This old-fashioned apple cider donuts recipe gives you donuts with soft, tender apple cake on the inside, and a crispy cinnamon sugar crumb on the outside. With just one bite you will be welcomed into the comfort of fall.
In the northeastern part of the United States, apple cider donuts are a sign that fall has arrived. Many families make a tradition of apple picking at their local orchards, and they top the excursion off by devouring freshly baked apple cider donuts at the orchard's donut stand.
But truth be told, you don't have to limit your apple cider donut enjoyment to fall apple picking. These old-fashioned apple cider donuts are fun to make in your own home!
Can I Use Apple Juice?
The best cider to purchase for these donuts is the fresh cider that can sometimes be found in the produce section of your local grocery store. It has a rich earthy flavor that makes these donuts incredible!
But it is spring in Texas, and my stores didn't have fresh cider. So I used apple juice and it still worked beautifully! Yep, contrary to what some websites say, you actually can use apple juice to make apple cider donuts.
The difference between apple cider and apple juice comes down to how it is processed. Apple cider is unfiltered, making it more earthy and tart, while juice has a cleaner, sweeter taste. Either one makes for a delicious donut.
What is critically important is that you get 100% juice/cider with no sugar added.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full list of ingredients, including measurements.
Sugar - I tested this recipe with 100% granulated sugar and a combination of granulated and brown sugar. I like the lighter cake that I got with the granulated sugar. If you prefer a darker, heavier cake donut, substitute half of the amount of sugar with brown sugar.
Buttermilk - The buttermilk makes these donuts soft and tender. If you do not have buttermilk on hand, simply add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to regular milk, give it a stir, and let it sit for 5 minutes.
Spices - These donuts have the classic flavors of fall, with the combination of apples with cinnamon and nutmeg. They add warmth to the flavor of the donuts.
Step One: Make Cider Reduction
- Apple cider fried donuts need concentrated apple flavor. This is achieved by boiling the cider until it is reduced by two-thirds.
- That means that the 3 cups of apple cider will become 1 cup.
- Allow the cider concentrate to cool before adding it to the batter. You can even make it a day ahead and refrigerate it until you are ready to use.
Steps Two: Mix Dry Ingredients
- The dry ingredients get mixed separately from the wet ingredients. If these ingredients were dumped directly into the batter they might clump together.
- By mixing into the flour first, the spices and leavening agents get distributed evenly throughout the batter, giving each bite of the donut a consistent flavor.
Step Three: Cream Butter and Sugar
- Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together for about a minute. Add the eggs and beat well. This will help the batter to be lighter in texture.
- If you prefer a dense cake, this step can be done by hand. Melt the butter and let it cool, then stir it into the sugar and eggs.
Step Four: Cut Donuts
- The first time I made these donuts I used a 3 ½-inch donut cutter. The donuts were large and beautiful, but the inside was raw. Lowering the temperature of the oil to 350°F helped, but it still wasn't what I was hoping for.
- That's when I turned to my biscuit cutters. I used a 2 ½-inch cutter for the outside circle and a 1-inch cutter for the inside.
Step Five: Fry
- The most important step in deep-frying is regulating the temperature of the oil. If the oil is too hot then the donuts will brown before the inside is cooked. If it is too cool then the donuts will absorb too much oil which will affect their texture and flavor.
- A good thermometer is essential if you do not own a deep fryer! Before placing the donuts into the oil, make sure that the oil is between 360-375°F.
- The temperature will drop once the donuts go into the oil, so you may need to adjust your burner to heat the oil back up.
- After a minute or two, the bottom of the donuts will be golden brown. Flip them over and cook them for another minute or so, then remove them to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Once they are cool enough to handle you can sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar.
Cook the donuts in the air fryer at 330°F for 8-10 minutes. They will be a little more biscuit-like on the exterior so I like to cover them in a cinnamon glaze instead of cinnamon sugar. Mix together 2 cups of confectioner's sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2-3 tablespoons of milk, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon to make the glaze.
Yes, the dough can be made ahead and refrigerated in a covered bowl or container for up to 24 hours before frying. You can even cut them in advance and place them on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan in the refrigerator if you desire.
The donuts can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days, or in the freezer for 3 months. After freezing, thaw at room temperature or microwave for 1 minute before serving.
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Old-Fashioned Apple Cider DonutsRecipe by:
- 3 cups (720 ml) apple cider (1 cup once reduced)
- 4 ¼ cups (555 grams) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoons table salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons (71 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 2 quarts oil for frying
Cinnamon Sugar Coating
- 1 ½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
To Make the Donuts
- Bring the apple cider to boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Boil for 1 minute and then reduce to medium heat. Stir the cider occasionally and allow it to gently boil until the liquid reduced by two-thirds, leaving one cup of liquid. This will take 15-20 minutes. Cool completely.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute. Add eggs and beat an additional 1-2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the vanilla extract, buttermilk, and the cooled cider. Mix on low speed until blended.
- Pour the flour into the liquids and mix until flour is no longer visible. The dough should be thick and slightly sticky. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll ½-inch thick.
- Cut the dough using a donut cutter, or a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter. If using a biscuit cutter, cut a 1-inch hole in the center using a small cutter or a knife. Reroll scraps to cut out additional donuts. Refrigerate dough in between rolling, if needed.
- Heat oil in a large stock pan over medium-high heat until it reaches 360°F (182°C). Monitor the temperature using a frying thermometer to ensure the temperature is maintained between 360-375°F.
- Working in batches, fry a few donuts at a time by placing the dough carefully into the oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side, until golden.
- Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool for about a minute, then dip in the cinnamon-sugar bowl and sprinkle the donut to cover with cinnamon sugar.Serve while warm.
- To make cinnamon sugar, simply mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.