Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet Recipes

Charlie Lehr’s Doughnuts

These old-fashioned sugar-coated doughnuts are worth the effort!

Charlie Lehr's Doughnuts

Origin: Bar U Ranch National Historic Site
Region: West (Alberta)
Period: 19th Century
Course: Desserts and Baked Goods

Chuck wagon Photo of chuckwagon
© Parks Canada

This doughnut recipe was used in the late 1800s by roundup cook Charlie Lehr of the Northwest Cattle Company, which later became the Bar U Ranch. Charlie was very well liked and is remembered for being one of the best-natured and cleanest of the chuckwagon cooks. He never pulled out without making sure that the wagon, harness and grub were all in order. Charlie would often cook up a batch of doughnuts to feed the roundup crew, who worked hard gathering cattle on the prairie.

Today, Bar U Ranch National Historic Site hosts special Roundup Camp events and visitors are invited to help prepare Charlie’s Doughnuts (and eat them!).

Charlie Lehr’s Doughnuts


  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup | 145 g sugar
  • 3 tbsp | 45 ml melted butter
  • 3 cups | 300-400 g all purpose flour
  • 5 tsp | 20 g baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon | 1.25 g cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon | 1.25 g nutmeg
  • ¾ cup | 175 ml buttermilk
  • fat for frying
  • additional sugar for coating


  • Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter. Sift the dry ingredients and stir into the egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk. The dough will be very soft. Cover and chill approximately 1 hour.
  • Roll out to about 1/2-inch thick on a generously floured board. Cut with a doughnut cutter.
  • In a large saucepan, preheat 1 inch of fat to 350°F (180°C). Fry the doughnuts a few at a time, turning once, until golden brown. Remove from fat and sprinkle with sugar: put additional sugar in a paper bag − with a pinch of cinnamon if desired − and toss warm doughnuts in the closed bag.


Recipe tested by Chef Mario Ramsay, Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism

From the cookbook ‘Come’n Get It’ by Beulah Barss who found it in Charlie Lehr’s notebook at the High River Museum, High River, Alberta. Published by Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. ISBN # 0-88833-102-9

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