How to make fair-style Elephant Ears


On my Puyallup Fair post, reader Alicia left this comment:

I love elephant ears!!! They don’t make them where I live. Does anyone have a recipe? The last time I had them I was 11 at a fair while visiting my grandparents in Oregon, never have seen them since.

Well Alicia, there was a great looking recipe at All Recipes so I decided to make it and blog about it. And yes, they are yummy.

First, you melt shortening in milk with salt and sugar over the stove with a little salt and sugar. Now I didn’t have shortening but opted to use Nutiva Coconut Oil instead. I can assure you that the recipe turned out just fine!

From here you will add yeast and flour and form a dough. You let it rise for 30 minutes. I’m not the best when it comes to yeast, so I may have screwed this part up. (But I know you’ll do a better job!)

Here’s my completed dough ball.

Make 1-2″ dough balls and flatten them out into thin sheets.

Heat a deep saucepan or deep fryer so there is 1″ of oil. I used vegetable oil. You want to make sure it’s really hot – that’s what will turn these puppies into golden wonders. Then you cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side.

I used metal tongs to flip the elephant ears and also to move them onto paper towels to dry. (With compliments to my three year old  daughter for snapping this photo.)

I dabbed off excess oil and then dusted the ears with a cinnamon and sugar mixture while they were still warm.

These things were delicious!

As a slight variation, I enjoyed one topped with frozen berries. I just microwave them for about a minute or so and they get all steamy and saucy… I’m sure you can think of some other topping ideas, too.

Alicia, I hope this recipe takes you back in time a little bit…to when you were an 11 year old girl visiting the fair with your grandparents.


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  1. Maryanne says

    Amazing! I never had elephant ears until I moved to the west coast and I love them if they aren’t too thin! We have fried dough back east and I make it for my kids fairly often. You just use regular bread dough and when you’re done frying, you roll them in sugar- yummy!

  2. carly S says

    Oh man, Im going to have to save this recipe! My hubby will be in heaven!!! Looks like it makes alot…do you need to eat them all or can you store them?? Im thinking they wouldn’t be that great left over???

  3. judie freeman says

    U can use frozen bread dough to defrost and make into elephant ears.. most the work is already done for U.. or have used the frozen roll dough too already in little balls and U can defrost what U need… <3

  4. Kelli says

    I have use frozen bread rolls. Another topping is taco stuff. I spread some decried beans, then meat, cheese, tomato and lettuce ect. Some call it Indian fry bread

    • arussell says

      The recipe says it makes 15. Yeah…that was a bit much. If I were to do this recipe again, I would certainly do 1/2 of it. If you click on the All recipes link at the start of the post, you’ll get all the ingredients/directions, etc. 😉

  5. Emilie Lancour says

    We are having what my son is calling “deep fat fryer night” tomorrow for dinner…special treat and request from my kids: homemade french fries and deep fried pickle spears…this will make the perfect dessert. (we are also having cheeseburger wraps on tortillas…I guess we will have to load them with veggies.)

    It is probably the least healthy meal I have EVER planned for but a special treat once in awhile can’t hurt that much can it?

    Thank you for the recipe!!!!!!!!

    • arussell says

      Deep fried pickle spears….woah….. now that’s something new!!

      I agree, special treats now and then are fun. And after the calories are long burned off, the memories will still be there, right? 😉

  6. Lissa says

    Something similar to this that my mom always made for us was “Crispies”…..whenever she made a pie, she took all the excess pie dough, rolled it out in a sheet, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked. It was sooo good! Definitely try it!

  7. Bill In Seattle says

    While using real ingredients, carefully remixed is always better, using shortcuts works really well for us challenged on an evening to come up with something quickly.

    Oddly enough, the Trader Joe’s pizza dough (that runs $1.29-ish for about a pound of dough)…

    …works really great on these “fry-em-til-done” receipes, and is a go-to item for doing things much quicker that using all the old school real ingredients. I did some elephant ear equivalents last month that were deemed “worthy” by the thundering herds here using this substitution.

    You just have to be creative and thoughtfull in how you use the dough to insure that your oil doesn’t get too hot, as the dough is fairly sensitive to higher heats, as it contains quite a bit of canola oil that often deep fries in wierd ways in combination with other oils.

    The plain TJs pizza dough also works well as a coating on corn dogs after adding appropriate amounts (ie: LOTS, and then LOTS MORE) of Bob’s Red Mill fairly finely ground corn meal blended well into the mixture in a stainless steel bowl.

    Instead of dipping into a batter mixture, you create what is basically a pastry wrap around the dog-on-a-stick, and then bake it in the oven, rather than deep frying them.

    One thing about TJ’s fresh dough:

    You need to use it basically the same day you buy it, or at most a day later. Beyond that, it’s just a lump of nothingness that never gets up to speed.

