Filed under: Fall / Quick Breads
September 23, 2022

Apple Cider Donuts

Homemade apple cider donuts! This easy recipe includes brown butter, apple butter, and apple pie spices making it the ultimate cider donut. It’s packed with flavor, the texture is cakey but decisively donuty as they are fried and coated in spiced sugar. 

Yield: 20 donuts
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Wow, this was not an easy one to tackle. And honestly I’m not sure what spurred me on. I’ve always thought cider donuts are best had at pumpkin patches/apple orchards or next to a farmstand in mid-October. 

But honestly, I want those donuts once a week during fall, not just on the rare weekend, and what about all those folks who couldn’t make it to the farm? Or who went and were disappointed by what they had, like my husband who says they’re often too oily and don’t have enough flavor? This is for them and him. 

 

apple cider donuts

 

I have a lot of experience eating cider donuts, (which, tbh, sounds like a weird way to convince you that this recipe is fantastic) but because of that I have very particular opinions on what makes the good ones, absolutely great, and hope you’ll agree:  

  1. They should taste like cider. Not just cinnamon! This is important; there’s a lot of recipes out there that include enough cinnamon to distract you from what you are really looking for. This isn’t one of them; we are ALL about the apple here. You’ll see.
  2. They should be fried not baked: baked donuts are muffins in a donut shape and while they can have great flavor, nothing beats the crisp dough texture you get from frying. 

 

Recipe overview 

The first recipe I made was published by a new england-based magazine which claimed to be ‘authentic’. I think I put so much faith in that one that it was my disappointment that spurred me on to find *the one*. After a few other recipes which had textures I wasn’t happy with, I decided what I needed was a basic sour cream donut recipe; they are cakey and fried, so they’d give me the right texture. From there I could figure out how to ‘cider it’ (likely by adding reduced cider).

 

This approach got me closer but the donuts still weren’t puffing up enough and they certainly didn’t deliver in terms of taste. I switched from reducing cider to using boiled cider. I got very close but it still wasn’t cider heaven, and well, after all isn’t that where we all want to be every October? 

A reader recommended this recipe from Claire Saffitz and I noted that she did use sour cream, and mostly her recipe was very similar to where I was getting with mine, BUT… she used apple butter. And that is where the game changed for me: the magic ingredient! 

 

What’s apple butter? 

Basically apple sauce that’s been reduced; there’s no actual butter in it and sometimes it’s reduced with spices. Open a jar of apple butter and you’ll smell cider. It’s amazing stuff, it’s been years since I had some (or made it) but I can’t imagine this recipe without it. 

You can make it with apples yourself (a crockpot comes in handy for this project), or buy a jar from a local farmers market or farm (err, while you’re eating some donuts maybe, lol). 

 

What’s the difference between apple cider and boiled cider? 

Apple cider is the unfiltered juice of the apple. It’s not apple juice and it is not apple cider vinegar. 

Boiled cider is fresh apple cider that has been cooked long enough to not only reduce it but really concentrate the flavor. It’s very dark and syrupy.  

But if you can’t buy it and still want to make this recipe, you can reduce some fresh cider yourself. It won’t be as strong in flavor but that’s ok – we’re also using apple butter here so the apple flavor still comes through! 

 

 

Key Recipe Ingredients 

Butter: The butter will be browned; adding that much more flavor to the dough. No need to soften it. Use unsalted!

 

Apple Butter: A key ingredient, no substitutes! If you can’t find it in your stores, make it. 

 

Sour Cream: This brings us closer to a sour cream donut texture: makes it soft, levels out the sweetness in the dough. 

 

Apple pie spice: I do a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. If you don’t like the latter two it’s fine to skip them but together they are heavenly. 

 

Boiled cider: You can buy it here, or reduce some yourself by boiling down 2 cup of fresh apple cider into ¼ cup, you won’t need all of it but if you boil down just one cup it’s more likely to burn.  

 

How to make Apple Cider Donuts 

  1. Brown the butter and let it cool. 
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients. 
  3. Separately whisk together the dry ingredients. 
  4. Fold the two together. Spread onto a parchment lined pan. 
  5. Cover and chill while the oil heats. Punch out shapes. 
  6. Shallow fry the donuts. Coat with sugar while hot. 
  7. EAT!

 

 

Note: if you would like to do a cider glaze instead of the sugar, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar with 2-3 tablespoons fresh cider. I like to add vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of salt as well.

