I have been making vegan apple cider donuts commercially for over 15 years, all the while, tweaking and improving them. This recipe is the result of improvements made over the course of way over 1000 baking sessions!
In my opinion, an essential element of great apple cider doughnuts is a pronounced apple flavor. Like my apple fritters, I achieve that in three ways in this recipe. The first trick is a fairly common theme among reputable apple cider donut recipes, the second thing just makes good sense, and the third is something kinda insane that I started doing just within the last couple of years, that really brings these to the next level.
🍩 Better donuts in an alternate reality
Cinnamon sugar coating is how most people love apple cider donuts, but I have served these dozens of other ways over the years. I offered a variation of this recipe with a cardamom glaze and topped with rosewater toasted pistachios that made it to the front page of the New York Times Dining section. I also regularly offered vegan apple cider donuts glazed with a fresh cranberry glaze. My method for that is to stew cranberries with slices of seedless orange (including the rind) with cloves, sugar and a tiny bit of molasses. Then once the cranberries have burst, I puree that in a blender and mix it with powdered sugar to make a thick cranberry donut frosting. The sky's really the limit, and there are a lot of autumnal flavors that pair really nicely with apple cider. Have fun, be creative with them!
👉Right off the bat you need to know about equipment!
Listen, what I am sharing with you here is how I make perfect cider donuts. The way I do it involves owning a stand mixer and a donut dropper, which are two things a ton of people don't have. Honestly, even a candy thermometer might not be chilling out in your drawer. And guess what- that is ok!
This recipe includes some workarounds:
👉If you don't have a donut dropper, you can follow the guidelines for forming the donuts with a pastry bag, or by forming a thicker dough that can be rolled and cut.
👉If you don't have a stand mixer, you can mix by hand using a rubber spatula.
👉If you don't have a thermometer, here's how to check the oil temperature to be close enough:
- Visual cues: You can observe the oil's behavior to get an idea of its temperature. When the oil is heated to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit, it will start to shimmer and appear less viscous.
- Dough test: Another way to estimate the temperature of the oil is by dropping a few bits of dough/batter into it. If the bits sizzle and turn golden brown within a few seconds, the oil is likely at the desired temperature. If they really go nuts and fry up wayyyy rapidly, and if the oil is smoking, you GOTTA turn the flame down a bit honey.
- Wooden spoon test: Dip the end of a wooden spoon into the oil, and if it forms tiny bubbles around it, the oil is likely around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
It's essential to remember that these methods only provide an estimation of the oil's temperature, and if you need to be precise, you should use a thermometer.
If you don't have any of this gear at all, you should make these Malaysian banana donuts, which don't require anything more than a pot of oil and some regular spoons to make!
🍎 Three dimensions of apple flavor
Reduced apple cider
Great apple cider donuts donut ONLY get their flavor from straight cider. Reducing the cider down concentrates the flavor and allows you to get more of the apple cider taste into the donut without having more liquid in the recipe.
Apple cider vinegar helps to curdle the soy milk, making it more like buttermilk. At the same time, it intensifies the apple flavor in the donuts, and the acid also helps balance the sweetness of the donuts, which make them taste more intense.
That fresh zing!
The third way I impart apple flavor into these donuts is maybe the most obvious thing to do, but it literally took me over a decade to think of experimenting with it, and it is a freaking game-changer!
I puree some fresh, uncooked tart apples with the reduced cider, and it really brings the apple flavor of these donuts to life. Honeycrisp or granny smith apples really work the best for this, but any apple on the more tart side will do. Steer clear of red delicious or golden delicious for sure, because they are just terrible apples and don’t bring much flavor to the table.
If you want to learn more about donut making from me, and watch this recipe made from start to finish, check out my vegan cake donut mastery cooking class.
- 👉Right off the bat you need to know about equipment!
- 🍎 Three dimensions of apple flavor
- 🍩 Instructions for mastering plant-based cider doughnuts
- Load up your donut dropper!
