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These healthy whole wheat baked lemon donuts are simple to make, wholesome, and still feel like a treat thanks to the soft fluffy texture and zingy lemon glaze. These are donuts you can enjoy without any guilt!
If you had told me three years ago I’d be making healthy donuts I don’t know if I would have believed you. But three years ago I didn’t have a toddler who gets absolutely NUTS with any sugar in his system, or 15 pounds of baby weight I was trying to shed.
Life huh? Good news is that I’m a much better baker than I was three years ago. I’ve practiced with whole wheat flour in recipes like white whole wheat sandwich bread and cinnamon oatmeal muffins; I know how to make it delicious. These baked lemon donuts still taste like a treat, soft and tender and glazed with a simply lemon icing, you feel like you’re indulging, but without the guilt!
What kind of Baked Donut is this?
Notice that I’m calling them donuts, not doughnuts. It’s a personal distinction, but I don’t consider these a doughnut because they aren’t made with a yeast leavened dough, but rather a quick bread batter that rises in the oven thanks to baking powder.
They have a texture that’s light and fluffy, like a soft muffin, but have a nice golden top that I can only achieve with the donut pan. The shape is undeniably a donut, but without actually having to cut out donuts. While there are definitely yeast doughnut recipes in my future, this recipe has plenty of perks.
I really love the simplicity of this batter, it’s made from a simple combination of flours and sugar, with lemon in 3 different ways for a big lemony flavor.
- Whole Wheat Flour – You can use either traditional whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour for these.
- Baking powder – provides the lift you want for the donut shape and fluffy texture.
- Salt – Just a touch to elevate the sweetness and lemon.
- Greek yogurt – I’ve used both vanilla and plain greek yogurt for this, either low or nonfat. They both work great.
- Oil – Canola or vegetable oil work best.
- Egg – just one large one will do!
- Sugar – I’m used granulated sugar, feel free to replace with cane or coconut sugar if you wish.
- Lemon – lemon juice and lemon zest are key for the lemony flavor in the donuts, but the juice is also needed to make the lemon glaze!
- Candied Lemon Peel – perfectly candied lemon peel from Paradise Fruit Company is the special third addition of lemon flavor, they provide a tiny extra sweetness and a bonus kick of lemon both in and on top of the donuts.
- Powdered sugar – This and lemon juice are all you need for that perfect glaze.
Pro Tip: Chop your candied lemon up finely so it get’s evenly dispersed and melts into the fluffy texture of the donuts.
Tips for Perfect Baked Lemon Donuts
These aren’t hard to make in any way, so with just a few key tips, you’ll be well on your way to healthy baked donut perfection.
- I always start by prepping what I can for quick and easy assembly. Here that includes zesting and juicing your lemon, and chopping the candied lemon peel .
- The dry stuff includes flour, baking soda, and salt – the rest goes into another bowl except the candied lemon which you add last.
- The wet ingredients merely need to be smoothly combined, it takes just a minute or two by hand with a whisk.
- Fold together the wet and dry gently, and add the chopped candied lemon about halfway through so it gets well dispersed.
- Use a piping bag (I love my reusable piping bags) or a plastic zip top bag with a large corner snipped off to make the donut pan easy to fill while keeping your donuts consistently sized.
- Spray or brush the donut pan lightly with melted butter or oil. This helps the browning you see on the top and prevents sticking.
- Let the donuts cool in the pan for just a minute, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
- To glaze them, mix your lemon juice and powdered sugar in a bowl wide enough to allow you to dip the donuts straight down into the glaze. Let the excess drip off, then let set on a cooling rack set over parchment or wax paper.
- Sprinkle the remaining candied lemon peel on top of the glaze before it sets or it won’t stick.
- Don’t under bake! The bottoms will get slightly sticky if they’re under baked. This doesn’t make them inedible by any means, but you want the bottoms to not get soggy if possible.
- You’ll know your donuts are done when you press lightly on them and they spring back quickly, you should also see some golden brown around the middle of donuts near the pan.
This recipe yields 10 perfect donuts and one slightly smaller one every single time. I don’t mind this at all because we usually eat the runt as soon as it’s out of the oven. You can also double it if you’re patient enough to empty and refill the pan 3 times, or if you have two donut pans.
It is fairly essential that you have a donut pan…I’ve read that you can make ‘molds’ out of foil and parchment but that seems labor intensive for this kind of recipe. So invest in this $20 dollar 2 pack of donut pans and enjoy the ease of it. While I’ve got your ear, know that I also always recommend a baking scale for consistent baking success.
Yes! Let them cool completely before you attempt to glaze them or it’ll just melt into them and leave you with a sticky finish. I find that they’re usually cool about 20 minutes after they’ve been removed to a cooling rack. Just enough time to do the dishes and clean up!
Like any baked good I find them best on the first day and pretty darn good day two and three. I wouldn’t keep them any longer than 5 days, they will begin to dry out in the middle.
I find that completely sealed in an airtight container leaves them kind of sticky after a day or two, so instead I keep them on a platter and loosely cover them with plastic wrap.
Sure. I would recommend freezing them without the glaze as it may separate when thawing. If you’re not inclined to make a fresh glaze when thawing one or two donuts, a healthy sprinkle of powdered sugar does nicely as a quick topping as well.
There you have it, a healthy but fluffy and satisfying glazed baked lemon donut. I get that adding a glaze of powdered sugar detracts a little from the whole wheat healthiness of them…but let’s get real, who eats donuts without a glaze? All in all, it’s a baked donut I’m happy to let my little one munch on, and I don’t feel too shabby when I eat one or two either. Have your cake (donut) and eat it too!
If you liked this healthy baked good, be sure to check out these other recipes!
- Healthy Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins
- Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins
- Mixed Fruit Yogurt Muffins
- No Refined Sugar Flapjacks
- 5 ounces whole wheat flour 1 cup spooned and leveled
- 3 1/2 ounces white sugar 1/2 cup
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest*
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 large egg
- 2 ounces oil 1/4 cup
- 5 ounces greek yogurt* 1/2 cup
- 2 tablespoons candied lemon peel, chopped
- 4 1/4 ounces powdered sugar 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon candied lemon peel, chopped
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray your donut pan with oil or butter.
- Zest and juice your lemon, and chop all the candied lemon, set aside.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
- Combine the yogurt, oil, egg, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, and sugar in a bowl and beat until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the wet ingredients into the dry and fold to combine. When they're about halfway combined, add in 2 tablespoons of the chopped lemon peel and continue folding until the batter is consistent and there are no dry spots.
- Using a piping bag or spoon, carefully fill the donut pan. Only fill each donut spot about halfway full.
- Bake for 11 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 1 minute then flip onto a cooling rack, tapping lightly if necessary to release the donuts. Repeat with remaining batter.
- Allow the donuts to cool completely before glazing.
- When cool, combine the powdered sugar and remaining lemon juice (2 tablespoons) and whisk until it's a smooth glossy glaze.
- Dip each donut in and allow the excess to drip off. Sprinkle the donuts with the remaining chopped candied lemon peel and let the glaze dry.
- When dry, enjoy and store any extras on a platter loosely covered by plastic wrap at room temperature.
I’d love to hear what you think, feel free to tag me on Instagram @theflourhandprint so I can see how it went! Until next time, Happy Eating!
Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.