Best Buttermilk Apple Cider Donuts

by Julie Cohn

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The best place (in the whole world) to be in Autumn is a drive in the countryside in upstate New York.  Crisp icy mornings blossom into golden lazy afternoons. Long winding roads run like ribbons through the countryside, a kaleidoscope of brilliant gold, ruby red, and orange leaves drifting aimlessly in the wind.  Roadside farm stands brim with bushels of fresh apples, pumpkins, squash, and broccoli.  If you’re lucky, the farms will let you pick your own apples and pumpkins, with fresh apple cider and a box of warm fried cinnamon and sugar-crusted buttermilk apple cider donuts as a reward for a job well done.  Doesn’t this sound like heaven?

Can’t make a trip to upstate New York?  These buttermilk apple cider donuts are the next best thing, no matter where you live.  This donut recipe is surprisingly easy to make and the apple sauce really adds a nice apple flavor to the donuts.  Keep in mind that the donuts will be a bit more firm (cakelike) than some apple cider donut recipes…we like them firm so we can dip them in coffee or hot apple cider!

Buttermilk Apple Cider Donuts

  • 2 c. Fresh apple cider
  • 1 Stick of Cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 stick of Butter (softened)
  • 1 c. White Sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. Brown Sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. Buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Bean paste
  • 10 – 10 1/2 c. Flour
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 2 1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 c. Apple Sauce
  • Vegetable or Sunflower Oil

Pour the apple cider in a small saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, and simmer for about 20 minutes on medium heat.  Reduce to one cup of cider.  The cider will bubble a little in the pan but do not let it reduce too much or you will burn it.  Remove from heat, remove the cinnamon stick, and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, cream together the white sugar, brown sugar, butter, and eggs.  When blended, mix in buttermilk and vanilla paste.  In a separate bowl mix together 5 cups of the flour, the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.  Make a hole in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture.  Stir until blended.  Add the apple sauce and apple cider and continue blending the remaining ten cups into the dough until you reach 10 cups.  If the dough is still too sticky, add in the remaining one cup of flour.  Cover the bowl and set in the refrigerator for about two hours.


To cut the donuts, clean an area to roll out your dough, then sprinkle with flour (keeping a small pile of extra flour handy).  Have your rolling pin ready, as well as your donut cutter (I used a biscuit cutter and a small cookie cutter for the center hole.)  Take a section of the dough and carefully roll it out, adding flour to your work surface and rolling pin so the dough does not stick. 

Make sure you roll the dough to about 1/2 – 3/4 inch high.  Be careful the dough is not too thick or the donuts will not cook in middle; too thin and they will burn.  Use your donut cutter and cut out the donut shapes, setting the dough trimmings aside to re-roll.  Set your finished cut donuts on a cookie sheet and set in the refrigerator to keep chilled.  Roll the leftover dough together, roll out again, and cut more donuts until the dough is gone.

In a large bowl mix together 1 – 1 /2 cups of white sugar with 1 Tbsp. of Ground Cinnamon.  Stir together and set aside to dust the donuts with.


Using a large heavy-bottomed stockpot, add vegetable oil so there about 3-4 inches of oil in the pan. Heat the oil on medium-hot, watching it at all times so it does not overheat or burn.  Heat the oil until about 300 degrees.  To test that the oil is hot enough, add a wooden spoon to the oil.  If it starts boiling around the spoon, it is ready.  Do not drop the donuts in if the oil is not hot enough because the donuts will turn out greasy.

Drop 3-4 donuts in the pan at a time, turning as they brown.  I use fondue forks to turn the donuts–they are long and thin and I don’t burn my hands while working with the oil.  When the donuts turn light golden brown on one side, flip them using two forks or tongs, and cook the other side.  The first side takes about 2-3 minutes, the second side an additional 2 minutes or so.  Watch that the dough does not burn, which can happen if the oil is too hot or the oil level drops so the donuts touch the bottom of the pan.  As you remove the donuts from the oil, set them on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Keep the extra donuts in the refrigerator until you fry them, as the donuts cook faster and more evenly, and absorb less oil if they are cold.


Take 2-3 of the finished buttermilk apple cider donuts (while still hot) and mix them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat.  I usually work as an assembly line and while the donuts are frying in the oil, I take the Buttermilk Apple Cider Donuts and place them on the paper towels and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  After coating the donuts, set them aside to cool.  Serve while the donuts are still slightly warm and store in a sealed container.  They will taste fresh the next day if you pop them in the microwave for a few seconds before eating.  The donuts can also be frozen so you have an extra batch ready around Thanksgiving!



(Makes about 45 donuts)

Note:  I used to be scared to fry with hot oil but it is not as scary as you think.  Keep an eye on your oil, watch the heat, and keep a box of salt next to your work area in case of fire and you will be fine.  The secret is really to keep the oil not too hot and not too cool.  300 degrees really is the sweet spot for frying.

Looking for other Autumn recipes? If you like Buttermilk Apple Cider Donuts, be sure to try these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip donuts or this Cinnamon Apple Cobbler.  





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