- 🔄 Substitutions and tweaks
- 💡 Variations
- Important donut making gear
- Top tip
- 🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
- 💣 Bomb sweets
- The Best Vegan Apple Cider Donuts
Apple Cider: Made from pressed apples, apple cider brings a natural sweetness and fruity flavor to the donuts. My preference is to use unpasteurized cider, as it has a fuller flavor.
Vegan Butter: This dairy-free alternative to butter provides a rich and creamy texture to the donuts. It's essential for creating a tender crumb and enhancing the overall flavor. Look for a vegan butter with a high-fat content, and low moisture for the best results. You can replace it with coconut oil if you prefer.
Unsweetened Plant-Based Milk Curdled with Apple Cider Vinegar: This combination is a vegan take on buttermilk. When you curdle plant-based milk with apple cider vinegar, it mimics the tangy and acidic properties of traditional buttermilk. It helps tenderize the donuts while contributing a subtle tang that complements the sweetness of the apple cider. If you don't have apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or other mild vinegars work as a substitute.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities and cooking directions.
🍩 Instructions for mastering plant-based cider doughnuts
Follow the recipe card at the bottom of the page when you make the recipe, but these here are the important steps you will follow when you make the yummiest donuts you have had in forevahhhhhh.
Begin by reducing the apple cider by 50%. Cooking 2 cups down to 1 intensifies the apple flavor.
Cream together the vegan butter, sugar, and egg replacer. Little lumps of fat will otherwise cause imperfect donuts.
Mix in the remaining liquid ingredients, including the reduced apple cider which has been pureed with fresh apple.
Mix in the dry ingredients at medium speed. Mix just for long enough to form a smooth batter.
Load up your donut dropper!
Load up the hopper of a donut dropper with the batter. Don't have a dropper? See the notes in the recipe for other ways to form these donuts.
The first couple donuts may be irregular in size or shape. Just drop them back into the bowl of batter and put them back into the hopper so you don't waste any precious donuts!
Drop donuts into the hot oil. See in the photo above how the batter liquefies and spreads a little? That, the browning around the edges, and some bubbles on the internal surface of the donuts are the signal to flip them after 2-3 minutes.
The second side will cook for a slightly shorter time than the first. You are looking for a reddish-golden brown color to develop evenly on both sides. Remove the donuts from the oil using a spider or slotted spoon, and let them cool a little and drip dry on a wire cooling rack.
After the donuts cool for 5 minutes, coat them in cinnamon sugar and pinch yourself- you are not dreaming. You are in actual vegan apple cider donut heaven!
🔄 Substitutions and tweaks
Making these without refined sugar
Yes! These work terrifically with coconut sugar swapped out measure for measure in place of the evaporated cane juice I usually make them with. If you want to make a cinnamon sugar topping for these with coconut sugar, I recommend breaking the sugar in a blender or food processor to make it finer than it comes naturally. My wife often avoids processed sugar (which is why I'm always churning out klepon, and bubur sum sum), but also loves apple cider donuts, so I have made these donuts this way for her on countless occasions, and the thinks they are heavenly!
What about making these Gluten Free?
Rather than just tell you to swap out gluten free flour blend in this recipe and hope for the best, I formulated a separate gluten-free apple cider donut recipe. They come out amazing, and I don’t think anyone would guess they are gluten-free, especially when served warm.
You can drop, pipe, roll and cut, even bake these donuts!
This recipe is so versatile! My absolute preference is to make the recipe as is, and use a donut dropper to extrude them one by one into hot oil. This method yields the most perfectly formed cake-like cider donuts. Using a donut dropper, or following the piping method I have outlined below allow you to have the highest hydration which yields the moistest, most naturally shaped donuts. Hydration is the ratio of liquids to dry ingredients in the recipe.
If you don’t have a dropper or a piping bag, the other option is to use less soy milk in the recipe as detailed in the instructions below and for a tacky dough instead of a bater. This dough can then be rolled and cut (either with a doughnut cutter, or a variety of other tools, even a glass) and fried or baked that way.
Baked vegan apple cider donuts
If you don’t want to fry these, they work out great baked as well. You can bake the batter in a donut pan, or place rolled and cut donuts onto an oiled parchment paper lined baking pan and bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-17 minutes in a regular home oven.
