Learn how to make the most delicious Vegan Apple Cider Donuts gluten-free and oil-free! These donuts are so soft, fluffy and moist, baked and not fried. It is hard to believe they contain no oil and no butter! They are rolled in apple pie spice sugar for delicious flavor!
VEGAN APPLE CIDER DONUTS
I’ve had a few requests for vegan apple cider donuts. Reason being, most you will find online are made with lots of sugar, oil, butter and of course, gluten. Since many of you all come here for healthier versions that taste just as amazing and delicious as traditional desserts, I got you covered!
There are a lot of oil-free vegan desserts you love here, but one of the desserts that you tag me weekly on social media are my vegan cinnamon sugar donuts! Those are, without a doubt, one of my most popular recipes. Nobody can ever believe they are gluten-free or oil-free, for that matter.
These vegan apple cider donuts are so soft, moist and fluffy. They are baked, not fried, so they have a cakey texture, that I just love. If you want to learn more about baking oil-free, be sure to check out all of my tips and tricks on How to Cook and Bake Without Oil!
(Only 8 main ingredients needed. Full details and measurements on the recipe card below.)
- Pecans: Surprise, I bet you didn’t see that coming! This gives an extra dose of holiday flavor! We are going to grind up the pecans into a flour, to make these donuts extra moist and buttery. The flavor is incredible. It’s a trick I’ve used in these vegan cornbread muffins, as well as these vegan pecan pie cookies. See sub below if allergic.
- White rice flour: Just like with my cinnamon sugar donuts and my popular funfetti cake, rice flour does some serious magic in these donuts for texture. It makes them fluffy and gives great binding. Brown rice flour is not a good sub here, it is much, much more drying in baked goods and causes things to crumble much easier. While I do use it in some recipes, for these donuts, white gives the best texture and more moisture. I even tested these with oat flour and they were not nearly as good, much more dense and gummy.
- Potato starch: This starch alone makes these fluffier than any other starch, so I highly recommend it. Since it can be a bit hard to find, I always order it online. It is inexpensive and arrives quickly.
- Baking powder
- Maple syrup
- Apple cider: Of course we need apple cider to make donuts. Please do not confuse this with apple cider vinegar. NOT the same. Use a quality apple cider with a dark, rich color for the best flavor.
- Apple pie spice: To really amp up that flavor, we are using apple pie spice, my homemade blend in fact, instead of just plain cinnamon. It gives the donuts amazing flavor.
- White granulated sugar: We will coat the donuts with sugar and apple pie spice for mega flavor. Instead of just cinnamon and sugar, using my apple pie spice really makes the coating amazing.
HOW TO MAKE VEGAN APPLE CIDER DONUTS
Step 1: First, you need a donut pan. Spray the pan with nonstick spray, otherwise your donuts will stick.
Step 2: Make the pecan meal/flour by grinding the pecans in a food processor or vitamix. It will turn into flour really quickly, so be careful not to turn into paste. I prefer the food processor because the vitamix can turn it wet fast.
Step 3: Combine the pecan flour with the remaining dry ingredients and whisk until blended.
Step 4: Add the syrup and apple cider and whisk until very smooth.
Step 5: Divide the batter evenly into the donut cavities. I used a standard donut size 6 cavity pan.
Step 6: Bake just 10 minutes until golden and well risen and a toothpick comes out clean on one of the donuts.
Step 7: Cool 15 minutes and then coat in the apple pie spice and sugar mixture. I only did the side that had the spray, it sticks perfectly and was plenty. But if you want to coat both sides, lightly brush non-dairy milk or more spray on the other side to coat.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN APPLE CIDER AND APPLE JUICE?
It can be confusing since many brands will label bottles as “apple cider” when they are literally apple juice with no difference in flavor. Apple cider is unfiltered apple juice and is much darker and the taste and smell is much stronger in real apple flavor. It smells just like fresh apples and tastes amazing.
Apple juice has gone through a filtered process and has been pasteurized and, while delicious, it is more lighter and diluted in flavor. I actually tested a batch of these vegan apple cider donuts with both and noticed a huge difference in flavor. The apple came through so much stronger with the apple cider. Some recipes will call for you to reduce the apple cider before baking with it, but I did not want to bother with all of that, in addition, didn’t feel it was necessary since my apple cider was so strong and delicious.
MORE VEGAN DONUT RECIPES
Vegan Apple Cider Donuts (Gluten-free and Oil-free)
- 9 tablespoons (63g) ground pecan meal (see directions)
- 3/4 cup (120g) white rice flour (do NOT sub brown, see NOTES)
- 4 1/2 tablespoons (45g) potato starch (see NOTES)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice (I used and recommend my blend, better flavor than store-bought)
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup (120g) quality apple cider, NOT vinegar! (see NOTES)
- 7 1/2 tablespoons (150g) pure maple syrup
- 6 tablespoons (60g white granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
- It's important to get accuracy in weight here since we are grinding up pecans and want the right ratios and moisture. So, I always use a scale for accuracy when baking, following MY gram weights listed. You never need cups, just the scale and bowl and make sure to zero out in between each ingredient.
- I use this scale.
- I use this donut pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and spray a 6 regular size donut pan well with nonstick spray. Wipe off any excess if it's pooling at the bottom. If you don't spray them, they WILL STICK. This recipe makes 6 regular size donuts. This may VARY depending on your pan having different donut size holes or depth of each one.
- First, make the pecan flour by adding a half cup of pecans to a food processor or vitamix. This will happen VERY quickly in a vitamix. I actually find it's much easier to get a flour consistency (that doesn't get too wet fast) in a food processor. You don't want to overprocess or it will turn into paste. Pecans are naturally very oily, so if you overprocess it will quickly go from flour to paste. Process starting on slow and then high until it's a flour, just a few seconds. See photo in post how it should look. You don't want big chunks, but should be a meal consistency. If nut-free, you will use the sunflower seeds option, getting it as fine as you can.
- Now make sure to measure out just 63 grams from the ground up pecan meal. You may have slightly extra from the processor, so just eat it. Add to a large bowl. If you weighed the correct amount of pecans, it will be the correct amount of flour. If you didn't weigh, make sure to use the correct amount of pecan flour.
- To the bowl of pecan flour, add the rice flour, potato starch, baking powder, apple pie spice and salt and whisk very well to ensure there are no lumps.
- Add the apple cider and syrup over the dry ingredients and whisk until completely smooth. It will seem too runny at first, but whisk a good 30 seconds or so until completely smooth and it thickens up a bit. It should be similar to a cake batter, very smooth and pourable. Do not worry about overmixing, this is a gluten-free batter and the smoother, the better. If making the version with the all-purpose flour, whisk gently just until all moistened and smooth, don't overmix or your donuts will be chewy.
- Be warned if you taste the batter, it's the yummiest batter I think I've ever tasted. The rice flour version will have a gritty texture if you taste the batter, but will 100% not be detected in the baked result. Divide the batter evenly into the 6 donut pan, basically almost to the very top, as in the photo. I like to spoon it in pouring from a measuring cup with a pour spout going around the donut cavity, so it's not messy and catching drippings quickly with my spoon. Smooth out the tops with the back of a spoon or pick up the pan and give it a side-to-side shake to even out the batter.
- Bake just 10 minutes! Both versions were perfect at 10 minutes. These bake up very quickly, so do not overbake or they will turn dry. But, as always, use the toothpick test, as you know ovens can vary, so yours may be done a minute quicker or later.
- While the donuts are baking, make the sugar mixture. Combine the apple pie spice and sugar into a wide shallow bowl and whisk until blended.
- Cool in the pan for 15 minutes only and then use a toothpick to help lift out each donut. This works best to remove them carefully. Use the bottom sides of the donuts (the sprayed side) to coat in the sugar mixture. It will stick perfectly because of the nonstick spray. I did not coat both sides since I felt they had enough sugar on just one side, but if you want to coat both, either lightly brush a little non-dairy milk, butter or oil to help the sugar stick.
- Let them cool completely and enjoy! Store any leftovers at room temperature covered well so they don't dry out. These actually taste even better a couple hours after they have baked. The apple flavor seems to intensify, as does the moisture, as they sit.
- APPLE CIDER: Do not confuse with apple cider vinegar or you will ruin the recipe. Make sure you are using a quality flavorful apple cider. Many brands will label them apple cider but it's nothing more than plain apple juice. You will know the difference by how much darker it is than regular apple juice. I used the Zeigler's brand from Whole Foods and it is SO DELICIOUS. I've seen that Target also has a lot of dark, rich looking apple cider currently, so that is another option. Keep in mind the apple flavor in your donuts will be affected by how strong the cider is.
- SUB FOR RICE FLOUR: For the gluten-free version, the rice flour gives the absolute best texture here. They turn out amazing and fluffy and slightly dense, similar to cakey donut. Brown rice flour will not work here. It will make them way too crumbly and dry. If you are not gluten-free and don't want to use rice flour, you can make these with regular all-purpose flour. That version is equally as delicious. But please note to use the same WEIGHT amount in grams for the all-purpose flour (120g). This will not be equal to 3/4 cup (like the rice flour), but instead equal to 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons (in cups). But as always, of course, use a scale please, as it's very easy to ruin a recipe by being even slightly off on flour.
- STARCH: I used potato starch here because it makes these fluffy and soft. It is the best starch for these donuts. Since it can be hard to find in stores these days, I always order it off Amazon (linked above). It is super cheap and arrives quickly. I do not recommend other starches so that the texture is not compromised. However, if you absolutely cannot use potato starch, use cornstarch instead, but again, the weight/tablespoon amounts are different for the 2 starches. Since cornstarch weighs less than potato starch, you will use the same weight in grams or if using tablespoons, you will need 5 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Please keep in mind that the donuts will be slightly more chewy and less soft/fluffy as with the potato starch.
- NUT-FREE: If allergic to pecans, I would suggest trying to make this with ground up raw, unsalted sunflower kernels instead, using the same weight amount. Get it as fine as you can. Keep in mind, this will obviously change the flavor and not be as buttery/moist since pecans are much oilier than sunflower kernels. The donuts may be more dense too, but should still be yum.
- MUFFINS: While I strongly recommend these as donuts, they are perfection, you can make these as muffins. I just prefer the texture of a donut. You will bake them as 6 donuts, 12-15 minutes. These cook very fast as muffins also, so start checking at 12 minutes. Remove once a toothpick is clean. You can sprinkle the sugar mixture on the batter before baking or when removing them, cool 15 minutes and then brush the tops with milk or light oil and then sprinkle on top. The sugar will not stick otherwise since the tops will be dry.
- Nutrition does not include the sugar coating since there will be varying amounts used by each person and not all is possibly used.
MORE VEGAN DONUT RECIPES
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