How to Make Youtiao, Chinese Doughnuts, the Fried Breadsticks Recipe

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Today let’s learn to cook youtiao! Youtiao (said yo-tee-ow) are also called Chinese doughnuts or fried breadsticks. The ingredients are fairly simple—flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, and water—but the process is quite time consuming. It can take up to 9 hours. But regardless, the results are priceless.

There’s an interesting story behind the Cantonese word for fried breadsticks or yauhjagwai. It literally means “oil-fried ghost” and refers to two despicable figures from ancient China. History has it that Mr. and Mrs. Qin were the most hated couple during the time of the Song Dynasty. Also known as Qin Hui and Lady Wang, these two villains conspired with foreign invaders against China’s greatest general, the legendary Yue Fei.


Shen Yun Performing Arts, the New York-based classical Chinese dance company, included a dance in its program entitled Sweeping Out the Tyrant, based on the tale of an insane monk sweeping the villainous Mr. Chin out of a temple.


“Following their deaths, the couple’s exploits were exposed, and from then on, Mr. and Mrs. Qin have been etched into the Chinese blacklist,” wrote principal dancer Alison Chen on Shen Yun’s blog. “Chinese people have hated the Qins so much, they’ve even made voodoo statues and voodoo snacks in their dishonor.”


So yes, many people today still hate wicked Mr. and Mrs Qin so much that they want to deep fry them, and dunk them into warm sweetened soymilk!



1 lb of flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/3 teaspoon of baking soda

1/3 teaspoon of sugar

A dash of salt

1 cup of water




Put the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour the water into the well. Then add the sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix together, and then knead to form dough. Cover the dough for about 30 minutes.


Knead the dough until the surface becomes smoother (1 to 2 minutes). Cover the dough again, and this time let it ferment for 7 hours.


Put the dough on a floured surface. Then roll it to form a long ½ inch thick rectangle about 4 inches wide by 24 inches long. Then cut the rectangular dough into ½ inch strips. Place the strips together in pairs, with one on top of each other. Use the back of your knife to press a line through the center of each pair of strips.


Add four cups of oil to a deep skillet. Once the oil is hot, lightly press and stretch the strips to the desired length and gently lower them into the hot oil to deep fry until golden brown and puffy.


You can enjoy youtiao with a bowl of hot sweetened soymilk or a savory rice congee.


Comment below to let me know how this recipe worked for you and what other Chinese recipes you would like to learn.


P.S. If you are interested in learning more about the 5000 years of classical Chinese culture, you must watch Shen Yun Performing Arts! The company returns to Lincoln Center in New York City from Jan 9th to 18th, 2015. Enjoy!

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  1. Yen says


    I like to know what kind of flour are we supposed to use.


  2. CiCi says

    Hi Yen, all purpose flour will do! 🙂

  3. sassy says

    Hi, can I use dry yeast instead of baking soda and baking powder???!!!! Thanks…

  4. Zhou Yang says

    Would you make scones with yeast? If you want to use yeast, make Frnch bread

  5. sarah says

    I recently made these, I added cinnamon and vanilla extract to my second mixture and it was super tasty.

    Zhou Yang – there is no need to be so rude. Its a question – answer it nicely or move on.

  6. Sammi says

    Thank you for this recipe. I have seen many for Yiu Tiao that are accommodating to home cooks, but are not close to authentic and use yeast. Many years ago i worked in a Chinese dumpling shop (the only “white girl” LOL!)), and i helped making these, but in 200lb+ batches with a master who did not really measure, and no hope to really cut down the recipe. As I recall, Ammoniated water was in the recipe. Not that i would ever use that in my home kitchen to cook with, but I was wondering if the texture is the same without it . Maybe someone can comment who can compare? Somethings are just not possible in a “home kitchen”, and when there is not other way to have you tiao, substitutes are a necessity. I do thank you for this recipe and plan on making it very soon, as it is one of my mom’s favorites from the years that I worked at Beijing Dumpling Co. That and “Soup dumplings” which are another great recipe that takes a lot of time to perfect. Thank you again!!!!

    1. CiCi says

      Hi Sammi,

      I’m so glad that this recipe is helpful for you. Keep me posted on how your Youtiao turns out later! 🙂

  7. Hupguan says

    Think you can add a pinch of alum in the mix. It will make the breadsticks crispy even after they’ve chilled to room temp.

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