Where Is My Spoon Recipes Romanian Cooking Romanian Cakes and Desserts Romanian Fried Cheese Doughnuts – Papanasi
romanian papanasi oozing with sour cream and jam
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Last Updated on 11/07/2020 by Adina

Traditional Romanian fried doughnuts – papanasi (papanash) – made with cottage cheese and topped with smetana and jam.

Romanian Cheese Doughnuts – Papanasi

These papanasi or Romanian fried donuts/doughnuts are the best donuts ever!!! Soft yet crunchy, oozing with sour cream and blueberry jam, ever bite is a complete delight. No wonder that they are the most popular Romanian dessert!

I am not a doughnut person generally, I buy them rarely and make them myself once every five years or so, I would say. It is not that I don’t like them at all, but at least not as much as to ever crave them unless I see a scrumptious photograph on one of my favorite blogs.

But what I do crave from time to time are these papanasi (pronounced papanash).

These cheese doughnuts topped with jam are one of the best known Romanian desserts, something you will probably find on the menu of every Romanian restaurant out there.

They are quick and easy to make and utterly delicious, something that both children and grown-ups will love.

I am telling you, if you tried them once, you will remember them for the rest of your life, and you will probably look for a recipe and try to make them yourself at home. They are that good!

Romanian Cheese Doughnuts – Papanasi

What are papanasi?

  • They are a typical Romanian dessert, basically cheese doughnuts. There are two kinds of Romanian fried doughnuts: fried or boiled papanasi.
  • Both kinds are made with the Romanian branza de vaci, which means cow’s cheese. Branza de vaci is a fresh kind of cheese, low in fat, and high in protein. It has a soft consistency and a mild and fresh taste. It is similar to cottage cheese, but a little milder I would say.
  • However, branza de vaci is a typical Romanian product, something that I cannot buy in Germany.
  • It was my dear cousin, Georgiana, who gave me this recipe for papanasi and suggested to use cottage cheese instead of branza de vaci. So I did try to make papanasi with cottage cheese and it worked wonderfully.
  • The only adjustment I had to make was the amount of flour I used. My cousin told me that the dough will be soft and sticky, but I should definitely not add any extra flour except the flour needed to roll the papanasi on the working surface.
  • I really did try to follow her advice, but it would not work at all, the papanasi were sticky beyond description and did not hold together long enough for me to throw them in the oil.
  • The reason was the amount of water contained by the typical German cottage cheese, which is much higher than the amount of water contained by branza de vaci. I realized that after searching for pictures of the Romanian cheese and seeing its much drier consistency.
  • So I added a little bit more flour, not much, just enough to make the dough “workable” and the Romanian fried doughnuts or papanasi came out wonderfully.
Romanian Cheese Doughnuts – Papanasi

How to serve?

  • I served them just as they are supposed to be served, as a Romanian dessert after a light Romanian soup for 6 adults and 2 kids and everybody just loved them. Not only loved them but could not stop talking about them a long time after the meal was finished.
  • The papanasi are best served immediately, still warm and they would not be papanasi if they would not be topped with smetana and a runny, sweet blueberry jam.
  • Smetana is a typical Romanian and Eastern European dairy product, similar to crème fraiche. It is made by souring heavy cream and has a somewhat lower fat content than crème fraiche, between 10% and 30%.
  • I usually buy the German version with 20 % fat (Schmand) or the smetana found in the Russian store, which comes even closer to the Romanian version. However, if you cannot find real smetana, crème fraiche would be a good substitute in this case.
Romanian Cheese Doughnuts – Papanasi
  • When it comes to the jam, the papanasi are usually served with blueberry jam, but of course, you can have them with any jam you like, I think sour cherry, blackberry, black currants would be all great alternatives.
  • What I pay attention to is the consistency of the jam, for papanasi I prefer a rather runny jam with whole fruits. Finely cut, sturdy kind of jams or jellies won’t do in this case, the jam has to be runny, slide down the sides of the papanasi and make little pools of jam on the plate… 🙂 Yummm!
Romanian Cheese Doughnuts – Papanasi

Other very popular Romanian desserts:

Salam de biscuiti – Biscuit Chocolate Salami

Spuma de capsuni – Romanian Strawberry Foam

Cremeschnitte – Vanilla Creme Pie

Crema de zahar ars – Creme Brulee

Ciocolata de casa – Romanian Homemade Chocolate

Romanian Cheese Doughnuts – Papanasi

Romanian Cheese Doughnuts – Papanasi

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Traditional Romanian fried doughnuts – papanasi (papanash) - made with cottage cheese and topped with smetana and jam.


  • 500 g/ 1.1 lbs/ 2 ¼ cups cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • a few drops rum aroma
  • 75 g/ 2.6 oz/ 1/3 + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar
  • 230 – 250 g/ 8.1 – 8.8 oz / about 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • cooking oil for frying the doughnuts
  • 250 g/ 8.8 oz smetana/ about 1 cup (or crème fraiche) to serve
  • whole fruit runny blueberry jam to serve (or sour cherry, blackberry, black currants jam etc)


  1. Drain the excess water from the cottage cheese. Place the cottage cheese into a bowl. Add the eggs and the rum aroma, the granulated, and vanilla sugar. With an immersion blender, blend the ingredients until you obtain a rough paste. The cottage cheese should not be turned into a smooth paste, just blended a little bit in order to make the cheese balls a little finer.
  2. Mix about 230 g/ 8.1 oz of the flour and the baking soda and add them to the cheese mixture. Mix with a spoon.
  3. Flour the working surface and your hands generously. Turn the dough onto the floured surface and knead it lightly to form a ball. The dough should still be somewhat sticky, yet manageable. Add the remaining flour only if absolutely necessary, only if the dough sticks so much that you will not be able to work it at all.
  4. Divide the dough into 9 balls. Roll 8 of the balls into thick sausages and unite the sausage ends to get a circle with a hole in the middle. Use the last ball to make 8 little balls, which will be used to top the papanasi.
  5. In the meantime, heat the oil in a pot. Use enough oil to have about 10 cm/ 4 inches of it in the pot. To check if the oil has reached the right temperature, insert a toothpick in the oil, if there are blisters forming around the toothpick, you can start frying the papanasi.
  6. Only fry two or three papanasi at a time, depending on the size of your pan, do not overcrowd the pan, the papanasi should be able to move around freely. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Turn the doughnuts with a slotted spoon a few times in between and fry until the papanasi are golden brown. It took me about 5 to 7 minutes for one batch, but keep a close look and take them out as soon as they have a nice golden color. Or leave them longer if necessary. The little balls will need less time, about 3-4 minutes or so.
  7. Place them on plates lined with kitchen paper and pat them dry in order to absorb some of the excess oil.
  8. Serve warm topped with smetana and blueberry jam. Place the little balls on top and top them with a little smetana and jam as well.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 304Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 425mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 13g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.


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Anca 12/02/2017 - 12:06

They look delicious!! I’m not a fan of fried doughnuts, but I love papanasi, it has a different texture and they aren’t as oily.

In UK we have sour cream and that is similar to the Romanian smantana, same consistency and a slightly sour taste. I made papanasi with cottage cheese and soft cheese and I think I like the soft cheese version better. Not sure if these options are similar in Germany though.

CLAUDIA CAMPEAN 11/01/2020 - 05:16

the smetana you are talking about ,really is sour cream”smantana”

Amalia 21/01/2020 - 20:10

I was wondering whether we could replace cottage cheese with some like ricotta?

Adina 21/01/2020 - 23:48

Hi Amalia. I’ve never tried ricotta, but other readers were talking about using cream cheese. Maybe that works.

Gabriela 19/09/2020 - 01:12

My mom only makes it with ricotta. We are Romanians

[email protected]'s Recipes 12/02/2017 - 13:19

They look amazing! Wish I could still enjoy those without a 2nd thought! You know…waist line wouldn’t love it…

KR 12/02/2017 - 16:59

This for me something realy new and interesting. Thank you for sharing !

Kate @ Framed Cooks 12/02/2017 - 21:46

Cheese and donuts all in the same treat? I am in!!!

Valentina | The Baking Fairy 13/02/2017 - 00:39

These are so gorgeous and they sound very yummy! I love donuts but I can’t say that I’ve ever had papanasi. I will have to try making them soon! 🙂

Brie 13/02/2017 - 15:40

Dessert as a main is a fabulous idea!

These grown-up donuts are fantastic, I can imagine how delicious they are balanced by the tangy creme and saucy blueberry jam. Wish I could grab that fork and snag a bite right now!

grace 13/02/2017 - 18:06

the little balls on top are a great finishing touch! this sounds like a very delicious thing to put into one’s mouth. 🙂

Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary 13/02/2017 - 19:43

Oh wow, these are such pretty doughnuts, girlfriend!!! SOOO perfect for Valentines Day! I’ve never had Romanian doughnuts before, but they look amazing! LOVE the cottage cheese in here!!! Can’t wait to try these! Cheers!

Laura Dembowski 13/02/2017 - 22:26

I have a weakness for doughnuts, but it is so hard to find good ones. I finally made my own last year and fell in love. It’s time to give these a try. They look heavenly.

Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table 13/02/2017 - 23:34

I’ve never had doughnuts like this but now I really want to try them! The flavors sound amazing!!

Chris Scheuer 14/02/2017 - 01:20

Wow, never heard of papanasi before but so happy to get acquainted! They sound wonderful!

Evi @ greenevi 15/02/2017 - 10:25

These doughnuts look great! I love that jam topping, it’s so indulgent <3

Marvellina 16/02/2017 - 04:32

Sinful but I really would love to sink my teeth on this decadent papanasi

Kim | Low Carb Maven 16/02/2017 - 17:37

Adina, I have always thought that your recipes and photos were tremendous. You never disappoint. I would love to try these. Perhaps I’ll make them for my children and take a bite. Spectacular. Yummed and starred!

Ioana 23/04/2017 - 18:05

I tried to do pspanasi for the 3rd time in my life and your receipe is from far the best I ever tried! I had the same issue of not finding romanian branza de vaci so used 200gr cottage with 200gr creamy cheese. Absolutely amazing, probably the best I ever ate! Thanks for sharing!

Adina 23/04/2017 - 19:18

Hi Ioana. I am so glad to read your comment, thank you for the feedback. I will try the combination with cream cheese as well next time I make papanasi.

Iulia 05/01/2018 - 00:20

Can I use cream cheese?

Adina 05/01/2018 - 11:07

Hi Iulia. I’ve never used cream cheese for the papanasi, but I heard that other people do that and it works. If you do try it, let me know. 🙂

Max 07/03/2018 - 17:11

Does it mean 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon of sugar or 1 and 1/3 tablespoons??

Adina 07/03/2018 - 17:50

Hi Max. 1|3 cup and 1 tablespoon.

Mihaela 29/07/2018 - 19:12

Tried your recipe, a disaster from A to Z. I am blaming it on the miserable cottage cheese I used, which had the usual American crap added to it. I thought I’d give it a try since I had bought it with this thing in mind. I managed to shpae the suckers, even rolled the balls, and had them in the freezer for about 15 mins. thinking theyl ll better keep their shape in the hot oil. I guess the oil was too hot, so I ended up with black bith of burned batter in the pan and allover the doughnuts…had to scrape off the damned things because did not want to feed my son all that nasty stuff. Unless someone tells me exactly what kind of oil to use and at what temp. to fry them, I will not attempt this again…every single restaurant in Romania was offering this scrumptious desert, and It was perect looking, just like in your pictures. Todya was definitely not my day for this. Poor kid ate them ( what ca be bad with cream and chocolate syrup( nutella mixed with whipping cream ) on top?

Adina 29/07/2018 - 20:21

So sorry, Mihaela. I don’t know what to say about the American cottage cheese, here it is kept pretty simple, just the cheese and some salt. Maybe it is too wet and that is why they don’t keep the shape? maybe draining the cheese would help, if that is the case.
I heard about making the papanasi with cream cheese as well, but I have never tried it because it always worked so well with cottage cheese. Regarding the oil, I use regular canola oil, nothing special. I never used a thermometer, I stick a skewer in the oil and if I see bubbles around it, than I know that the oil is hot enough. If the first doughnut is too dark, than the oil is too hot. Take the pot off the heat for a few moments to allow it to cool down a bit and turn the heat lower, they should fry rather slowly, that will allow them to cook inside without getting burned on the outside. Maybe you try it again some day, they are so good and kids love them.

Mihaela 30/07/2018 - 20:07

Thanks for replying so soon and sorry for my typos in the previous comment. I usually read the ingredients but this time I was looking at the fat content (4% is all you can wish for), and curd size, and once I found the large size 4% I was happy enough and forgot about the rest! Even the organic kind might have added stuff to it.. It would have been pointless to try draining that thing, they add thickening agents which I am not even trying to spell, and other chemicals . If I keep the oil at lower temps they don’t get dark but the inside remains uncooked, that’s my problem with regular dough (gogosi) as well (actually I did try it with tis batch and had them in the oil for less than 5 mins for sure, but still ended up with nasty bits of carbon on them, perhaps using 5 inches of oil instead of 2 would have been better….I guess practice makes better, and I need to do some research about what oil is best for frying, they have all kinds of blends on the shelves here in teh US. Still not a fan of frying things but once in a while, if done well, it’s worth the effort..or maybe I should just forget all about it and go visit Romania more often!

Mark 10/09/2018 - 18:30

Wow! Just had two huge papanasi in Sighisoara – my first taste ever. It was almost the dessert that beat me – almost. Lovin’ my first trip to Romania, why haven’t I been here before?

Adina 10/09/2018 - 21:03

Romania is a beautiful country to travel, too bad is not such a well known touristic destination. And papanasi are amazing, not something one should have every week, but soooooo good.

Damaris 14/05/2019 - 23:19

I just stumbled upon this page and I know this post is quite old but I wanted to add something 😀 Isn’t cottage cheese the one that comes in like really small balls? I’m honestly surprised that you worked with that cause I never would’ve thought of using that. ? My parents are from Romania and I travel there at least four times a year, but I haven’t seen “branza de vaci” the way they have it there – what I do know on the other hand, is that our “Speisetopfen”/“Quark” (i live in Austria) is the closest you can get to branza de vaci, at least according to my mum – but also from what I’ve seen in other video recipes. And “smetana”, actually “smântână” in romanian, is our “Sauerrahm”/“sour cream” just that theirs, as you said, is sweeter than ours and Creme fraiche might be more fitting with this recipe.
Just wanted to add these things, especially the “Topfen” part, cause that’s what we use 🙂 maybe someone can use this info.

Adina 15/05/2019 - 07:38

Hi Damaris. Thank you for the feedback. Cottage cheese is indeed the one with the little balls (Hüttenkäse), it is different in structure from the original, but otherwise pretty similar. It works very well in this recipe. I’ve never used quark to make the papanasi, probably because quark doesn’t really exist in Romania and my cousin, who gave me this recipe, only ever mentioned cottage cheese. 🙂 Also I think cottage cheese has this rather neutral taste like branza de vaci, while quark is quite pungent when low fat and too creamy and soft when full fat. I might try it though, you make me curious! Let me know if you try it first. 🙂

Maureen 23/10/2019 - 19:04

Just got done making it. Followed the directions to the letter and it turned out perfect !! Thank you and my nieghbor thanks you! ( she is from Romainia and I just met her in our apartment building …thought we would give her a taste of home )

Adina 23/10/2019 - 19:21

So happy to hear it, Maureen. Thank you for your comment.

