This homemade Apple Donut recipe features a soft, tender donut filled with cinnamon apple pie filling and coated with cinnamon sugar. Enjoy them for breakfast or dessert – they’re the perfect cozy fall treat!
🍎 Incredible apple donuts – a must-try recipe!
If you’re looking for a sweet treat to celebrate the fall season, look no further than these homemade apple doughnuts! Their melt-in-your-mouth interior, spiced apple filling, and crispy cinnamon-sugar coating make them absolutely irresistible. One taste and you’ll see why these donuts are the perfect way to usher in autumn.
Here are just a few reasons why you’ll love them:
- They have the perfect doughnut texture – soft and pillowy on the inside, and golden brown and crisp on the outside. Proofing the dough twice allows it to rise to airy perfection, creating a light and fluffy interior ideal for soaking up the apple filling. Speaking of…
- The decadent filling, made from fresh apples, brown sugar, apple cider, and cinnamon, gives you a taste of apple pie in every bite.
- Finally, a finishing roll in cinnamon sugar gives these doughnuts a sweet, crunchy coating that brings everything together.
Enjoy these donuts for breakfast served with coffee, tea or milk, or have them as an after dinner treat. No matter when you choose to indulge, you’ll love the cozy cinnamon-apple taste that feels like autumn in every bite.
Table of Contents
🧾 What You’ll Need
There are two main components to these donuts: the dough, and the apple-cinnamon filling. Many of the ingredients are pantry standards, but here are a few tips to keep in mind as you gather your supplies. (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Apple cider: If possible recommend using fresh apple cider in this recipe. Apple cider is made from pressed fresh apples, and has a much stronger, more vibrant and realistic flavor than apple juice. However, it can be hard to find outside of autumn months, so if you can’t source any, you can substitute apple juice in its place.
- Milk: Whole milk will give you the most tender dough, but any fat percentage will work. I have only tested this recipe with dairy milk, so cannot advise on non-dairy alternatives.
- Sugar: This recipe uses both granulated sugar and brown sugar. Granulated sugar is used in the dough and outer coating, while brown sugar gives a deeper flavor to the apple filling. You can use dark or light brown sugar.
- Yeast: This recipe calls for active dry yeast. I use and recommend Bob’s Red Mill Yeast or Red Star Yeast. You can buy yeast in bulk or in pre-measured packets. If you opt to use the premeasured packets, please keep in mind that each packet contains 2 1/4 tsp. This recipe needs 3 1/2 tsp of yeast so you will use approximately 1.5 packets. If you are newer to working with yeast, make sure you read my yeast tips below before beginning.
- Eggs: This recipe uses 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks, to make a supremely tender donuts. Here’s my full guide to separating egg yolks and whites if you need a refresher, and don’t forget to save the egg whites for a future batch of meringue cookies or buttercream!
- Flour: “Regular” flour, aka all-purpose, is what you’ll need. I recommend weighing the flour (and all of your ingredients!) for a more accurate result, but you can also spoon it into the measuring cup and gently level it off.
- Spices & salt: Ground cinnamon in a MUST in this recipe! The recipe also calls for ground nutmeg and cloves, which I think rounds out the spice profile nicely. But you can swap in other spices, like cardamom or allspice, if that’s what you have on hand. It’s a flexible recipe, so whatever warm baking spices you enjoy should work well.
- Butter: Your butter should be at room temperature to make this recipe. This means it’s pliable but slightly cool–you don’t want it to be greasy and melty. I always recommend unsalted butter in baking, so you can control the precise amount of salt. If you only have salted butter, use that but omit the additional salt in the recipe.
- Apples: Look for firm apples that hold their shape when cooked. I’ve used SweeTango, Gala, and Honeycrisp with great success. I prefer a sweeter apple in this recipe, but if you like tart apples, Granny Smith is also a good choice.
- Cornstarch: Corn starch is used to thicken the filling. You can substitute arrowroot starch if you prefer, but don’t skip it altogether — some type of starch should be used to get the proper texture.
- Frying oil: You can use canola or vegetable oil for frying the donuts.
