Originally published September 25, 2018 and updated September 21, 2021
One of the things I most missed after going gluten free were the amazing apple cider donuts we always got when we went apple picking every fall. I think this recipe is a pretty close replica of that apple orchard treat. I know lots of people are intimidated by frying donuts at home. It is a bit of work, but its worth it in the end for hot, freshly fried donuts.
What ingredients go into gluten free apple cider donuts?
Flour - for almost all of my recipes, I use Bob's Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Flour Blend. You can use your own favorite flour blend but keep in mind this recipe was developed with BRM, so your final product may be slightly different.
Baking Powder & Baking Soda - We are using a little of both kinds of leaveners because this dough is very heavy and we want light fluffy cake donuts.
Spices - Arguably the most important ingredient aside from cider. You can use apple pie spice or make your own mix of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and allspice.
Butter- I use vegan butter here, either Miyokos brand or Country Crock Plant Butter. I think it gives the donuts a little bit of a buttery flavor which is perfect with the cinnamon.
Brown Sugar - The molasses flavor imparted by brown sugar is an essential element of fall desserts. You can substitute dark brown sugar if you'd like.
Eggs - Just one egg here to hold the dough together. I haven't tried this with an egg substitute, so let me know in the comments if you do.
Apple Cider - The key to apple cider donuts is of course the cider! To impart the flavor without adding too much moisture you must reduce the cider before incorporating it. To reduce apple cider, simple cook it on the stove over medium heat for about 30 minutes and half of the moisture will bubble away leaving a really concentrated apple juice.
Vanilla - Just a hint of vanilla to sweeten the flavor.
Do donuts have to be fried?
For the occasional treat, why not go for the real thing? With a few tools you can definitely handle frying donuts at home.
First, I suggest user a cast iron pan or a dutch oven. Both are made of cast iron, which will keep a more even heat than a stainless steel pan. You want something that has enough depth to get about 2 inches of oil.
Second, get a thermometer. The kind you use for candy or oil. I have this one. The key features you’re looking for in a thermometer is an easy to read display and a clip to hold it on the side of the pan.
The third thing that will be super helpful is a strainer/spider. If you have no idea what that is, click here. This has a nice long handle so your hands don’t get close to the hot oil and the little web design lets the oil drip off easily.
The last tool is totally optional, a donut cutter. Similar to a biscuit cutter with a second hole in the center. I actually don’t own one of these. I use a 2 ½″ biscuit cutter and a small circular cookie cutter to make my donuts. You can really use anything that’s round and sharp enough to cut dough.
How to make gluten free fried apple cider donuts
Here are a few tips to help you have better donut frying success:
Make sure your pan is big enough that 3 donuts won’t be crowded in there. You want them to float around and for you to have room to get in there with your spider to flip them. I use a 10 inch cast iron that is 3 inches deep.
When heating your oil, it will take a while for the temperature to build. But once it is over 300 degrees it will start climbing fast. At this point, reduce your stove temperature a little. You don’t want to miss your frying window or overheat your oil.
Keep a close eye on the oil temperature at all times. It will fluctuate. Anywhere between 350-375 degrees will give you a good outcome. Under 350 will come out greasy and over 375 will be burnt and possibly undercooked inside.
Your oil temperature will drop every time you add cold dough. So, don’t add more than 3 donuts at a time.
Keep a little bit of room temperature oil set aside. If your oil temp climbs too high, not only can you reduce the stove temperature but you can pour a little of the cold oil in to help drop the temperature. If that doesn't do the trick, move your pan off the burner until the oil cools down to the cooking range.
Place your cut out donuts on individual squares of parchment paper. You can slip the whole thing into the oil, which cuts down on your risk of getting burnt as well as reducing the chance of the oil splashing. Just use your spider to fish out the paper, it will separate from the donut immediately on entering the oil.
Set up your drying area before you start. Once things are frying, you don’t want to leave the stove. I use a baking sheet double lined with paper towels.
If you’re frying on an open flame, like a gas stove, please keep a fire extinguisher handy. A grease fire can easily break out if you accidentally slosh oil out of the pan, etc. Just try to be extra careful!
If you're looking for more apple season ideas, check out these great recipes!
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Gluten Free Apple Cider Donuts
- 2 Cup Gluten Free 1-to-1 Flour Blend I use Bob’s Red Mill
- 2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 2 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon cardamom, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- ⅓ Cup Light Brown Sugar
- 3 Tablespoon Vegan Butter melted & cooled
- 1 Egg
- ¾ Cup Reduced Apple Cider see instructions
- 6 Cup Canola Oil
- ¼ teaspoon Vanilla
- ½ Cup Sugar
- 2 teaspoon Cinnamon
- Begin by reducing the cider. Add 2 cups of apple cider to a small pot. Heat over medium heat until it is simmering. Stir occasionally. At 30 minutes start checking with a measuring cup to see how much has reduced. Stop when the remaining cider measures ¾ cup. Set aside to cool before making the dough.
- Melt the butter in a microwave safe dish. Set aside to cool at least 10 minutes before making the dough.
- In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and brown sugar. Stir well until combined.
- In a second smaller bowl, whisk the egg. Add the melted butter, apple cider and vanilla. Whisk together well.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Work together until all the dry is incorporated. At first it will seem like there isn't enough liquid, but just keep folding it together until it's even. The dough will feel a little sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours.
- Remove from refrigerator and turn out onto lightly floured surface. Form into a patty about ½ inch thick. Using a donut cutter or two sizes of biscuit/cookie cutters, cut into donut shapes. Gently work your leftover scraps into another patty ½ inch thick and cut more donuts until all the dough is used. You should have about twelve 2 ½ inch wide donuts.
- In a large heavy bottomed pot (like a dutch oven), heat oil to 360 degrees. You want to make sure your oil stays between 350-375 to keep the donuts from getting greasy. Put 2-3 of the donuts into the oil. Watch the temperature because it will dip when the dough is added. Cook for about 2 minutes until donuts are floating and browned on bottom, flip over. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes on other side. Remove from oil using a spider strainer, let it drain for about 10 seconds over the pot of oil. Then place onto a plate lined with paper towels.
- Continue until all donuts are cooked.
- Combine topping ingredients in a large ziploc bag or pie dish. Dip each warm donut into the topping to coat.
- Serve immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature.