My favorite Fall treat is fresh cider donuts from the cider mill, and 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.
Exact calories for cider donuts are going to vary wildly based on where you buy them from, but most will be just north of 200 calories per donut.
Our homemade cider donuts contain half the calories of regular cider donuts and double the protein.
If that’s not enough to convince you to make these protein cider donuts, I don’t know what is!
The secret ingredient for Protein Apple 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, but we have an all-star replacement that’s going to end up tasting just as good.
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.
And don’t worry about having to buy a jar of apple butter just for this recipe- make a peanut butter + apple butter sandwich, fall in love with it, and thank me later. It’s significantly better than peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, 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 if you want these donuts to come out tasting like authentic cider donuts.
I’ve made this recipe numerous times, and the original recipe called for making 6 large donuts. However, I’ve found that I much prefer making smaller donuts instead.
If you’ve ever visited a local apple orchard and bought authentic cider donuts, they’re usually on the smaller side, so I like these to be as authentic as possible.
To make these healthy cider donuts, you’ll mix your liquid ingredients in one bowl, and your dry ingredients in another.
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix it all together until it forms a thick batter. Don’t be alarmed if the batter seems too thick; that’s the way it should look.
Add batter to each of the donut cavities, filling enough to make 12 donuts. Take your finger and spread the batter all around the circle to make sure the batter fills the entire thing.
As you can probably tell by the photo, these don’t end up the smoothest of donuts, but we have a very simple fix for that.
These donuts look far from perfect, but thanks to the donut pan, the bottom half of the donuts are a perfect shape. So, all we have to do is flip these over!
We’re going to coat the donuts in cinnamon sugar, so it doesn’t matter a whole lot anyway, but once they are flipped over they look significantly better.
To coat these healthy cider donuts in cinnamon sugar, I usually like to spray with cooking spray and then toss in cinnamon sugar. That has worked well for other recipes, but I decided to use melted butter here instead.
I melted two tablespoons of butter in a bowl, then used a small brush to coat both sides of the donuts. I only used half of the butter (I weighed the bowl to double check that) so the caloric impact is minimal, but it works SO much better than cooking spray.
Not only does the cinnamon sugar coating stick really well, but the little bit of butter helps to keep these cider donuts nice and moist.
These donuts are best served fresh, but you can absolutely save leftovers throughout the week. Like regular donuts, they definitely lose their freshness over time, but 5-10 seconds in the microwave softens these up and has them tasting like they are fresh out of the oven.
Pair these healthy cider donuts with some hot cider or coffee, and you’ve got yourself an incredible way to start the day.
Plus, since each donut is only 100 calories, you can enjoy multiple donuts without going totally overboard.
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 an apple cider donut breakfast sandwich!
Just slice the donut in half, add an egg and some bacon, and enjoy.
Which protein powder should you use for Protein Apple Cider Donuts?
In this recipe, I used PEScience Snickerdoodle protein, which is a whey/casein blend.
If you’ve made any of my other high-protein recipes, you’ve seen me using PEScience before. That’s because the combination of whey & casein protein powder works SO much better than whey protein alone in most cases.
I originally developed this recipe using vanilla-flavored protein, and it works just as well, so don’t worry if you don’t have Snickerdoodle flavor specifically. It just adds a nice extra cinnamon flavor!
Since I originally developed this recipe, I’ve become an affiliate with PEScience because I love their protein so much. You can save 10% on any order with the code “Matt“, and I appreciate it so much when you do. It doesn’t seem like much, but it helps me continue to be able to develop free recipes for you guys!
If you opt for whey protein powder in this recipe (I don’t recommend it, but it should work in a pinch), you may find your donuts a bit dry. You can likely follow the recipe as written, but I can’t guarantee the same result.
- 120g (1 Cup) Self-Rising Flour (Or use the same amount of all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon of baking powder + pinch of salt)
- 62g (2 Scoops) Snickerdoodle or Vanilla PEScience Protein Powder (code "Matt" to save 10%)
- 20g Granular Sugar Substitute
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 2 Large Eggs
- 90g Apple Butter
- 110g Unsweetened Applesauce
- 28g Light Butter / Butter Spread
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
For Coating (You'll have extra, but it's MUCH easier to coat donuts when you have extra)
- 75g Granular Sugar Substitute
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 28g (2 Tablespoons) Melted Butter
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together all of your liquid ingredients.
- 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 thick batter. It may seem too thick at first, but continue to mix and you'll see it turn into batter.
- Spray 2 donut pans (to make 12 donuts) with nonstick butter spray and fill your molds.
- Since the batter is thick, use your finger to spread the doughnut batter around the entire donut mold. It's okay for it to not be perfectly smooth.
- Add to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- While those are in the oven, make the coating by mixing together the sugar substitute and cinnamon in a bowl.
- Remove the donuts from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before removing them from the pans and onto a cooling rack.
- Tip: The tops of the donuts might look bumpy and ugly, but here's the trick: just flip 'em over! The bottom will be nice and smooth thanks to the donut pan, so nobody needs to know that the bottom isn't as pretty.
- Melt your butter in the microwave (we will only use half, but it's much easier to have extra), then use a basting brush to lightly brush the top & bottom of your donut. Dip into the cinnamon sugar mixture, making sure the entire donut is coated, then return to the cooling rack.
- Continue for 12 all donuts, then enjoy!
These donuts are best served fresh, but leftovers can easily be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Since high-protein donuts tend to get a little dense as they sit, just pop them in the microwave for about 10 seconds and they'll be good as new.
- The protein powder I use is a mixture of whey & casein protein, and I highly recommend you use the same. Regular whey protein tends to dry out too much and won't taste as much like authentic donuts.
- If you don't have apple butter, you can swap it out for the same amount of extra applesauce. However, since applesauce isn't packed with a ton of flavor, the final result is not nearly as good. I'd definitely get apple butter if you can find it.
- If you want to make large donuts, follow the same recipe and just make 6 donuts in a larger donut pan instead.
- I used a Snickerdoodle protein powder, but I've used vanilla in the past and it works just as well.
- I do not count sugar substitutes in my carb totals, so if you are very strict about carbs, be sure to include those.
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Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1 Donut
Amount Per Serving Calories 95Total Fat 2.5gCarbohydrates 12gProtein 6g