Alrighty, this is where you need to make some decisions about just how obsessed with making vegan doughnuts at home you want to be. Not everyone is freaking NUTS like me, who has a commercial donut fryer and a 20qt stand mixer in my small sized home kitchen... I hope none of you get that freaking carried away with this business.
Important donut making gear
I have tried out a ton of donut droppers so you don't have to. My absolute TOP suggestion is the Belshaw Tye K donut depositor. It may be pricy for you, but it is the best donut dropper you can have in a home kitchen. They come up on ebay sometimes but be careful! The type K is offered with a donut plunger or a pancake/muffin plunger (-it deposits one measured blop of batter with no hole in the middle). Unfortunately you can't really tell by looking at them, the droppers aren't labeled, and most ebay sellers will not care to test them for you.
Amazon has a few Belshaw type k knock offs, and they cost way less. ...but they don't really deposit normal-size donuts. I have tried the VBENLEM Donut Depositor, and it's great, except the donuts are really kinda minis, even at the largest size setting. Still delicious, but keep in mind, the smaller donuts will cook a bit faster than regular ones.
As an alternative to having a donut dropper, you can leave out about ⅓ of the liquid from the recipe as noted below, and rather than a batter, you make the donuts out of a slightly tacky dough. You'll roll the dough out and cut it into donuts. There are all kinds of workarounds for cutting them using biscuit cutters, or even a glass and pastry tip, but I gotta say, buying a donut cutter really isn't a big investment, and I want to guide you on your home donut making journey with this recipe, and others. Just get a 3-inch donut cutter and let's get on our way!
Unless you are using a thermostatic deep fryer, or donut fryer, you are going to need a candy thermometer to ensure the donuts cook at the right temperature.
If you don't have any gear at all- you can still make effortless vegan Malaysian donuts with nothing more than a couple of spoons and a pot!
We are making donuts ok, not a salad. If god didn't want us to fry donuts he probably wouldn't have invented donut droppers. For real, it's ok! Try to make these the traditional way as a batter and then use a donut dropper to actually fry them. Live a little!
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Technically yes, you can do this, but then you don't really have that deep dark apple cider flavor as it can be in the donuts. Still yummy though, just don't tell anyone I told you it was OK, alright?
While I don't really love them this way, you can substitute apple sauce in place of the vegan butter in this recipe, and bake them instead of frying them. Just be careful of them sticking to your parchment paper when you bake them, because no oil!
If you are not serving the donuts immediately, good news! Cake donuts, particularly these specific vegan apple cider donuts store much better than raised (yeast risen) donuts. I think the fact there are some enzymes and pectin introduced into the batter from the fresh apple may contribute to this phenomenon. Simply store them in a not-completely air-tight container at room temperature.
If you desire to keep them for more than a couple days, these apple cider donuts freeze really well! First place them onto a flat tray in your freezer for 2 hours. Once the donuts are frozen, wrap them in plastic wrap and place them into an airtight container in your freezer for up to a month. When you thaw them, simply thaw at room temperature for 2 hours, and then to really bring them back to life, bake them in an oven or toaster oven for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.
💣 Bomb sweets
Looking for other vegan dessert recipes you are gonna love? Try these:
The Best Vegan Apple Cider Donuts
- 2 cups apple cider reduced down to one cup
- 1 medium size Honeycrisp apple 145 grams, peeled and diced
- 6 tablespoons vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons egg replacer powder
- 1 ½ cups sugar I use evaporated cane juice
- 3 cups unsweetened soy milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 8 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar for the cinnamon sugar coating
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon for the cinnamon sugar coating
- Place 2 cups of apple cider into a saucepan and cook it uncovered over a high flame for about 15 minutes, or until reduced to 1 cup.
- Place the hot apple cider reduction into a blender along with the peeled diced apple. I recommend using a tart apple such as a honeycrisp or granny smith which will brighten the flavor of the donuts, and balance and freshen up the heavily cooked mellow cider flavor. Blend on high speed for 60-90 seconds until smoothly pureed. Allow the contents of the blender to cool for 20 minutes.