Muneeb 15/12/2019 - 22:06

I never like donuts as a child to be honest but my mom is romanian amd she does things like this and when i was 11 i had my first bite of this and i loved it so much i never had it since i was 12 and this is something im going to do right now
I know this article is old but if you see this please reply

Muneeb 15/12/2019 - 22:09

My name is muneeb its true its not romanian because my dad named me he was asian so yes im half asian and half romanian if your interested

Adina 16/12/2019 - 07:52

Hi Muneeb. Thank you for your comment. Papanasi are great, so much better than simple donuts, aren’t they? I hope you will like the recipe and that it will be the way you remember it from your childhood. 🙂

Anamaria 13/04/2020 - 14:24

I have made them today using your recipe, I have been using ricotta cheese instead, which is the Italian sweet cheese version.
My partner choose to have them with Nutella on top, and I’ve decided to use sour cherry jam and, of course, smantana. 🙂
He said it was the best dessert he ever had 🙂

Adina 13/04/2020 - 16:29

That makes me so happy, Anamaria. 🙂 🙂 Happy Easter!

Tudval 20/04/2020 - 00:36

Perhaps you could try ricotta cheese, but not the one that comes in a plastic tub. Here in Canada you can find ricotta wrapped in paper and it’s kind of solid, not creamy or crumbly. The excess water is easy to drain. It’s the best fresh cheese, for many kinds of recipes, like cheese strudel, pasca and pretty sure papanas, although I’ve never attempted this one. I like it when I can find it in a good restaurant, but it seems a bit tricky to do at home. Glad you enjoyed it, it’s something I go out of my way to find.

Adina 21/04/2020 - 12:22

Hi Tudval, I know that people have made papanasi with ricotta as well and it should be working, but I have never tried it myself. You should try making them at home, the recipe is much easier than it might seem. 🙂

CRISTINA T. 05/06/2020 - 21:14

You could make your own cheese at home, using fresh milk, bringing it to a boil point and add lemon zest and the cheese will be coming on top.

Adina 06/06/2020 - 05:50

Thank you, Cristina. I might give it a try soon. 🙂

Martha CX 06/07/2020 - 18:24

I followed this recipe but since I’m in the U.S I used Daisy Cottage Cheese (4% fat). Ingredients listed was Cultured Skim Milk, Cream, Salt. I used a cheese clothe to squeeze out the excess liquid and the cheese looked really dry to after I did this. However after adding all the ingredients together, and using my hand to mix everything together, I got a very sticky dough, I even added alot more flour, then got the dough to the point where I can shape them all into balls, I didn’t even attempt to try and shape them into little doughnuts. It was still sticky but I managed to get these balls into the hot oil. When they were cooked, I tried it and it tasted like fried dough, hahaha. Okay so I guess i had to use way too much flour to balance all the moisture in the cottage cheese, so now these balls didn’t even taste right. It’s the fault of the cottage cheese, I’m going to look into using ricotta cheese next as I did see some other people use that instead. Will report back!

Adina 07/07/2020 - 08:17

Hi Virginia, it is hard to say about the different products being sold in different countries, I can only hope it fits most of the times…The dough is rather sticky, you should only add enough flour to just be able to work the dough, it should still remain rather sticky. I hope ricotta works better.

Christina Gluck 18/07/2020 - 04:14

I have a question. Can you make the dough the day before and form and fry the papanasi the next day?
Thanks .

Adina 18/07/2020 - 06:49

Hi Christina. I don’t think that would work.


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