Apple Cider Donuts

Homemade cider donuts made with brown butter, apple butter and apple pie spice.
apple cider donuts
Prep Time: 36 mins
Cook Time: 3 hrs 40 mins
Chill Time: 1 hr
Yields: 20 donuts
4.34 from 3 votes

Ingredients

Apple Pie Spice

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

Donut Dough

  • 6tablespoons or 85g unsalted butter
  • ½cup or 140g apple butter
  • ½cup or 115g sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons boiled or reduced cider* see ingredient notes above
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼cup or 50g granulated sugar
  • ½cup or 105g brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice from above
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 450g or 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • Canola or vegetable oil for frying
  • granulated sugar for coating

Method

First, brown the butter:

  • In a frying pan set the butter over medium low heat. Cook as it melts, then sputters and bubbles until little brown bits appear at the bottom. Stir while it browns fully - but don't let the brown bits turn black. Transfer to a heatproof bowl.

Make the dough

  • Whisk together the cooled brown butter, apple butter, sugars, sour cream, eggs, salt, boiled or reduced cider, apple pie spice and vanilla.
  • Separately, whisk together the flour and baking powder and soda. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until you have a thick dough.
  • Line a greased cookie sheet with parchment paper. Dust it with a thin layer of flour all over. Spread the donut dough over the parchment and use floured hands or a roller to get it into an even layer of about half an inch. Setting another sheet of parchment on top, after dusting with flour will help smooth it out. Set in the freezer to chill for at least 30 minutes or in the fridge for an hour.

Fry the donuts

  • Whisk together about 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1 tsp apple pie spice. Fill a large, deep skillet with oil until it is about 2-3 inches deep. Set it over medium high heat and keep a thermometer nearby as well as another cookie sheet lined with paper towels.
  • Using a donut cutter (or a round biscuit cutter and a piping tip) to punch out donut shapes. You can re-roll this dough to keep cutting out donuts. The dough is sticky so use flour as needed.
  • When the temperature of the oil reaches about 360 F, you can begin frying the donuts. Don’t do more than four at a time, they cook quickly. Once they are fully browned on the bottom - after about 2-3 minutes, turn them to cook on the other side. Once browned all over, use a spider strainer to remove them and set them on the paper towels.
  • While they are still hot but you’re able to handle them, dip them in the sugar mix to coat on both sides. It’s important to do this before the oil cools so that the sugar will stick to the donut.
  • Donuts are best the day of (while warm!) but store fine in an airtight container kept at room temperature.

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Recipe Rating




  1. 3 stars
    Thank you for your unique recipe, after looking at many I had to try this, for I as well am on a quest for an apple cider donut that actually tastes like “apple cider”. I live in upstate NY surrounded by apple cider mills, and to my surprise, I still have not found an apple cider donut where that flavor shines through! I found this recipe, with super high hopes in finally “cracking the code”. I made my own apple butter, made my own apple cider syrup. Followed the recipe to a “T”. First, I must say, I am a chef at an Ivy League university so I decided to make these for my fellow staff members as a treat, so I used the button above to double the recipe to 40 donuts. After putting it all together, I ended up with a kind of “pancake batter”! What went wrong?? So, going with my gut, I put 3 more cups of flour in it, just to be able to work the dough. Later, I checked back on the page, looked at the measurements and guess what? The flour does not change in volume in the US measurements from the button!!! So, that part of the recipe definitely needs to be corrected. After continuing with the recipe with my adjustments, I ended up with delicious donuts, yes, but I was still looking for that apple cider flavor to shine through and it just did not! I really thought for sure it would with all those condensed apple ingredients, more like a “spice donut” but my staff still loved them! I’ve finally concluded that apple itself, being such a neutral flavor to begin with, just may never come through in a dough unless it was in chunk form. Overall a delicious donut, just not screaming apple cider, and the flour part on adjusting the servings needs connect to the button adjuster.

  2. Can you make this in 2 days? Like keep in fridge overnight after cutting so you can fry fresh in the am? looks so good!

  3. 5 stars
    Following up on my original comment below now that I’ve made these. They are everything I hoped they would be. New fall family tradition level good. My dad, said they were “just the right amount of cider-y.” The dough is super sticky and I had trouble with it softening quickly after pulling it out of the freezer, so the next time I make them I’m going to refrigerate again after cutting and fry in small batches to keep it really cold.

  4. 5 stars
    I love how well thought out this recipe is! It’s deeply flavorful and the instructions easy to follow! It’s truly the most apple cider-y donut I’ve tried! My whole family had fun making them, and of course eating them. Can’t wait to make them again…thanks Sam!

  5. I’m so excited for this recipe it’s like my soul is breathing a sigh of relief. That sounds dramatic, but I’m a Texas girl with family in Vermont. I LOVE apple cider donuts, but I just can’t find them around Austin where I live. I always love your recipes, so I’m super optimistic here. I’ll report back and review once I’ve tried making these, but just couldn’t wait to share my excitement!

    • Oh Erica, I really HOPE they live up to your expectations and give you a little piece of home! Please do let me know how they turn out, would love to hear your thoughts. My favorite fall farm trips (and donuts!) have been in Vermont!