The existence of quantized vortices is a key feature of Bose–Einstein condensates. In equilibrium condensates, only quantum vortices of unit topological charge are stable, due to the dynamical instabilities of multiply charged defects, unless supported by strong external rotation. Due to immense interest in the physics of these topological excitations, a great deal of work has been done to understand how to force their stability. Here we show that in photonic Bose–Einstein condensates of exciton–polariton quasiparticles pumped in an annular geometry, not only do the constant particle fluxes intrinsic to the system naturally stabilize multiply charged vortex states, but that such states can indeed form spontaneously during the condensate formation through a dynamic symmetry breaking mechanism. We elucidate the properties of these states, notably finding that they radiate acoustically at topologically quantized frequencies. Finally, we show that the vorticity of these photonic fluids is limited by a quantum Kelvin–Helmholtz instability, and therefore by the condensate radius and pumping intensity. This reported instability in a quantum photonic fluid represents a fundamental result in fluid dynamics.