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- 👍 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- 👨🍳 Tips for Making the Best Sourdough Apple Cider Donuts
- 🛠 Tools Needed:
- 🛒 Ingredients Needed:
- 🍎 How to Make Sourdough Apple Cider Donuts
- How to Store
- Other Fall Sourdough Recipes You May Enjoy:
- Sourdough Apple Cider Donuts
Sourdough apple cider donuts are a delightful twist on a classic New England fall favorite. Fry these moist and cakey donuts for a crunchy exterior and then coat them in cinnamon sugar.
Imagine biting into a crispy donut with a warm, fluffy interior that combines the tangy goodness of sourdough with the sweet and spiced flavors of apple cider. There’s a reason why these treats are so popular at apple orchards!
In this recipe post, I share my pro tips for making these easy sourdough apple cider donuts at home, and walk through how to make them step-by-step with my visual guide.
You’ll also love these easy and yeasted sourdough beignets.
👍 Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Apple cider donuts are a favorite treat when apple picking with many apple orchards and harvest festivals frying fresh donuts on-site. In fact, they’re so popular that someone even made a detailed map of all of the best apple cider donuts in New England.
With both concentrated apple cider and apple butter, these sourdough discard apple cider donuts actually have apple flavor in them! The medley of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom help bring out even more apple flavor.
The sourdough discard adds moisture to the donuts, acidity, and softens the crumb, just as it does in other recipes like my Sourdough Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake or these Sourdough Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins.
Finally, these donuts don’t require a mixer and you can mix the batter easily in a mixing bowl.
Oh, and don’t forget to save the holes to make sourdough apple cider donut holes!
👨🍳 Tips for Making the Best Sourdough Apple Cider Donuts
- Don’t overmix the batter
- Concentrate the Apple Cider
- Apple cider is made from freshly pressed apples, so it’s similar to apple juice. Since apple cider is mostly water, you want to concentrate the cider by boiling it so you get the most flavor when you add it to your donuts.
- For this recipe, I boil 2 cups of apple cider down to ⅓ cup. This can easily be done ahead of time. Boil even more of the apple cider to make this delicious Sourdough Apple Cider Upside-Down Cake.
- Heat the frying oil hot enough
- A common mistake in making homemade donuts, beignets, or fritters is frying at too low a temperature. This will make the donuts soggy and too greasy because they must fry much longer to cook all the way through.
- Heat the frying oil to about 365ºF (185ºC) using a deep fry, candy, or instant-read thermometer. Then, watch the temperature as you add the donuts so it doesn’t cool down too much.
- Chill the donut batter
- Apple cider donut dough is quite sticky. In addition to generously flouring your work surface, it’s essential to chill the dough for at least an hour before frying.
- Chilling the dough will make cutting out the donuts easier, prevent sticking, and help them retain their shape.
🛠 Tools Needed:
Click the links below for my tool recommendations.
- Baking Scale
- For the most accurate and consistent baking, I always recommend weighing your ingredients to have the most success.
- Dutch Oven or Large Pot
- The donuts are quite thick and puff up as they fry, so you’ll need a large pot that you’ll fill with about three inches of oil.
- Instant-read Thermometer
- My favorite instant-read thermometer, for both frying and checking dough temperatures, is the Thermapen. You can also use a deep fry or candy thermometer to ensure the oil is at the right temperature.
- 3″ Donut Cutter or 3″ and 1″ Cookie Cutters
- I don’t have a donut cutter, but they’re quite convenient if you have one and can use here! Otherwise, I use a 3” round cookie cutter and a smaller 1” round cookie cutter for cutting out the center holes.
- Slotted Spoon or Spider Strainer
- You need a slotted spoon or strainer to flip the donuts and to transfer them for drying.
- Wire Rack (optional)
- After frying, place the hot donuts on a wire rack to let any excess oil drop off. The rack will also provide circulation to cool down the donuts relatively quickly.
🛒 Ingredients Needed:
Click on the links below for my favorite ingredient recommendations. Ingredient substitutions are also listed below.
- Apple Cider
- Not all apple cider is made equally. Look for freshly pressed, unsweetened, and unspiced apple cider.
- Don’t use apple cider vinegar or alcoholic/hard apple cider!
- If apple cider isn’t available, you can substitute with apple juice.
- Apple Butter
- Apple butter is essentially caramelized applesauce that’s sweetened and spiced. I love making homemade apple butter that I can and enjoy for months.
- Apple butter is usually already sweetened and spiced, which is okay for this recipe. Musselman’s is a great common option at many grocery stores.
- If you can’t find any, substitute with applesauce, but cook down the applesauce so some of the liquid evaporates.
- Granulated Sugar
- If you want to skip the granulated sugar, substitute it with another “hard” type of sugar like coconut sugar.
