My favorite Fall treat is fresh cider donuts from the cider mill, and I don’t know that it’s even close.
Luckily for me, I live in Michigan, and we have plenty of apple orchards and cider mills around here. So, come Fall, there is no shortage of apple cider donuts.
If you’ve never had a cider donut, first of all, what are you waiting for?! Second of all, you’re missing out big time. Apple cider donuts are incredibly moist donuts, freshly fried and coated with cinnamon & sugar. When they’re fresh, there is truly nothing better.
There’s no substitute for the real thing. I’m not going to lie to you and say these are as good as fresh apple cider donuts, because the real-deal is just too good. But I can proudly say that these are damn good.
And what’s even better is how much more macro-friendly these are…
With less than 1/2 the calories and 3x the protein, I’ll take it!
Why these don’t look like authentic cider donuts
Authentic apple cider donuts use, you guessed it, apple cider!
Fresh apple cider is already very sweet as it is just concentrated apples. But for cider donuts, that is taken one step further, and the cider is reduced down into a syrup for an intense apple flavor, and it’s how you get that deep brown color of the donuts.
We’re doing things a little bit differently here…
We’re not using any apple cider.
Apple cider donuts without apple cider? What is this blasphemy?!
To reduce the calories and sugar here, I opted to leave the apple cider out, so we have the sacrifice that deep brown color. But that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
Instead of cider, we’re using a different secret ingredient: apple butter.
If you’re unfamiliar with apple butter, it’s quite similar to applesauce. In fact, I’d consider them siblings.
Apple butter is to applesauce as apple cider is to apple juice.
The difference is that apple butter is a more concentrated version of applesauce. Essentially, it’s just cooked down longer, leading to less liquid and more of a caramelized color and deeper flavor.
I used an apple butter from our local orchard, but most stores should sell it! Look for it with the jelly/jam in your store. Even Smucker’s makes their own version!
This version happens to have some sugar added, but I’ve come across others that I just pure apples, so you can certainly go that route. If there is no sugar added, the calories will typically be cut in half.
And don’t worry about having to buy a jar of apple butter- make a peanut butter + apple butter sandwich, fall in love with it, and thank me later. It’s significantly better than a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, believe it or not.
Can you substitute apple butter?
You certainly can.
If you follow the recipe exactly as written, you can directly swap out the apple butter for more unsweetened applesauce. I tried this with success, so you shouldn’t have any problem there.
That being said, I HIGHLY recommend using apple butter if you can. My version with just applesauce was good, but really lacking that punch of apple flavor.
Since we’re not using any cider, the apple butter acts as the perfect flavor replacement for it, and I highly recommend utilizing it.
Forming the donuts
One difference in this recipe vs many other donut recipes you’ll come across is that this is a liquid batter vs a dough.
I know, they’re called DOUGHnuts for a reason, but messing with dough only works when you’re making yeast donuts. Since these are cake donuts, you’ll end up with more of a cake batter.
If you don’t have a donut pan, I highly recommend grabbing one. You can find a ton on Amazon- you can go with this one that I have, or there are plenty of silicone ones to choose from as well!
With these donuts, all you have to do is fill the pan halfway, and they’ll poof up into the perfect donut shapes:
Once they’re baked, just toss in a cinnamon/sugar mixture and you’re ready to go!
If you don’t have a donut pan, you can easily turn these into muffins. You should still be able to get 6 out of the entire recipe.
A note on high-protein baking
With high-protein baking, making substitutions can lead to a completely failed recipe.
First things first: with this recipe, I opted to go with slightly less protein than you might be used to. For the longest time, I’m been so fixated on making recipes as high-protein as possible.
It’s not until recently that I came to my senses and realized just how much better recipes can be when you don’t force a ton of protein into them.
That’s why this recipe, at 170 calories and 12g of protein, might not seem as appealing as other “protein donuts” you come across. You might find a recipe that is 100 calories and 15g of protein. The problem is, at least for me, that when baked goods are too high in protein they are either too dry, or taste too much like straight protein powder.
By scaling back the protein a little bit here, I promise you these have an authentic cider donut flavor!
My wife is my official tester now, as she hates the taste of protein powder. If she approves a recipe, I know it’s good to go, and she loved these.
Which protein powder should you use?
In this recipe, I used PEScience Vanilla protein, which is a whey/casein blend. You’ve probably seen me mention them before if you’ve followed any of my other recipes!
I have no affiliation with them, I just really love the product. I find the taste very subtle, which is great for baking, but the whey/casein protein blend lends itself much better to baking than a regular whey protein.
I know many people only have whey protein at home, so you CAN use that. I’ve found that it dries baked goods out a little bit more, but you should be able to follow this recipe the same. If anything, you might have to adjust the liquids slightly.
If you are using a whey protein powder, my recommendation is to follow the recipe as written, but leave the applesauce out initially. Mix everything together, and then add the applesauce last to thin out the batter and get it to the right consistency. If I had to guess, you’ll need a little bit less applesauce, so add a little at a time until you have a pourable batter!
But as always, feel free to experiment.
You’ll get the best results with the whey/casein mixture (as proven by my giant cookie recipe), but it can’t hurt to try some alternatives, too. Let me know if it works out for you!
And if you like these donuts, I have plenty of other recipes on my site for you to check out! For all you apple & donut fans, I’ve got some good ones for ya…
And if you need even more incentive to make these donuts, I’d like to point you to my new favorite breakfast:
That’s right, it’s a cider donut breakfast sandwich! Just slice the donut in half, add an egg and some bacon, and enjoy.
- 120g (1 Cup) All-Purpose Flour
- 62g (2 Scoops) Vanilla Protein Powder (I used PEScience)
- 20g Granular Sugar Substitute (I used Anthony's)
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Apple Pie Spice (can make your own or just use cinnamon)
- 1 pinch Salt
- 2 Large Eggs
- 57g (3 Tbsp) Apple Butter (if you do not have apple butter, you can use 140-150g total of unsweetened applesauce instead)
- 80g Unsweetened Applesauce
- 28g Light Butter (or regular butter)
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 tbsp Sugar-Free Syrup (optional but recommended)
- 50g Granular Sugar Substitute (I used Anthony's)
- 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, mix up all the dry ingredients to avoid clumping.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together all of your liquid ingredients. It's okay if it's not a completely smooth mixture at this point. The butter will not completely mix into the rest of the liquids, and that is to be expected.
- Add the liquid mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients, and use a silicone spatula (or mixing spoon) to mix it all up until you have a smooth batter.
- Spray a donut pan with nonstick butter spray and fill your molds halfway (they will rise, I promise). You’re going to want a donut pan because the batter is going to be liquidy, rather than a dough you can cut donuts from. If you don’t have a pan, these can also be muffins!
- Add to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. While those are in the oven, make the coarting by mixing together your sugar substitute and cinnamon in a bowl.
- When your donuts come out and are still warm, give them a light spray on each side with cooking spray and roll them (or toss) in your cinnamon sugar mixture until coated. You'll have some coating left over, but it's better to make slightly more than not enough.
- Enjoy these while fresh & warm for the best result. If you're saving these for during the week, reheating them in the microwave for 10 seconds brings them back to that fresh out of the oven taste!
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1 Donut
Amount Per Serving Calories 170Total Fat 4gCarbohydrates 21gSugar 4gProtein 12g