Making homemade donuts is so much easier if you have the right tools! Here’s what I recommend:
- Thermometer: If you’re going to be deep frying, an accurate thermometer is a MUST. You don’t need to spend a fortune on one, though — a basic thermometer like this is perfect. A thermometer helps you monitor the temperature of the frying oil, so you’ll have successful donuts every time. If you are new to using a thermometer, check out my guides for how to use a thermometer and how to test and calibrate a thermometer correctly.
- Slotted spoon: Lifting freshly fried donuts from hot oil can be tricky but a slotted spoon will save you a lot of hassle — it can accommodate the doughnut’s size and allows excess oil to drip off.
- Cooling rack: You’ll want to use a cooling rack of some type so that the excess oil can drip off of the donuts while they cool. I I really like using a wire cooling rack.
- Stock pot:I like to fry donuts in a large stock pot. I can usually fry 2-3 doughnuts at a time.
- Medium saucepan: You’ll need a medium sized saucepan to prepare the filling.
- Mixer: You will need some kind of mixer to make the dough for these donuts. I highly recommend using a stand mixer for this recipe.
- Cutter: Sharp circle cutters are the best for making donuts. I use and recommend this versatile set of round cutters. I use it for donuts, cookies, tart dough, and more.
- Piping bag: I like these disposable piping bags (I wash them and re-use them to reduce waste!). You can also use a gallon-size zip-top bag with a hole cut in the corner.
- Rolling pin: I love and recommend this French-style rolling pin.
Here’s an overview of how to make Apple Donuts! Full instructions are included in the recipe card down below.
Make the dough
- Combine warm apple cider, milk, a bit of sugar, and the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk them together, then let the yeast sit and proof for 5 minutes – it should look frothy and a bit bubbly. IMPORTANT: if after 5 minutes it looks exactly the same as it did before, don’t proceed – it means your yeast is dead, and your dough won’t rise! Read our yeast troubleshooting tips, and when in doubt, buy new yeast so you know it’s fresh.
- Mix in the remaining sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla.
- Swap the mixer attachment for a dough hook. Add the flour, salt, and spices, and knead until the dough starts to come together.
- Add the softened butter and knead for another 5 minutes in the mixer. The dough will be sticky at this point.
- After 5 minutes of kneading in the mixer, remove the bowl from the mixer and cover it.
- Let the dough rise for about an hour, until it’s doubled in size.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and roll it out to ½” thickness.
- Cut 3-inch circles of dough, and place them on parchment-lined baking sheets. You can re-roll the scraps to make more doughnuts, but use a light hand so your dough doesn’t become tough. Let the cut doughnuts rise for about 45 minutes, until they’ve doubled in size.
Make the apple pie filling
- While the doughnuts are going through their second rise, prepare the apple filling. Combine diced apples, brown and granulated sugars, butter, cinnamon, lemon juice, apple cider, and salt, and stir until the apples are coated.
- Cook in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the apples have softened. Add the cornstarch and cook for an additional 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Fry and fill the donuts
- Once the donuts have doubled in size, get ready to fry! Fill a pot with 2-3 inches of oil, and heat it to 375°F. (Keep the thermometer in the pot so you can monitor the temperature, and adjust the burner so it maintains 375°F.)
- Place 2-3 donuts into the oil. Fry for about 1.5-2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Set them on a wire rack to drain.
- While the donuts are still warm, insert a piping bag filled with apple pie filling, and fill the center of the donuts.
- Once all are filled, roll them in cinnamon sugar, and serve!
Apple donuts are endlessly customizable, so get creative with different flavors and textures! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use a premade pie filling like cherry or mixed berry. You could also use your favorite jam, pudding, or pastry cream.
- Top the donuts with a glaze, streusel, crumble, or just powdered sugar instead of cinnamon sugar.
- Add chopped toasted nuts like pecans or walnuts to the apple filling.
- Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or ice cream.
- Experiment with other extracts in addition to or instead of vanilla. Almond extract would be especially good with apples and cinnamon!
💡 Yeast Troubleshooting
If you’re newer to working with yeast, or just want to make sure you avoid any pitfalls, follow these troubleshooting tips:
- Use active dry yeast: it’s more reliable and easier to use than cake or fresh yeast. If you are comfortable working with yeast and want to substitute rapid rise yeast you can, but you will need to make changes to the rising procedure following the package directions. Check the expiration date and store yeast in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Test your yeast: if your yeast has been stored for awhile, test it before using it. Mix a small amount of yeast with a small amount of warm water (110°F is ideal) and a pinch of sugar. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy. If it doesn’t foam, the yeast is no longer active and needs to be replaced.
