May Day Munkki (Cardamom Doughnuts)

May Day Donuts. Kristina Vanni
  • Total: 85 mins
  • Prep: 75 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Yield: 16 doughnuts (16 servings)

May Day (May 1st) marks the beginning of spring in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, where there are celebrations, there is always food! These cardamom doughnuts, known as munkki in Finnish, are a cornerstone of many families' May Day festivities.  

Some (read most) people will say that these are hands down some of the best doughnuts you will ever taste. There are two secrets to this recipe: The first is making sure you are using the best quality ground cardamom. In Finland, their ground cardamom tends to be much coarser than the fine powder we tend to find in American grocery stores. This coarsely ground cardamom not only imparts an incredible flavor to any recipe but offers beautiful specks of color throughout the recipe. The best brand is called "Salliselta," sold in long, thin tubes. 

The second secret is the addition of quark to the batter. Quark is a fresh dairy product, commonly used in German-speaking countries as well as Northern Europe. It is similar to a very thick Greek yogurt, or maybe a smoother version of cottage cheese. You can find quark at better grocery stores in the US, as it is gaining popularity because of its high-protein health benefits. 

Enjoy these munkki cardamom doughnuts with a cold glass of sima and it's a party!


  • 1 cup quark
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cube yeast (cake variety, fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 quart canola (for frying)
  • Garnish: 3/4 cup sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. In a small pan, combine quark and water and heat until lukewarm. (About 100 F.)

  2. In a large bowl, combine quark mixture with yeast. Stir to dissolve and combine. Add salt, sugar, cardamom, egg, and 2 cups of flour. Mix well, then add an additional 1 1/3 cup of flour and the softened butter. Allow dough to rest for 20 minutes.   

  3. Sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup of flour onto work surface. Turn out the doughnut batter onto the floured surface and divide the dough into 16 balls. Stretch to form a hole in the center to make the doughnuts. Place formed doughnuts on a cookie sheet and allow to rest again for 30 minutes. 

  4. Meanwhile, fill a large shallow pan with canola oil at least 2-inches deep. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 F. 

  5. Fry the doughnuts 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the doughnuts from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Once they have cooled slightly, toss with sugar and serve immediately.