How To Make the Best Apple Cider Doughnuts at Home

updated Nov 19, 2020
How to Make the Best Apple Cider Doughnuts at Home

A step-by-step guide to making warm, cinnamon sugar-dusted apple cider doughnuts at home.

Serves12 to 16

Makes12 doughnuts and holes

Prep10 minutes

Cook55 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Apple cider donuts with one bitten.
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Should we all just agree that we really go apple picking for the warm cider doughnuts and freshly pressed apple cider? Eating those fried doughnuts is one of my fondest food memories from the two years I lived on the East Coast, but unfortunately they’re harder to find now that I’m back in California. The best solution was to head into my kitchen and make a batch myself.

I’m a firm believer that deep-frying is only worth doing at home if you can get restaurant-quality results, and trust me, this recipe is worth it. Plus, the apple-flavored dough requires no mixer or kneading, so you just might find yourself making these doughnuts often (save and reuse the fry oil!) as we inch our way into cooler months. I’m certain the people in your household who get to eat the crisp, cinnamon-scented beauties won’t complain.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

What Are Apple Cider Doughnuts?

Apple cider doughnuts are a New England treat — one of the symbols of fall as the spectacular foliage turns autumnal and the weather starts to feel crisp. They’re made with a base of boiled-down apple cider, which turns into a syrup that’s sweet and deeply apple-y. The dough is a nutmeg-laced cake dough that uses baking powder as a leavener, and the doughnuts fry up craggly and crisp on the outside, and the crowning glory is the generous dusting of cinnamon sugar that clings to the outside. These doughnuts always seem to taste best while you’re standing in an apple orchard with a steaming mug of apple cider or coffee.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

The Key Ingredients in the Best Apple Cider Doughnuts

  1. Apple cider, NOT apple juice. The most important ingredient for these doughnuts is the apple cider — it gives them that signature apple flavor, so get the best you can find. Fresh apple cider can be a bit hard to find outside of New England, so unfiltered apple juice will also work as a substitute. Just be sure not to buy the clear, sparkling, or hard stuff.
  2. Applesauce. The dough needs to be quite wet in order for the doughnuts not to fry up dry and floury, so applesauce adds both moisture and an extra boost of apple flavor. Get unsweetened applesauce (stealing one from your kid’s lunch box or baby’s pouch stash is just fine).
  3. Buttermilk or kefir. Tangy buttermilk or kefir (a fermented milk drink) makes these doughnuts sing, and a full-fat one is amazing if you can find it (although low-fat will certainly work too).
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Make-Ahead Apple Cider Doughnuts

If you want to be the hero at tomorrow’s breakfast, you can make the doughnut dough today and let it chill overnight in the fridge, then roll it out and fry the doughnuts in the morning. In this case, you’ll just need to double the amount of baking powder in the dry ingredients.

Regardless of when you’re frying, people will follow their noses and come clamoring into the kitchen for a warm doughnut. But if you happen to have any left over, already-fried doughnuts also reheat surprisingly well in a warm oven.

Don’t feel like deep-frying? Bake this apple cider doughnut Bundt cake instead, or try these air-fryer donuts.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk
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Here's how to make the best apple cider doughnuts at home.

How to Make the Best Apple Cider Doughnuts at Home

A step-by-step guide to making warm, cinnamon sugar-dusted apple cider doughnuts at home.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 55 minutes

Makes 12 doughnuts and holes

Serves 12 to 16

Nutritional Info


  • 2 1/2 cups

    apple cider or unfiltered apple juice

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 3 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 3 teaspoons

    ground cinnamon, divided

  • 2 or 4 teaspoons

    baking powder (see Recipe Note)

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    unsweetened applesauce

  • 1/3 cup

    cold buttermilk or kefir

  • 2

    cold large eggs

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 2 quarts

    vegetable, canola, or peanut oil, for deep frying


  • Round about 3-inch and 1-inch cutters, or a 3-inch doughnut cutter

  • Large frying pan

  • Whisk

  • Rubber spatula

  • Deep-fry thermometer

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot

  • Rolling pin

  • Mixing bowls

  • Shallow bowl or pie plate

  • Wooden chopsticks or tongs

  • 2 baking sheets

  • Wire rack


  1. Reduce the apple cider. Bring 2 1/2 cups apple cider to a boil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Boil until reduced to 1/3 cup and syrupy, about 10 minutes. (If you reduce it by too much, just add enough water to get back to 1/3 cup.) Meanwhile, cut 6 tablespoons unsalted butter into 6 pieces. Mix the dry ingredients.

  2. Mix the dry ingredients. Place 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons baking powder (4 teaspoons if you plan to let the dough chill overnight), 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Add the butter and sugar. When the cider is ready, remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until melted and combined. Add 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and whisk until melted. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.

  4. Add the remaining wet ingredients. Add 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/3 cup cold buttermilk or kefir, and 2 cold large eggs. Whisk until smooth.

  5. Mix the dough. Scrape the cider mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms. Do not overmix.

  6. Chill the dough and make the cinnamon sugar. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 1 hour (or overnight if you used 4 teaspoons baking powder). Meanwhile, place the remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1 cup granulated sugar in a wide, shallow bowl or pie plate and stir to combine.

  7. Heat the oil and prepare for frying. Fill a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot with 2 quarts vegetable oil (at least 1 1/2 inches of oil) and clip on a deep-fry thermometer. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until 350ºF. Meanwhile, fit a wire rack onto a baking sheet. Dust a second baking sheet lightly with flour. Cut out the doughnuts.

  8. Roll out the dough. Generously flour a work surface, then transfer the dough (it will not be smooth) onto it. Generously dust the top of the dough and a rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out until 1/2-inch thick (about a 12-inch wide round).

  9. Cut out doughnuts. Cut doughnuts out with a floured doughnut cutter (or use 2 round cutters about 3 and 1-inch in diameter). The dough may be a little sticky, and it’s okay to twist the cutters as you push them in to get a clean cut. Transfer the doughnuts and doughnut holes to the floured baking sheet. Gather the scraps and form them into a ball, then roll out again until 1/2-inch thick. Repeat cutting until you have at least 12 doughnuts and 12 doughnut holes. If the oil is not ready yet, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator.

  10. Fry the first batch. Fry in batches of 4 doughnuts. Gently place the doughnuts in the oil and fry, flipping once, until puffed and golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Use tongs or chopsticks to gently remove the doughnuts from the hot oil, hold them over the pot for a few seconds to drain off the excess oil, and place on the wire rack.

  11. Roll the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar. Immediately place the doughnuts one at a time in the reserved cinnamon sugar and toss until well-coated, sprinkling some of the sugar over the doughnut and making sure the sides are well coated. Return to the wire rack.

  12. Fry the remaining doughnuts. Repeat with frying the remaining doughnuts, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain an oil temperature of 350ºF and tossing each batch in the cinnamon sugar immediately after they are fried.

  13. Fry the doughnut holes. Fry the doughnut holes in 2 batches, about 1 minute per side, and coat in cinnamon sugar.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The dough can be made and chilled overnight before rolling out and frying.

Storage: The doughnuts are best eaten the day they are made. Once cooled, they can also be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days. Rewarm in a 325ºF oven for about 8 minutes.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk