My husband and I love to sit on our front porch on Saturday mornings, sipping deliciously brewed coffee and chatting while we watch the world wake up. Our kids usually join us one-by-one as they roll out of bed . . . often just in time to see our neighbor bring home a big box of sprinkle-covered donuts for his family.
Now, I’m all for the occasional treat along with high quality protein and veggies in the morning, but we’re a gluten-free family so the local donut shop is just not an option for us. Fortunately, these naturally sweetened paleo donuts are super easy to whip up and fun to decorate!
Unlike fried donuts made with yeast, these cake donuts are leavened with baking powder before they’re popped in the oven. I kid you not, they taste similar to the Little Debbie snack cakes we (or at least I) grew up on, only with wholesome ingredients instead of corn syrup and tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).
I layer these donuts with a chocolate glaze and then let my kids decorate their own using the topping of their choice. Here are a few ideas:
- Mini-chocolate chips for triple chocolatey goodness
- Non-GMO Starfetti sprinkles
- Chopped macadamia nuts
Now, on to the recipe!
Easy Chocolate Donuts Recipe (Gluten-Free, Paleo)
For the donuts:
- ¾ cup blanched almond flour
- ¼ cup cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 2 tbsp arrowroot powder (or tapioca flour)
- ½ tsp baking powder (how to make baking powder substitute)
- ⅛ tsp sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- 5 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp butter or sustainably harvested palm shortening (melted, plus more for greasing the pan)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract (how to make vanilla extract)
For the glaze:
- 10 tsp butter (or sustainably-harvested palm shortening if dairy-free)
- 7½ tsp raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 10 tsp maple syrup
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tsp water (if needed)
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease your donut pan with coconut oil.
- Mix the almond flour, cocoa powder, arrowroot, baking powder and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate mixing bowl, mix the eggs, maple syrup, butter, and vanilla. Pour them into the dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth.
- Divide the batter equally into the donut pan.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes.
- When the donuts are ready, remove them from the oven them to cool until comfortable enough to handle – it usually takes about 10-15 minutes. Next, gently remove them from the pan and dip them in the glaze. Top with sprinkles or chocolate chips if desired, then serve.
- To make the glaze, place the butter, cacao powder, maple syrup and vanilla in a small pot or saucepan. Heat on low while whisking until the butter is just barely melted. Use a spoon to drizzle the tops of the donuts with the glaze. If it's a little too thick to drizzle, whisk in a teaspoon of water and check the consistency. Continue adding water in 1/2 teaspoon increments until it reaches the consistency you prefer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the most common questions I receive about gluten-free and paleo desserts.
Sunflour, which is flour made from ground sunflower seeds, can often replace almond flour in a recipe, but I have not tested it in this one. If you try it please let me know how it turns out!
I wish someone would make a cast iron option, but unfortunately the only ones I know of are non-stick donut pans and food-grade silicone donut pans. I don’t use silicone for much in my kitchen, but I think it’s worth it to be able to make these on occasion for my family.
Coconut flour absorbs liquid differently than almond flour and unfortunately will not work in this recipe.
Want More Grain-Free Recipes?
Chocolate Overnight Oats – Creamy, chocolatey and rich in healthy fats, this overnight oatmeal is a simple and delicious make-ahead breakfast recipe.
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins – These muffins are moist, cakey, and super simple to make! My daughter helped perfect the recipe, which makes them extra special in our house.
Sugar Cookies With Easy Frosting – Decorated with naturally colored sprinkles and plant-based, natural food dye, these sugar cookies are delicious and so pretty!
Fudgy Brownies – These chewy, fudgy brownies are one of my favorite recipes from Danielle of Against All Grains book, Meals Made Simple. She was kind enough to allow me to share them with you.
Grain-Free Snickerdoodle Cookies from Danielle of Against All Grain – Chewy and buttery-soft on the inside, these snickerdoodles have a crispy surface and belly warming cinnamon flavor.
Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies – These ooey-gooey paleo chocolate chip cookies are one of my family’s tried-and-true favorite recipes.
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Hi Heather just wondering is it 3/4 cup of almond flour in the recipe or coconut flour? They’re different in the ingredient list versus the recipe. And I know that can make a big difference! Thanks.
Whoops! Sorry! The instructions should have said almond flour, not coconut flour!
I was wondering the same thing as Hannah. Also, if it is almond flour, what kind did you use? Thanks!
I used Bob’s Red Mill, though I think any kind would work for this recipe 🙂
I’m in the same boat as Hannah and Alisha. Ready to make them, which flour?
Also is there a recipe for the icing?
I was wondering the same. False advertising! 😉
Not a recipe persay, but in the post I did mention it. These reminded me so much of Little Debbie snack cakes without the filling that I **needed** the filling to complete the experience. Since it’s what I had on hand I melted a little coconut butter with water and a smidge of honey for the glaze. Daniel really liked them that way. I added cocoa powder to the second batch and it was very good, too.
I’ve made an icing for cookies in the past that is palm oil and raw honey – just plop some palm oil in a small dish and mix in honey to taste, if you use a fork for the mixing it gets kinda fluffy 🙂 I know Heather has a coconut butter icing suggestion the post but just thought I’d throw this out there for variety.
Really really good!!! Bought the silicon trays as well. I used honey instead (just a personal preference). My son had been asking about donuts and I definitely wasn’t going to take him to a donut shop. Thanks for this!!
I’m so happy to hear you liked them, Kate! Thanks for taking the time to let me know. ❤️
Hi there! I found a glaze recipe here: http://www.gardenguides.com/134473-make-sugar-vanilla-donut-glaze.html
Same question about the flours, and: do you think you could do these in a muffin pan? No doughnut pan here.
Yes, I think that would probably work! You might need to play with the baking time a little, but be careful because they dry out in the oven pretty easily!
What brand of coco powder do you use?
Though I know that raw cacao has more antioxidants than the more processed cocoa, I prefer this organic, fair-trade cocoa powder because it’s more affordable 🙂
Thank you! I’m making these as my Easter treat!
I like Frontier. It’s organic and fair trade.
Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen
These look fantastic! Still need to get myself a doughnut pan…
Oh. My. Goodness. These look delicious. I need to make these!
I hope you’ll consider entering it in the Saturday Round-Up, the new blog hop over at A Joyful Mother! I’d love it!
I can’t wait to try these – I have had a hankering for doughnuts for a while now and was so excited to see this post. That dessert book looks like a treasure trove of recipes that I need in my kitchen! Thanks for sharing this recipe and I can’t wait to make them myself.
These looks so yummy! We are on gaps and my husband misses donut’s so much! i would love to make these! I have a question about the donut pan. I have only seen them made out of aluminum. And we try to avoid aluminum. We would not make these daily so using aluminum would be a compromise. Any one else have ideas on this? Or is there another donut pan option?
Another option is silicon. I’ve been skeptical of using it but had to out of necessity once or twice. According to a chemist who is in the traditional food movement, it’s more similar to glass or sand in composition than plastic.
Hi! I was just wondering which brand of silicon molds do you use? Thanks 🙂
I have found Silikomart to be the best from what I have tried. It’s made in Italy, so they have better manufacturing standards than somewhere like China.
Cheaper silicone bakeware can contain traces of lead (left behind from the production process) or other cheaper fillers. Your silicone bakeware should pass the “pinch test” (you can google it). Silikomart is the only one I have ever bought that actually does.
Where do you find the silikomart brand?
I’m in Canada, so I can buy it from walmart.ca
Try a google search for something in your area.
Try ceramic. I have several ceramic baking dishes in various styles. I love the CasaWare brand as they have red, my kitchen color.
I’m keto/diabetic, so with a few small changes, I think I could make these work. I just have to find a substitute for the arrowroot powder.
2 questions, do you know if cocoa powder is GAPS legal? I think I’ve seen conflicting views on this. Also, what kind of vanilla did you use when your family was on GAPS? Is there a way to make it without using alcohol? Thanks! I have go to figure out a way to make these donuts! 🙂 Megan
Cocoa is considered legal after intro if it’s well-tolerated. I make my own with alcohol so I’m not sure on a brand – The Urban Poser would know!
Would it be possible to make these using a different flour? I don’t have almond flour and would have to order it. I don’t think the stores around me carry it. Thanks!
You might be able to use macadamia nut or sunflower seed flour – I’m not sure!
You can make almond flour by using a food processor. Just be careful not to turn it into butter. For a finer flour, you can use a coffee grinder. I believe one cup of almonds yields one cup of flour.
I made these today and they were so wonderful. Used chocolate ganache for the icing, soy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips and cream. Delicious!
Yay! So glad you liked it!
What are your thoughts on using an egg substitute for this? Like a flax egg?
Score! my little boy has been talking about doughnuts lately. I’m grain-free now so I haven’t mastered sourdough yet. Thanks for this post!
Heather, I love this recipe! Can’t wait to make it, so I posted it on my Facebook page!
I love your recipes, however my son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, all dairy, and eggs. Do you have any suggestions for replacements in baking? I would like to try some of the recipes.
I’m sorry, Sarah, but I can only recommend the recipes as they are because I haven’t tested them with substitutions. However, he might like these coconut macaroons!
Can I use coconut flour instead of almond?
My 3 year old daughter is allergic to coconut and almond. I would love to bake for her but I don’t really know what’s the next best thing I can use? I noticed you mainly use coconut oil and almond flour. Do you have any suggestions what I can use?
So sorry, Eni, but I have not tested this recipe with any substitutions 🙁
Ok, please tell me. Do you have a good brand of a donut pan to use? These non-stick pans don’t really seem ideal. Do you have one you can recommend?
Hi Becky! I’ve not found a cast iron pan, which is what I would prefer. However, based on my research I think silicon is closer to glass in nature than plastic (in that it’s not leaching). I don’t use it for anything in my kitchen except for gummy stars and donuts, but I think it’s worth it to be able to make these things for my family!
If you’re looking for cast iron, an Aebleskiver pan will work in a pinch, but they will be doughnut holes instead of doughnut shaped.
If you’re going with silicone, always use the “pinch test” to check for potentially harmful fillers in your bakeware. It’s not exactly the most scientific test, but in the absence of access to a full analytical chemistry lab it’s your best bet. Silicone bakeware made in Europe is usually better quality. Their production standards tend to be higher than many other countries. Silicone is only non-leaching if it is actually 100% silicone.
Just found your site…love it already! What r the properties of the almond flour? Does it make or break a recipe? It’s so expensive and my family is not grain free. I wanted to try just wheat flour w the doughnuts, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate muffins. I have and love all the other ingredients. Any guess as to give it a try or do u think it’ll b a waste of ingredients (money). Thank you!
Hi Stephanie, sometimes wheat will work as a substitute, sometimes not. I haven’t tested this recipe unfortunately so I have no idea which one it will be in this case!
I got almond flour from Trader Joe’s. It’s cheaper than what you can find at other stores! you might want to check it out!
Can I use coconut flour instead of cassava?
I love your recipes!.
These are awesome! I had 100% cacao special dark cocoa powder so these came out super decadent! I had leftover melted chocolate and mini chips and brushed on the melted chocolate a sprinkled the chips for my daughters donuts. For mine I brushed on the chocolate and topped with toasted coconut. Amazing! Thanks for a great recipe!
When ” folding” the egg whites into the very stiff (gloppy 🙂 ) flour mixture, it seems all the benifit of the fluffing goes away. I had to really cream them together to get the lumps out of the batter. Does this seem right?
Is this recipie legal in Palio really.
How big are the finished donuts?
Can I get the old version of this recipe? I make them all the time and love them!
Sure, you can find it here: http://web.archive.org/web/20160317151923/https://mommypotamus.com/chocolate-coconut-donuts-grain-free/
Hi Heather, just wondering if you choose a gluten-free lifestyle due to celiac or just because of modern preparations of wheat. Are you familiar with sourdough and creating a wild yeast starter to make sourdough bread and other recipes? Many people (including myself!) whose systems don’t respond well to wheat do just fine with wild yeast sourdoughs. As a fermented product, it’s highly nutritious. So our modern issue isn’t really wheat’s problem, it’s modern food industrialization’s problem. Wild fermented sourdough is a traditional food and modern lifestyles that complete exclude it and most other grains are essentially cutting out so many nutrients from their diets. On another note, questions are being raised about diets heavy in almond flour, not only because of the intense processing of that industry, but bc such a high demand to grow almonds is extremely taxing on the environment as they require a TON of labor and energy input to grow. Anyways, DaNelle from Weed em and Reap has a ton of information on traditionally prepared sourdoughs and your readers (and you!) might really benefit from the info! For me, it was so eye-opening and our naturally-minded household enjoys sourdough daily.
OMG!!!! I made these today. The were absolutely fantastic!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe.
I’m SO HAPPY to hear that, Sophie! Thanks for taking the time to let me know and leave a rating. ❤️
Very yummy! I don’t have a large donut pan so I made them into muffins. Made 7, baked the same amount of time and came out great. Thanks!
You mentioned arrowroot powder in the recipe. I didn’t see you mention it to mix in with the dry ingredients. Was it meant to be added to the dry ingredients? I hope I didn’t miss some thing. Getting ready to put my donuts in the oven. 🙂
This one was a miss for us. Just didn’t care for it at all.
I have made these two weeks in a row and it is a huge hit. Not too sweet in taste and very moist. My mini donut molds make 20-22 donuts. I learned not too fill up the mold to the rim. We use vegan GF sprinkles which makes for a beautiful donut.
Edit request – in step #2, please include the tapioca/arrowroot flour in the instructions. It’s in the ingredients but not directions. Key ingredient!
Would love to try these, but my husband is diabetic. Would I be able to use Xylitol or Monk Fruit/Erythritol combo instead of maple syrup? I need LOW carb everything for him, especially if he’s going to use some of his tiny carb allowance for a snack. Thanks!