This easy gluten free apple cider donuts recipe is the cure for what ails you when you go to the apple orchard—but can’t buy their sweet-smelling baked goods!
The heartbreak 💔of the apple orchard
Every fall, we go apple picking. And every fall, the smell of apple cider donuts hangs in the air and has the power to make my gluten free son and me downright miserable.
So we do the only thing that makes any sense at all: bring our own gluten free apple cider donuts. And pick up some more apple cider while we’re at the orchard, so we can make more donuts when we get home!
For a whole batch of these baked apple cider donuts, you only need 6 fluid ounces of cider. Of course, you can use apple juice if you don’t have cider.
How to get the cinnamon sugar mixture to stick
When I first posted this recipe in 2012, you can see from the comments that some readers had trouble getting the cinnamon sugar topping to stick to the donuts. I find that the easiest way to get the topping to stick is to toss the donuts in the cinnamon sugar when they’re still hot enough from the oven that you can barely touch them.
If that’s just not comfortable for you, remember to press the donut in the cinnamon sugar mixture on all sides rather firmly when the donuts are as warm as possible. I tend to flip them over multiple times in the topping mixture until they’re well-covered, and then not handle them again until they’re completely cooled.
If you forget to work quickly after baking, or you’re just not able to work with the donuts while they’re hot, you can brush the donuts very lightly with melted butter before pressing them into the cinnamon sugar. Some sugar syrup would also work.
A few words about donut pans
All baking pans and tins are generally not created equal. They vary in size, shape, color, and material.
Those differences affect baking in plenty of ways. But most of the differences aren’t that significant, and you as the cook are usually able to sense for what sort of adjustments you need to make for your particular pans.
Donut pans vary in all of the same ways, but their shape is even more significant. If you’re making a fried donut, you’re not using a pan to shape them. But if you’re making baked donuts like these apple cider donuts, they take on the shape of the pan itself.
For properly shaped donuts, you want your pan to have a prominent raised center that reaches nearly as high as the sides of the donut. Otherwise, as the donuts rise in the oven, the hole will close on top, leaving only a divot underneath.
To combat a donut pan that has a short raised center, you can still preserve a donut-with-a-hole shape. Just fill each well about 2/3 of the way, or about as high as the center is raised.
My favorite donut pans for baked donuts are these 6-cavity nonstick donut pans by Wilton (affiliate link—feel free to shop around!). It’s the pan you see in the photos. It has the perfect shape and size, and even though it’s somewhat dark in color, it doesn’t bake the donuts too quickly (which dark pans have a tedency to do).
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-free: The only dairy in these gluten free apple cider donuts is from the unsalted butter. It can most likely be easily replaced with Earth Balance buttery sticks, although I haven’t tried that. Earth Balance tends to be rather salty, though, so I’d eliminate the salt as an ingredient in the donuts, though.
Egg-free: There are two eggs in this recipe, and they are responsible for a lot of the structure and texture of these soft, tender donuts. You can try replacing them each with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel). I’m afraid I just don’t know how they’ll turn out, though.
Sugar: If you’d like to try to make these donuts with a sugar alternative, you can try replacing the granulated sugar with Swerve brand granulated sugar replacement or Lankato monkfruit granulated sweetener.
Pay attention to the texture and viscosity of the batter, though, as those alternative sweeteners tend to absorb a lot of moisture. You may need to add some more cider.
Apple cider: If you can’t find apple cider, you can make these donuts with apple juice. There is, however, a difference between the two. Technically, apple cider is raw apple juice that hasn’t been filtered to remove pulp (source).
For the donuts in the photos and video in this post, I used cold pressed spiced apple cider from the refrigerated section at Trader Joe’s. In the past, I’ve made them with raw apple cider from the orchard, and also with plain apple juice. The more flavorful and aromatic the cider, the more so the donuts.
And remember, if you can’t bring a batch of these donuts with you to the orchard, you can make them fresh as soon as you get home.