- Light Brown Sugar
- Unsalted Butter, melted
- To make the recipe vegan, substitute the butter with a plant-based butter or coconut oil.
- There’s cinnamon in the batter and in the cinnamon sugar coating.
- Cardamom (optional)
- Cardamom is probably my favorite spice. It adds a subtle lemony-piney flavor to baked goods like my Sourdough Banana Bread with Chai Spices. It’s optional here, but I include it because it’s a common addition to apple pie spice and perks up some of the apple flavor.
- Neutral Oil, for frying
- Any neutral oil for frying will work, such as vegetable, canola, avocado, or coconut oil.
- All-purpose Flour
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda
- The baking powder and soda provide the leavening in the recipe since these are not yeasted donuts.
- Sourdough Discard
- Vanilla Extract
🍎 How to Make Sourdough Apple Cider Donuts
Follow this visual and detailed recipe guide as you make the best sourdough apple cider donuts.
1. Reduce the Apple Cider
Set a small saucepan over medium heat and boil 2 cups of apple cider.
Boil until syrupy and reduce to about ⅓ cup (85g). This usually takes about 20-25 minutes for me. Stir occasionally and watch closely at the end so it doesn’t boil too much.
Set aside or transfer to a smaller container to cool completely.
Make Ahead: You can make the reduced apple cider and store it in the refrigerator for several days before making this recipe.
Furthermore, you can boil larger quantities of apple cider and keep it for making this Sourdough Apple Cider Upside-Down Cake or use it to boost apple flavor in apple pies or other apple desserts.
2. Mix the Dry Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients, including:
- 420 grams of all-purpose flour (3 ½ cups)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon of cardamom
3. Mix the Wet Ingredients
In another bowl, whisk the 2 eggs, 100 grams of granulated sugar (½ cup), and 50 grams of light brown sugar (¼ cup) until frothy and it turns pale yellow.
Drizzle in the 4 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter (57 grams) and whisk together.
Pour in all of the reduced apple cider (85 grams), 147 grams of apple butter (½ cup), 120 grams of sourdough discard (½ cup), and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Whisk the wet ingredients well until combined.
4. Mix and Chill the Batter
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and use a whisk or spatula to mix the donut batter. The batter will be very sticky and wet, almost like cake batter.
Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and generously flour the parchment paper.
Scrape the batter onto the parchment paper, flour the top of the batter and your hands, and pat it down to ½-inch thickness.
Refrigerate the donut batter until firm, at least one hour.
Note: Alternatively, you can immediately refrigerate the batter in the bowl. However, it takes longer for the dough to chill this way. I found it more difficult to cut out later on, so I recommend patting it down first so it’s thinner, and then chilling on the baking sheet.
Make Ahead: To have fresh donuts in the morning, you can make the donut batter the evening before, cover, and chill the batter in the refrigerator overnight.
5. Cut Out the Donuts
Use a floured 3” donut cutter or a 3” cookie cutter to cut out the donuts. If using a cookie cutter, I think transferring the donuts to another sheet pan with parchment paper is easiest and then you can cut out the holes.
The batter is sticky, so dip the cutters in flour each time before using.
Use a small spatula to transfer the cut out donuts to a clean piece of parchment paper. Cut out the holes with a 1” cookie cutter if yuou don’t have a donut cutter.
Re-roll the scraps and cut out more donuts, or make more donut holes. I usually get 10-11 donuts with this recipe and multiple donut holes.
Refrigerate the donuts while you heat up the oil.
Tip: If the batter is very sticky, it may need to chill more, and flour the cutters and underneath the batter to make transferring them easier.
Heat about three inches of frying oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large pot until it’s between 360-375ºF (182-191ºC).
I typically use vegetable or canola oil, but you can also use avocado, peanut, or coconut oil. Only use a high-heat, neutral frying oil (not olive oil).
Note: Keep a close eye on the oil as you heat it. Check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer every few minutes and never leave it unattended. Hot frying oil can be hazardous, especially around children or pets.
Before frying, prepare your workspace with a sheet pan with a wire rack set inside of it nearby.
Use a spatula or bench scraper to carefully transfer the donuts and the donut holes to the hot oil. Fry until golden to dark brown all over. For donuts, it’s typically a couple of minutes on each side; for holes, it’s about one minute in total.
The donuts may initially sink to the bottom of the pot but will float once the leaveners are activated.
Use a spider strainer to flip the donuts, lift them out of the hot oil, and transfer them to the wire rack to cool slightly.
Check the frying temperature to ensure it hasn’t gotten too hot or cold and repeat with the remaining donuts.
Tip: If the donuts are particularly thick, you may want to use an instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen to check the internal temperature of the donuts to ensure they’re not raw in the middle. Fry until the centers reach 190-200ºF (88-93ºC).
