider resting in the pan of oil; The edges of the wire spider just barely break the surface and keep the batter contained as it floats. If you're using a deeper pot you may want to float a ring of aluminum foil on the surface of the oil to keep the batter contained instead.
Like I said, this is a small batch funnel cakes recipe. How big you want to make your funnel cakes will change the size of your batch. You can make fewer larger ones, or many small ones.
Sourdough Funnel Cake Toppings
My favorite way to serve my fried sourdough discard funnel cakes is with powdered sugar and fresh strawberries, but you can definitely get creative. Any combination of these toppings would be delish:
- Chocolate sauce or hot fudge
- Caramel or butterscotch sauce
- Whipped cream
- Cinnamon sugar
- Toasted nuts
- Fruit jam
- A scoop of ice cream
- Chocolate chips
- Crushed cookie bits
- Dark chocolate balsamic vinegar or a fruit-flavored balsamic vinegar
- Lemon zest
- Chopped candy
What do you like topping your funnel cakes with? Let me know in the comments!
There are a few special tools you'll need to make these sourdough discard funnel cakes at home. I've also suggested some alternate options below. Sourdough discard funnel cakes really are so easy to make, if you don't have the perfect tool for the job you probably have something similar that will work just as well.
- Immersion blender - Though, honestly, a whisk works just as well.
- Wire spider - The size of your wire spider will determine the size of your funnel cakes and will keep your fried funnel cake batter from spreading out into the rest of the pan. It's also the best tool for flipping and removing the funnel cakes from the hot oil with minimal splashing. You can also use a 6" cake ring or make a ring out of aluminum foil to help contain the batter, as long as it breaks the surface of the oil.
- Funnel or batter dispenser - I got the best results with this Winco plastic funnel. This is where funnel cakes get their name! A gravity-based pancake batter dispenser or piping bag will also work.
- Wide, shallow skillet with straight sides - You'll need at least 2-3" of oil for frying.
- Candy thermometer - It's really important you know the temperature of your oil and adjust as needed to maintain 350°F. If the oil is too hot the batter will cook before it can stick to itself, if the oil is too cool the ropes of batter lose their definition and will stick to the wire spider.
- Sheet pan with cooling rack inside - Line the sheet pan with paper towels to catch any dripping oil from the finished funnel cakes.
- Small wire mesh strainer or powdered sugar duster
A Few Expert Recipe Notes
- I recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh your starter, milk, and flour for this recipe. It's sooo small batch that if you have even 10 more grams of flour than the recipe calls for the batter will be too thick to move through the funnel easily. Read more in my post on why a kitchen scale is worth it for better baking.
- My sourdough starter is 100% hydration, meaning I feed it equal parts flour and water. If you feed your starter at a lower or higher hydration you might have to add more milk or flour to get to the right pourable consistency for the funnel cake batter.
- Fried sourdough discard funnel cakes are best eaten IMMEDIATELY. Don't burn yourself, obviously, but they're not meant to sit around waiting for you.
- How much batter you need for each fried sourdough discard funnel cake will depend a bit on the size of your wire spider. I found that a little less than ¼ cup of batter was perfect for me, but you may need to adjust!
- This is a relatively small batch funnel cake recipe. It will make about 5-6 funnel cakes, depending on the size of your funnel cakes and how much batter you use for each one.
- Wait about 30-60 seconds after the funnel cakes come out of the oil before dusting with powdered sugar. If they're still too wet the powdered sugar will melt right into the batter.
fried sourdough discard funnel cakes FAQ
No, you cannot. An air fryer is basically a convection oven and it won't cook the outside of the batter fast enough. You'll end up with flat pancakes.
Replace the sourdough starter with equal parts milk and flour (50g flour + 50g milk), or just go use a recipe for a traditional funnel cake! Maintaining a sourdough starter takes work — I don't recommend getting sourdough starter just so you can make these.
¼ cup plain yogurt, or ¼ cup applesauce whisked really well to remove any lumps.
If your batter is too thick, add a splash of milk and whisk well. If your batter is too thin, whisk in additional flour. Keep adjusting as needed until you get the right consistency!
Nope. Funnel cake is a fried batter. If you baked it like a cake you'd end up with something closer to a breakfast pancake than a cake.
You want something with an opening at least ¼" wide. You also want to be able to get a fairly continuous rope of batter and let gravity do most of the work, so you don't want something you have to keep releasing and squeezing again. An empty ketchup bottle would work well, but something finer than that will be too thin.
fried sourdough discard funnel cakes
- 100 grams sourdough starter discard (a rounded ⅓ cup)
- 80 grams all-purpose flour (⅔ cup, scooped loosely and leveled off)
- 70 grams milk (¼ cup + 2 tsp)
- 1 large egg (room temperature)
- 25 grams sugar (2 TBSP)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt (use ⅛ teaspoon of another brand)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla (extract or paste)
- powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Combine sourdough discard, milk, egg, and vanilla with an immersion blender until no streaks or lumps of sourdough starter or egg remain.
- Add dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) to wet ingredients and blend well until combined. Cover and rest 30 minutes.
- Heat about 3" of neutral oil to 350°F in a wide, high-sided skillet with a candy thermometer attached.
- Arrange a cooling rack over paper towels in a sheet pan and set next to the stove.
- Insert a wire spider into the oil so that the rim of the spider breaks the surface of the oil.
- Plug the bottom of the funnel with your finger and fill the funnel with about ¼ cup batter. Drizzle batter into the center of the wire spider in circular squiggle patterns using the funnel. Fry for 1 minute, then flip with the wire spider and fry an additional 30 seconds, or until golden brown on both sides.
- Remove funnel cakes to cooling rack. Let rest 10-15 seconds, then dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
- For a more intense sourdough flavor cut the amount of sugar in half.
- Don't have an immersion blender? A whisk works just as well.
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