Apple Cider Donuts are a sweet treat that should be added to your fall bucket list this year! Sweet, apple-scented donuts with a cinnamon-sugar coating on the outside, these donuts are perfect for the fall season.
Apple Cider Donuts
We are lucky to leave near some apple orchards that we visit every fall. One of our options is near Sacramento, CA in an area known as Apple Hill. There are lots of orchards there and each fall you can go there for apple picking and apple goodies like pies, syrups, cider, and these delicious donuts with the cinnamon sugar mixture that the whole family is obsessed with.
Fall recipes with apples, pumpkins, and pears have amazing fall flavors like maple, caramel, apple pie spice, and cinnamon that pair so well together. These fresh donuts with the apples and cinnamon are no exception and the perfect fall treat! Nothing beats a fresh apple cider donut!
Unlike baked donuts that use a donut pan, these apple cider donuts are fried. While I don't often fry things at home, I made an exception for these apple cider donuts because I wanted to recreate them as best I could and I knew a baked version just wouldn't cut it.
Donuts are actually pretty easy to make. It's a simple dough that needs a little refrigeration time since it's so soft, then it's just a few minutes on each side in some hot oil and voila - homemade apple cider donuts, fresh and ready for eating!
Apple Cider Donut Ingredients
- Apples - You will want to peel, core, and chop the apples. Envy, honey crisp, granny smith, or pink lady apples are all great for this recipe.
- Apple cider - Make sure to use real apple cider, if you can find it. It will give an even stronger apple flavor than just apple juice.
- All purpose flour
- Buttermilk - Adds lightness and tenderness to the donuts when reacting with the baking soda. To make your own buttermilk stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar for every one cup of milk.
- Baking powder
- Spices - Warm spices like ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg pair perfectly with apple recipes like this one.
- Baking soda
- Vanilla extract
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
How to Make Homemade Apple Cider Donuts
- Reduce apples and cider. Start by reducing 3 cups of fresh apple cider in a saucepan along with 2 peeled and chopped apples by bringing the cider to a boil over medium heat, then cooking the apples and cider for about 15 minutes until the apples are soft and the cider has reduced down to only about ½ cup.
- Puree. For best results, use an immersion blender to puree the softened apples and concentrated cider, or allow it to cool and transfer to a blender to puree.
Reducing Apple Cider
The key to really getting the moist apple cider flavor you can into your donuts is to reduce real, fresh apple cider down to concentrate the flavor without adding too much liquid to the dough. It has a tart, sweet, intense apple flavor.
The reduced apple cider is one step that takes a little time but it will really enhance the apple flavor of the donuts more than if you just used straight apple cider or apple juice. You will be glad you did this extra step when you take your first bite into these warm apple cider donuts and they will be the best donuts you have ever had!
- Whisk wet ingredients. Whisk together the sugar, melted butter, eggs, pureed apples, buttermilk, and vanilla.
- Whisk dry ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl to evenly distribute the spices. Make sure the flour mixture is in a large mixing bowl.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until the dough comes together.
- Turn out dough onto a floured surface. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle it generously with flour. Dump all of the dough onto the parchment paper.
- Pat out dough. Dust your hands with flour, then sprinkle the dough with flour. Pat the dough out into a ½-inch thick rectangle. The dough will be sticky. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours in the fridge or 20 minutes in the freezer.
- Cut out donuts. When ready to fry, heat 2 inches of oil in a large pan to 375 degrees F. You can get a deep-fry thermometer for the oil to make sure the oil stays at a constant temperature. Cut the donuts out of the chilled dough using a donut cutter or two circle cutters, 3- and 1-inch thick. Combine scraps to cut out additional donuts. Save the smaller circles for donut holes.
- Fry. Fry 2-3 donuts at a time in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes on each side, flipping so the donuts are golden brown on the outside and cooked through, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to drain. Fry the doughnut holes in 2 batches, about 1 minute per side.
- Once the donuts are cool enough to handle, dip the entire donut in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar or glaze before serving.
