Gluten-Free Tuesday: Vegan Apple Doughnuts Recipe

Photographs: Elizabeth Barbone

Apple doughnuts in March? Let me explain!

Originally I planned to share a buttermilk doughnut recipe for Gluten-Free Tuesday. We've made pancakes and waffles in this column; turning to doughnuts next seemed only right.

However, since I've received requests for gluten-free and allergen-free desserts, I set aside my buttermilk and egg-filled recipe to create an allergen-free doughnut instead.

But without the buttermilk and eggs, the doughnut's tenderness went too. In fact, during testing, my husband ate a doughnut and said, "Are these bagels or doughnuts? For a bagel this is good. For a doughnut, terrible." Harsh, right? Well he was right! I needed a way to get some tenderness back into the doughnuts.

Since the buttermilk is acidic, I tried sneaking some acid into the recipe. First I tried lemon juice and got, you guessed it, lemony doughnuts. While the flavor wasn't bad, it wasn't the old fashioned-style doughnuts I wanted.

Enter apple juice. I live in New York state's apple country. In the fall, apple cider doughnuts are everywhere. Thinking about those gave me an idea. Would the apple juice be acidic enough to bring tenderness to the dough? The answer was yes!

Like lemon juice, the apple juice also brought flavor with it. But, unlike the lemon juice, the apple flavor worked with the spices and brown sugar that were already in the dough. Success! (I liked the flavor and results from using "natural" apple juice or apple cider best.)

I've included some tips on making doughnuts below. This recipe makes cake doughnuts, so you'll be able to mix the dough and fry it up quickly.

Tips for Making Gluten-Free/Allergen-Free Doughnuts

  • Keep them thick and small.This recipe makes cake doughnuts. After mixing, pat the dough into a large rectangle. To make the dough easy to transfer from the counter to the fryer, keep the dough about 1⁄2-inch thick and cut into 2 1/2-inch circles. This might seem like a small doughnut but it rises in the fryer.
  • Generously flour your counter and doughnut cutters. This dough's a little sticky. A generous sprinkling of white rice flour prevents the dough from clinging to the counter. And be sure to dip the cutter into white rice flour before you cut each doughnut.
  • Watch the oil temperature. Fry the doughnuts in 375°F oil. Hot oil ensures the doughnuts don't get greasy. Two things to remember: Don't crowd the fryer. If you fry too many doughnuts at once, your oil temperature drops. When frying doughnuts, give them space to move in the oil. In my small fryer, I only make two doughnuts at a time. And secondly, monitor the temperature throughout frying. Adjust as needed to keep the temperature at 375°F.
  • Re-roll the dough. Since you want to keep the dough thick, you'll only get about six doughnuts out of the first "batch." Lightly knead the dough back together and re-cut. No gluten means the dough does not get tough when reworked.
  • Place, don't drop, the dough into the fryer. To reduce splatter from the deep fryer, hold the dough close the surface of the oil. As soon as the dough hits the oil, gently place the doughnut into the oil. Don't hold the doughnut high above the oil and drop it in.
  • Turn doughnuts. After about two minutes the doughnuts will rise to the top of the Dutch oven or deep fryer. When they do, turn them over with the handles of two wooden spoon. Again, be gently to reduce splatter.
  • Make doughnut holes. Okay, you don't have to do this but you want to, right? Set aside the scraps from the center of the doughnuts. When you've fried the last large doughnut, pop these into the fryer, a few at a time. If you don't want to make doughnuts hole, roll the dough back together and cut out another full-sized doughnut.
  • Eat 'em right away. These doughnuts do not age well. The batch makes about twelve doughnuts and, trust me, the leftovers are not great. Either eat them the same day or give them away.

Recipe Details

Gluten-Free Tuesday: Vegan Apple Doughnuts Recipe

Active 80 mins
Total 80 mins
Serves 12 servings


  • 11 1/4 ounces (2 1/4 cups) brown rice flour

  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup) potato starch

  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup) tapioca starch

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) dark brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds

  • 1/4 cup very hot water

  • 1 1/4 cups "natural" apple juice or apple cider

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable, corn or canola oil

  • White rice flour for dusting counter

  • Oil, for deep frying

  • About 1 cup granulated sugar for rolling doughnuts


  1. In large mixing bowl, combine brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, dark brown sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon, salt, xanthan gum, and ground nutmeg. Whisk to combine.

  2. In small bowl, combine ground flax seeds and hot water. Stir. Allow to stand for 30 seconds. Add ground flax, apple juice, and oil to dry ingredients. Mix until a dough forms. Dough will be slightly sticky.

  3. Generously white rice flour counter. Transfer dough to counter. Generously white rice flour top of dough. Pat dough into 1/2 inch thick rectangle.

  4. Line baking sheet with paper towels and place granulated sugar in bowl. Set both aside.

  5. Add enough oil to Dutch oven to measure depth of about 1 1/2 inches. Heat oil to 375°F.

  6. Dip 2 1/2-inch cutter into white rice flour. Cut dough into rounds. Dip 3/4-inch cutter into white rice flour. Cut centers into doughnuts with small cutter.

  7. Gently place doughnuts into hot oil. Fry until doughnuts rise to the top of the oil, about two minutes. Using the handles of two wooden spoons, carefully flip doughnuts. (If after two minutes doughnuts do not rise to top of oil, flip anyway.) Fry doughnuts an additional minute.

  8. Using a spider (Chinese skimmer), remove doughnuts from hot oil. Drain for a few seconds on paper towels.

  9. Transfer to granulated sugar. You want to coat the doughnuts in sugar while the doughnuts are still hot or the sugar won’t stick. Repeat with remaining dough. Serve doughnuts immediately.

  10. For doughnuts holes: Carefully place doughnut holes into hot oil. Fry for one minute. Turn, fry an additional minute.

Special Equipment

2 1/2-inch round cutter, 3/4-ich round cutter, 2 wooden spoons, spider (Chinese skimmer)

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
430 Calories
23g Fat
54g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 430
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 29%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 267mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 54g 20%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 10mg 51%
Calcium 73mg 6%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 191mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)