7. Toss in Cinnamon Sugar
Mix 100 grams of granulated sugar (½ cup) and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a bowl to make the cinnamon-sugar coating.
Finally, toss the warm donuts in the bowl of cinnamon sugar one at a time to fully coat them.
How to Store
Sourdough apple cider donuts are best enjoyed while warm. That way, you get crispy edges and a warm, fluffy interior.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days (they will get stale quickly and dry out) or in the refrigerator for a few days. Reheat in a microwave or toaster oven.
To freeze the donuts, don’t coat them in cinnamon sugar. Cool the donuts completely and place them in a freezer-safe bag for a few months. Then, thaw overnight (they may even need to reheat slightly), brush on some melted butter or coconut oil, and toss in cinnamon sugar.
How can I make vegan sourdough apple cider donuts?
Easy! Just skip the melted butter and replace with coconut oil or another neutral oil. You could even use vegan butter.
Can I bake sourdough apple cider donuts?
For the best texture and traditional New England flavor, it’s best to fry apple cider donuts. However, if you have a donut pan, you can bake these donuts at 350ºF (177ºC) for 10-15 minutes or until done.
Can I use apple juice instead of apple cider?
Apple cider is often freshly pressed and unfiltered. Meanwhile, apple juice is filtered, pastuerized, often has added sweeteners, and sometimes made from concentrate. If you can find unsweetened, fresh apple juice, then you can substitute it in this recipe. Otherwise, the boiled apple cider is what gives so much flavor to these donuts that you can’t replicate with apple juice.
Are sourdough apple cider donuts yeasted?
This sourdough discard apple cider donut recipe is not fermented and yeasted. Baking powder and baking soda are the leaveners in this recipe.
Are apple cider donuts baked or fried?
Most apple cider donuts in New England are cakey donuts that are usually fried for a crunchy exterior and soft interior. You can bake apple cider donuts as well with good results.
Other Fall Sourdough Recipes You May Enjoy:
Sourdough Apple Cider Donuts
Sourdough Apple Cider Donuts
- 480 grams Apple Cider, 2 cups
- 420 grams All-Purpose Flour, 3 ½ cups
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp Nutmeg
- ¼ tsp Ground Cardamom, optional
- 2 Eggs
- 100 grams Granulated Sugar, ½ cup
- 50 grams Light Brown Sugar, ¼ cup
- 4 TBS Unsalted Butter, melted, 57 grams
- 147 grams Apple Butter, ½ cup
- 120 grams Sourdough Discard, ½ cup
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Neutral Oil, for frying
- Boil the apple cider in a small saucepan over medium heat to about ⅓ cup (85 grams). This process typically takes 25 minutes or so but can be made ahead of time. Stir occasionally and transfer to a small measuring cup to cool completely.480 grams Apple Cider
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Set aside.420 grams All-Purpose Flour, 1 tsp Kosher Salt, 2 tsp Baking Powder, ½ tsp Baking Soda, 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon, ¼ tsp Nutmeg, ¼ tsp Ground Cardamom
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars until frothy and pale yellow. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and mix.Then, pour in the reduced apple cider, apple butter, sourdough discard (or active starter), and vanilla extract. Whisk thoroughly.2 Eggs, 100 grams Granulated Sugar, 50 grams Light Brown Sugar, 4 TBS Unsalted Butter, 147 grams Apple Butter, 120 grams Sourdough Discard, 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix.Prepare a baking sheet with a generously floured piece of parchment paper and dump the donut batter onto the parchment paper. Flour the top of the batter and your hands and pat it to ½-inch thickness.Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour. To have fresh donuts in the morning, you can mix the batter the evening before, cover, and chill the batter in the refrigerator overnight.
- Use a floured 3” donut cutter or a 3” cookie cutter to cut out the donuts, flouring the cutters each time before cutting. If using a cookie cutter, transfer the donuts to another piece of parchment paper and then cut out the holes with a 1" cutter.Re-roll scraps as necessary and cut out more donuts and/or make more donut holes.Refrigerate the donuts as you heat up the oil.
- Heat about three inches of frying oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large pot until it’s between 360-375ºF (182-191ºC).Before frying, prepare your workspace with a sheet pan with a wire rack set inside of it nearby.Use a metal spatula or bench scraper to transfer the donuts to the hot oil and fry them until golden brown all over. For donuts, it’s typically a couple of minutes on each side; for holes, it’s about one minute total.Use a spider strainer to flip the donuts, lift them out of the hot oil, and transfer them to the wire rack to cool slightly. Repeat with the remaining donuts.Neutral Oil
- Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a bowl to make the cinnamon-sugar coating.Finally, toss the warm donuts in the bowl of cinnamon sugar one at a time to coat them.100 grams Granulated Sugar, 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- Follow my guide for more detailed instructions, tips, ways to make the donuts ahead of time and photos to make this recipe step-by-step.