How to Make Apple Cider Glaze
Making apple cider glaze for apple cider donuts is super easy and provides a delicious exterior coating if you want something different than just the cinnamon sugar.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups powdered sugar and 2-4 tablespoons of apple cider. You can make the glaze thicker by adding more powdered sugar or thin it out with a little more cider until you reach a consistency you like.
Dip the donuts into the glaze, then transfer back to the wire rack for 10-15 minutes so the glaze can set.
The main difference between apple cider and apple juice is that fresh cider is just raw apple juice that hasn't gone through any systems or processes to filter or pasteurize it. It's not shelf stable and has to be refrigerated to keep it fresh. Even then, fresh apple cider only lasts for about 2 weeks in the fridge before it starts to ferment. Really good apple cider tastes like you are biting into the juiciest, most apple-y apple of your life.
Apple juice, on the other hand, is filtered and pasteurized to remove solids and extend the shelf life. The flavor is less apple-y and more sweet and doesn't pack the same apple punch that cider does.
It makes a difference to use real apple cider rather than apple juice when making this apple cider donuts recipe. While you could use apple juice, it doesn't give quite the same results unless you purchase the pure pressed "Simply Apple" brand of apple juice which you can find in the refrigerated section. Or you can buy extra jugs of apple cider when it's available in the Fall, pour about an inch of juice off the top, then freeze for later enjoyment throughout the year.
Tips for Making the Best Apple Cider Donuts
- Work with cold dough. This dough is very soft and very sticky, which creates light, fluffy donuts but can be difficult to work with. Keeping the dough cold help combat some of that, as does using plenty of flour when patting out and cutting out the doughnuts.
- Enjoy them fresh. Like most fried foods, these donuts are best enjoyed the day they are made. But they will keep in an airtight container for a few days.
- Try a glaze! Another way to boost your apple cider flavor is to glaze the donuts with an apple cider glaze rather than opting to go the cinnamon sugar route. I'm including both options in the recipe for you to choose from, but the photos are of the classic Apple Hill approach that my husband loves of cinnamon sugar coating on the outside of the crispy, apple-fragrant donut.
More Donut Recipes
- Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts
- Carrot Cake Baked Donuts with Cream Cheese Glaze
- New Orleans Beignets
- Homemade Churros
Did you make this recipe?
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Best Apple Cider Donuts Recipe
For the Donuts
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 3 cups apple cider
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 Tablespoons salted butter, melted
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Apple Cider Glaze (Optional)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2-4 Tablespoons apple cider
- In a medium saucepan, combine the apples and apple cider and heat over medium heat until boiling. Cook, uncovered for 15-20 minutes until the apples have softened and the cider is mostly reduced with maybe ½ cup of the liquid left. Puree with an immersion blender or allow to cool before transferring to a blender to puree until smooth. You should end up with about 1 cup of concentrated, pureed apple. If you have more, the cider probably needs to reduce a bit more, so just return to the pan and cook down a bit more until you are left with just 1 cup of puree.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg.
- In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, butter, eggs, and reduced apple cider and apple puree. Whisk well, then add the buttermilk and vanilla and whisk again. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine, taking care not to overmix.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust generously with flour. Turn the donut dough out onto the floured surface and sprinkle a little flour over the top. Dust your hands with flour and use them to pat the dough into a rectangle about ½-inch thick. The dough will be very sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or stick in the freezer for 20 minutes).
- When the dough has chilled, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven until the temperature reaches 375 degrees F on a thermometer. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet lined with paper towels for draining the donuts after frying them. In a shallow bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping and set aside.
- Cut out the donuts using a donut cutter or a 3-inch biscuit cutter for the outer circle and a 1-inch cutter for the inside circle (I didn't have a 1-inch cutter so I used my largest frosting tip that was 1-inch in diameter). Save the inside circles for donuts holes and combine the rest of the dough and pat out again and cut into donuts until all the dough has been used.
- Working in batches, fry 2 or 3 donuts at a time in the hot oil, cooking for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown on the outside and cooked through. Transfer to the wire rack to cool, then dip into the cinnamon sugar mixture, turning to coat. Serve warm.
- If you choose to make the apple cider glaze, just whisk the powdered sugar and apple cider together in a bowl, then dip the donuts into the glaze and let set for 15 minutes.
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