- Place the softened, room-temperature vegan butter (aka margarine), egg replacer, and sugar (evaporated cane juice) into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the content of the mixer together for 2 minutes on low speed.
- When thoroughly creamed, add the contents of the blender, along with the soy milk, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar to the mixer and continue to mix for 3 minutes on low speed until well combined.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Mix for 90 seconds on medium speed until just thoroughly combined. Over-mixing will cause the batter to be stringy and the donuts will have a harder time forming perfectly.
- *If you do not have a stand mixer, cream the margarine, sugar and egg replacer together using a hand mixer or whisk. Whisk in the remaining liquid ingredients and then switch to a rubber spatula to mix in the dry ingredients
- For the best results, use a donut dropper to form and fry these donuts. I recommend using a plastic bowl scraper to transfer the contents of the mixing bowl into the hopper of the donut dropper. Doing this before heating the oil will give the gluten in the batter a little time to relax and will result in more perfectly shaped donuts. When using a donut dropper, always press out a couple initial donuts right back into the mixing bowl, as the first couple tend to be smaller and can be misshapen. You can use the bowl scraper or a rubber spatula to put the batter from those test donuts back into the hopper, so that nothing is wasted.
- Another way to form these donuts using the same consistency batter, is to prepare a dozen 3-inch squares of parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment paper with coconut oil or canola oil. Place the batter into an icing bag with a large circular tip. Once your oil is hot (see below steps) form thick circles of the batter one at a time onto the lightly oiled parchment. You can then transfer the donuts, parchment and all right into the hot oil, and use a pair of tongs to peel the parchment off of the donuts. This is a trickier way to make the donuts, and I HIGHLY prefer using a dropper. But this method allows you to make a high-hydration batter version of these donuts that is much superior to the roll-and cut method.
- Pour a neutral-tasting, high-heat oil, such as canola oil, palm shortening, or peanut oil to a depth of 3 inches into a pot with high sides. A dutch oven is a good choice for this. The high sides will prevent excessive oil splattering which will make clean up easier.
- Heat the oil over a medium flame for 20 minutes, or until a 350-360 degree temperature has been reached. You can check the oil temperature with a candy thermometer.
- Once the oil is heated to 350-360 degrees, it’s time to fry the donuts! Fry only 4-6 donuts at a time, depending on the size of your pot. Not overcrowding the pot will make them easier to flip and reduce the fracturing that occurs when donuts bump into each other, which results in avoidable oil absorption. Fry for 2-3 minutes on the first side until you see bubbling and on the top side. I like to allow a little of the liquified battery to “spread” as it cooks which creates the more old-fashion style crispy exterior. Flip the donuts using a spider or slotted spoon and cook for an additional 2 minutes on the second side.
- Transfer the hot donuts to a cooling rack to cool while cooking subsequent batches of donuts.
- When all donuts are cooled for at least 5 minutes on the wire rack, mix together 1 cup of fine granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon in a large bowl. Toss the donuts in the cinnamon sugar topping to coat them thoroughly and serve.
Ignite the perfect frying blaze by heating oil to 350-360 degrees, ensuring a reddish-golden-brown allure in just 2-3 minutes per side. 🍎 Dimensional Apple Mastery:
Master pronounced apple flavor by reducing cider, adding apple cider vinegar for tang, and infusing a fresh zing with tart apples. Opt for Honeycrisp or Granny Smith for a captivating apple cider donut journey. 🌈 Magical Flavor Variations:
Elevate your donut experience with symphonies of flavor. Explore cinnamon sugar classics or venture into cardamom glaze with rosewater pistachios. Dive into a realm of creativity with fresh cranberry glaze, a blend of stewed cranberries, orange slices, cloves, sugar, and a hint of molasses. 🌟 Baking Spells and Freezing Charms:
Choose your path wisely—fry for traditional, moist donuts, or embrace baked magic. Freeze these wonders by wrapping in plastic after an initial freeze on a tray. Thaw and rekindle their magic in the oven for a journey back to donut heaven.