- Get the liquid temp right: it is very important that the apple cider & milk are the correct temperature to ensure the dough rises properly. If the liquids are too hot it will kill the yeast. If they are too cold, the yeast won’t activate and the dough won’t properly rise. The ideal temperature is between 105°-110° F. Use a thermometer to test the temperature.
- Let it rise in a warm place: during the rise, keep the dough in a warm (not hot) spot around 80-85°F. Near the oven or in an oven with just the light on works well. Yeast dough should roughly double in size after the first rise. If it doesn’t rise sufficiently, the yeast may need more time or your kitchen may be too cold. The rise times are suggestions, but should be adjusted depending on your kitchen’s environment.
🍩 Donut FAQs
❤️ More Recipes You’ll Love
Apple Cider Fritters
Crème Brûlée Donuts
For the Dough:
- 6 fl oz apple cider (¾ cup), warmed to 105-110° F
- 2.67 fl oz milk (⅓ cup), warm, can use warm water instead of milk, warmed to 105-110° F.
- 3.2 oz granulated sugar (2 TBSP + ⅓ cup), divided use
- 3 ½ tsp active dry yeast (approximately 1.5 packets)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 17 oz all-purpose flour (4 cups)
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 4 oz unsalted butter (½ cup), room temperature
- Oil for frying, I like to use canola or vegetable oil
For the Filling:
To Make the Donuts:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine warm apple cider, warm milk, 2 TBSP granulated sugar, and yeast. Whisk on low speed until just incorporated.
- Let the yeast mixture rest for 5 minutes, until frothy. Important: if after 5 minutes it looks exactly the same as it did before, don't proceed – it means your yeast is dead, and your dough won't rise! Try again, taking care to get the liquid temperature right, and when in doubt, buy new yeast so you know it's fresh.
- Once the proofing time is up, add the remaining 2.33 oz (⅓ cup) granulated sugar, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. Mix to combine.
- Swap the whisk attachment for a dough hook. Add the flour, then on top of the flour add cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Knead until the dough starts to come together.
- Add the unsalted butter and knead for an additional 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky at this point. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and cover well. Let rise for 1 hour.
- Once the dough has risen, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. Roll the dough out to ½” thickness, then use a 3” round cookie cutter to cut out donuts until all the dough has been used. You may have to reroll the dough a couple times to use it all up, just be sure not to overwork the dough.
- Once all of the dough has been used, place the cut donuts onto the prepared parchment-lined baking sheets with at least ½” between them. Let rise for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. While the donuts are rising, make the filling.
To Make the Filling:
- In a large mixing bowl combine diced apples, brown sugar, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, apple cider and salt. Mix until the apples are coated.
- Transfer the mixture into a medium sized saucepan and place on the stove over medium-low heat. Cook down for 10 minutes, then add in the cornstarch and cook for an additional 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool.
To Make the Topping:
- In a small mixing bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon.
To Cook & Assemble the Donuts:
- Towards the end of the rise time for the cut doughnuts, preheat 3” of oil in a large stockpot to 375°F. Fill a piping bag fitted with a round tip with the apple filling mixture and set aside. Get out a wire cooling rack and place paper towels underneath it.
- When the donuts have finished rising and the oil is heated, place 2-3 donuts into the oil. Fry for 1 ½ – 2 minutes, then flip and fry for an additional 1 ½ – 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Carefully remove the donuts from the oil with a slotted spoon and place onto the cooling rack. Layer more paper towels as needed to collect excess oil.
- Repeat the frying process with the remaining donuts. Make sure you monitor the oil temperature and adjust the burner if necessary, to maintain it at 375 F.
- While the donuts are still warm, place the piping tip into the side of a donuts and fill until the piping tip is pushed back. (This step can be done in between frying batches of donuts. If the donuts aren’t warm when you fill them, then you will have to cut a small hole in the side of the donuts for the piping tip.). Repeat until all of the donuts are filled.
- Roll each filled donuts into the topping mixture, then serve immediately.
- Donuts taste best when eaten fresh, but may be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. They can be reheated in the microwave for 10 seconds to restore freshness.
Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.
Want to learn more about baking measurements and conversion?