Fall is officially here, which means it’s pumpkin season!
I’ll be honest with you- I don’t love pumpkin spice. I find that most pumpkin spice-flavored foods take it way over the top, and they have absolutely nothing to do with pumpkin.
But, when done correctly, pumpkin + pumpkin spice can be a real winner.
These pumpkin spice donut holes are indeed a winner.
You would never know that these pumpkin spice donut holes had only 35 calories each! They’re soft & light and packed with REAL pumpkin to take these to the next level.
Each donut hole has 35 calories, 1g fat, 4g carbs, and 2.5g of protein.
If you were to eat 4 donut holes, it’s only 140 calories and 10g of protein! Not bad for a delicious dessert, huh?
The secret ingredient for pumpkin spice donut holes
First and foremost, we’re using some real pumpkin in this recipe to really capture that pumpkin pie flavor.
But the other “secret” ingredient I used here is Pumpkin Pie protein powder from PEScience.
If you’ve made any of my recipes here, you’ll know that I almost exclusively use PEScience protein. Not only do I love the taste, but it is a blend of whey & casein protein that works significantly better in baking recipes than whey protein alone.
I used PEScience for years with no affiliation and recently was able to get a discount code for you guys to try out the protein if you’d like to.
The code “Matt” will save you 15% on any PEScience order.
Now, this protein is limited edition (and seasonal, of course) so I totally understand if you don’t have it or can’t get it. Don’t worry!
You can very easily use a standard vanilla protein powder in this recipe, and then add a teaspoon of pumpkin spice. Since this Pumpkin Pie protein powder is flavored, I didn’t need to add any additional seasoning, but adding some pumpkin spice to vanilla should work just as well for ya.
If you happened to make my Air Fryer Donut Holes when I first posted those, this recipe is going to look very similar to you.
To start, we need to mix together the applesauce, pumpkin, butter, vanilla, and sugar substitute. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth, but mix until everything is combined.
Then we mix in all of our dry ingredients.
With my original recipe, a few people stated that the dough was too sticky. Adding the dry ingredients last will help prevent this dough from becoming too sticky (more notes on this in the recipe card below).
Now, this dough will be a little bit sticky, but should still be plenty easy to work with.
I like to wet my hands with cold water to make it easier. Then, simply break a piece of dough off and roll it in your palms to smooth it out like this:
Place in your preheated air fryer basket, leaving space in between each pumpkin spice donut hole.
You do not want to overcrowd the air fryer or they will not bake evenly, so plan to make 2 batches (the recipe should yield about 25 donut holes).
Air fry at 370 degrees F for 4 minutes, carefully flipping each one after 2 minutes.
After 4 minutes, toss the pumpkin spice donut holes in some cinnamon sugar and return to the air fryer for an additional 2 minutes.
This is the strategy I used for my Crispy Protein Churro Donuts and Healthier Cinnamon Crunch Bagels. By adding some cinnamon sugar and frying once more, it allows the sugar to melt, creating a slight crisp on the exterior like an authentic deep-fried donut.
After the additional 2 minutes, the sugar will be melted.
Use tongs to carefully remove the pumpkin spice donut holes from the air fryer, and toss them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture once more to coat.
If the coating isn’t sticking, you can spray the donut holes with butter spray (or cooking spray) to make it easier.
Let cool for a couple of minutes, then you’re ready to dig in!
Depending on how large you make these pumpkin spice donut holes, you should end up with about 25 or so (I ended up with 26, to be exact).
These pumpkin spice donut holes are best served fresh but will keep very well in an airtight container throughout the week.
Since they’re low fat and high protein, these donut holes will firm up a bit as they sit and become dense. All it takes is about 5 seconds in the microwave to soften them up and make them good as new.
How to make these pumpkin spice donut holes without an air fryer
I much prefer making these in the air fryer, but they can easily be baked in the oven as well.
Follow the recipe as-is, but place all of the donut holes on a baking sheet.
Bake the donut holes at 350 degrees F for about 8 minutes, flipping them after 4 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as oven temperatures can vary, but 8 minutes should work. Generally speaking, you want to plan for a little more time in the oven than in the air fryer.
What to do with your leftover pumpkin
One of the problems with using canned pumpkin is that once you open the can, it goes bad pretty quickly.
You’re in luck: I happen to use pumpkin in a lot of my recipes, so you can use up the entire thing rather easily. Here are some recipes that utilize canned pumpkin:
- No Bake Pumpkin Spice Latte Protein Bites
- Chocolate Pumpkin Protein Donuts
- Cheesecake Stuffed Pumpkin Cookies
- High-Protein Edible Brownie Batter
- 120g All-Purpose Flour
- 62g (2 Scoops) Pumpkin Spice Whey/Casein Blend Protein Powder - Can use vanilla protein powder + 1 tsp pumpkin spice instead
- 42g Light Butter - I use "Country Crock"
- 40g Unsweetened Applesauce
- 80g Canned Pumpkin
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 25g Granular Sugar Substitute
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- Pinch of salt
- 60g Granular Sugar Substitute
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- Preheat your air fryer at 370 degrees F while you prep the donut holes. It's okay to skip this step if necessary, but preheating the air fryer for just a few minutes really helps.
- In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, pumpkin, butter, vanilla, and sugar substitute. It doesn't need to be perfectly smooth, but mix until everything is combined.
- Add the rest of the dry ingredients (flour, protein powder, baking powder, pinch of salt) and mix together until a dough forms. It'll be slightly sticky, but not too sticky to work with.
- Wet your hands with a little cold water (this makes it significantly easier to work with sticky dough) and break off small pieces of the dough, rolling them into circles with your palms. Spray the air fryer basket with nonstick spray and add the donut holes.
- Don't overcrowd the air fryer basket- plan to make these in 2 batches so they bake evenly.
- Air fry at 370 degrees for 4 minutes, carefully flipping them over after 2 minutes.
- While they are baking, combine the sugar substitute (or regular sugar) and cinnamon in a bowl to make your coating. Once the donut holes are done, spray them lightly with butter spray to help the coating stick and toss them in the cinnamon sugar.
- Return to the air fryer and bake for an additional 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes, immediately toss them in the cinnamon sugar one more time (the melted sugar will help the additional coating to stick), then add to a plate or cooling rack for a few minutes before enjoying.
- These are best served fresh, but you can save leftovers in an air-tight container throughout the week and then microwave for 5 seconds to soften them up before enjoying.
- I used the limited edition Pumpkin Spice protein powder from PEScience (my code "Matt" will save you 15%), but these will work great with vanilla protein powder and some added pumpkin spice or cinnamon.
- The protein I use is a blend of whey & casein protein, which works best here. If you use 100% whey protein, expect the dough to be stickier, but it should still work.
- Be sure to check out my Original Donut Holes or Chocolate Donut Holes for more!
- Note that I do not count the sugar substitute as part of my carb totals.
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Nutrition InformationYield 25 Serving Size 1 Donut Holes
Amount Per Serving Calories 35Total Fat 1gCarbohydrates 4gProtein 2.5g