    Second, always take it out of the refrigerator an hour before you are going to do anything with it. This allows the little yeast-ies to come back alive to produce a bit of lift prior to baking, and REALLY helps it out if you are using it for its original purpose of pizza dough.

    Third, as a tip for those who live near to Seattle, run down to either of the Daiwa stores (they are a Japanese dollar store that has two outlets in Seattle at Westlake Mall and in the International District across from Uwajimaya, west of the Seahawks Stadium). Buy the really cheap and colorful dough docker for $1.50 to knock down the dough in the stage after it puffs up after you’ve had the dough on the pizza sheet in the 450 degree oven for 5 minutes, but before you put on the toppings. Creates a MUCH better crusty pizza that rocks big time.

    –Bill In Seattle

  8. Shellee says

    At the Clark County Fair this year, I noticed that the place where I buy elephant ears was disposing of frozen bread dough boxes.

  9. Andrea D says

    When I was at our fair this summer (SW Washington Fair), I bought an elephant ear and stared at the box they got the dough from to see what kind it is. I was amazed to find that it was Rhodes Dough they used and as a couponer, I said (out loud) “I have coupons for that!”. So when there is a sale on Rhodes dough, use a coupon and stock up for Elephant ears all year round. And you can use them for Indian tacos (replace the tortilla with fry bread) as well.

  10. Bill In Seattle says

    Angela, in her recipe described not being the best in using yeast (with a great link about the trials and tribulations). She also indicated using vegetable oil for deep frying.

    I’d offer a couple of followups to those comments:

    First, the quality of yeast, how you store it, and how fast you use it up, is really critical to success for any baked product that requires some lift from yeast (as opposed to the automatic/mechanical/questionary-to-health lifts from baking soda/baking powder/sodium alternatives that never expire).

    I endlessly used those individual packettes of yeast, with limited or no good result, until I read an article that described how those packettes could be YEARS out of date, but not being described as such on the end-by dates, which all assume that yeast is viable to come back to life for 10 years (10 years? really?).

    After that, I went old school/mom knows better back to using Red Star Active Dry Yeast.

    Yeast is funny, as it’s just a one celled organism that has no other purpose than to sit silently for a long time, but then when fed the right ingredients, pops to life and reproduces in wildely dramatic fashion, and push off the gases that create the lift we all know in baking.

    Finding non-old yeast is a bit of a task, as the stuff on store shelves is probably nearing senior citizen time-frames, and not as ameniable to come back to life to puff up the pastries.

    I’ve found that going to the local places that have a very high turn-over for product works best.

    For yeast, I always go to my local Cash & Carry store (you’ll need to google this, as they don’t get play on the blogs).

    In the second part of this comment relating back to Angela’s initial post, I’d also recommend using peanut oil for deep frying.

    I’ve played with deep frying in canola, blended vegetable oil, the hard-core high temp oils, four different varieties of olive oil…

    …and came back to a long-term standard of using the old favorite peanut oil for it’s absolutely neutral taste.

    The food you fry should NOT come out of the fryer tasting like the oil, it should taste like itself (be it cod fried for fish n chips, home cut french fries, battered shrimp, or items that are stir-fried at higher temps in the wok).

    A gallon of peanut oil at the previously mentioned Cash & Carry store is 10.99 or so, and lasts a ridiculously long time if you practice common sense re-use of oil filtered through coffee filters for second use.

    A lot of what we cooks do these days is a re-discovery of what our parents and elders knew better than us.

    It’s nice to have a blog that we can re-acquaint ourselves with old ideas that have value in the modern world.

    Given that this is posted in response well after the initial message posting, I’m guess this will be seen by no one but the moderator, but that’s cool…

    …writing this re-inforces for me the idea to continue to be a better cook for no other person than myself and those I cook for, and to continue to push the envelope to do things that are a bit out there, just because it’s really fun to do it, and makes cooking not just a dull task to be slogged through to push out calories in useless fashion, but pushes cooking into the adventure category, where fun and creativity are something to blend into the process.

    I find that envigorating and cool to look forward to.

    –Bill In Seattle

    • Crystal says

      I loved your post Bill. Thanks for the wonderful info on yeast & peanut oil. I love to Bake (and am working on developing a love for cooking too). Thanks for the tips!

  11. Jim says

    My son and I learned how to make donuts using the cans of bisquet dough. They are already flat and round,so just roll or flatten them to about a 1/4 inch and drop them into a 1/4 inch of oil in a frying pan. takes about 15-20 seconds on a side. Then I thought……roll them really thin and make mini elephant ears! Again 15-20 seconds and they are done. Brush a dab of butter on them,sprinkle sugar and bite size elephant ears!!

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