4 Fun Takes on Classic County Fair Elephant Ears

Here's how to make elephant ears and four fun toppings to try.

Sweet, crispy, crunchy elephant ears rank high on the list of indulgent treats people make a beeline for when they hit the carnival or county fair. And who can blame them? These oversize disks of fried dough dusted with cinnamon sugar are a taste of sweet nostalgia we never outgrow.

Elephant ears in their purest form are basically perfect, so why mess with perfection? Well... because it's fun! If you're an adventure-seeking dessert aficionado, these ideas for tricked out elephant ear ideas are for you. Once you've got the hang of things, add some flair to a weeknight meal or have some friends over for an elephant ear extravaganza where you can set up an elephant ear bar and let guests add their own toppings. Read on to get a tried-and-true recipe for classic Elephant Ears plus four ways to bring the bling.

Classic Elephant Ears

homemade fried Elephant Ear pastries on a tray with waxed paper

Start with this top-rated recipe for ElephantEars, then scroll down for four fun topping ideas.

Makes about 15 servings


  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • ⅜ cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart oil for frying
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar


  1. In small saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar and shortening. Heat until shortening melts and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm, 110 degrees F (43 degrees C). Sprinkle in yeast and let sit until foamy.
  2. Transfer mixture to large bowl, and stir in flour to make a dough. Knead until smooth, cover and let rise 30 minutes.
  3. In a large heavy skillet or deep fryer, heat 1 inch of oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Roll out 1 to 2 inch balls of dough into thin sheets. Fry sheets 1 to 2 minutes on a side, until puffed and golden. Drain on paper towels.
  5. Combine cinnamon and 6 tablespoons sugar. Sprinkle over warm pastries. Serve.

1. Butter & Jam (a.k.a. The Scone Treatment)

homemade fried Elephant Ear pastry topped with butter and jam
Mackenzie Schieck

This is sorta like a mash-up of two county fair favorites! To make these, dust elephant ear in granulated sugar, then top with butter and your favorite jam (team raspberry or strawberry??).

2. Bananas Foster

homemade fried Elephant Ear pastry topped with bananas, caramel, and ice cream
Mackenzie Schieck

You'll be bananas for this one for sure. Dust elephant ears in cinnamon and sugar like usual, then pile on the bananas foster toppings (we love Chef John's recipe) — including a scoop of ice cream.

3. Salted Caramel

homemade fried Elephant Ear pastry topped with salted caramel sauce
Mackenzie Schieck

Fried bread + caramel — what else is there to say? Simply dust elephant ears with granulated sugar, drizzle with caramel sauce (make your own or use store-bought!), then sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

4. Berries & Cream

homemade fried Elephant Ear pastry topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream
Mackenzie Schieck

Choose your own berry adventure! Dust elephant ears with granulated sugar and top with fresh berries and a dollop — or two or three — of whipped cream.

Elephant Ear Prep Tips

LEEMA's recipe for Elephant Ears is pretty simple, but here are a couple of tips to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Make sure your yeast is up to snuff. Here's a great article for how to proof it.
  • If you have a marble board or countertops, set your saucepan with the melted shortening and milk in it on top — this will help it cool to room temperature faster.
  • Wait until your oil is at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) before you start frying. Make sure the oil's temperature doesn't get too far above 375 degrees F, or your elephant ears will burn.
homemade elephant ears with toppings: butter and jam, bananas and caramel, salted caramel, fresh berries and whipped cream
Mackenzie Schieck


Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love