These vegan lemon poppy seed donuts are what donut dreams are made of - fluffy, sweet, and tart! The zesty lemon flavor and easy glaze make these the perfect vegan treat!
Whether you spell them donuts or doughnuts, they’re a classic that’s hard to turn down! With these vegan lemon poppy seed donuts, you get a healthier donut that’s just as tasty—if not more so!
The history of donuts may actually go back to an old New England recipe created by a ship captain’s mother. Funnily enough, this recipe was intended to help prevent scurvy—vitamin C deficiency—so it included lemon! This recipe is thus both modern (vegan) and a throwback to the donut’s origins at the same time!
Perfect for spring or summer, these vegan lemon poppy seed donuts are truly the perfect zesty treat. Read on to learn how you can whip them up in hardly any time at all!
Lemon Poppy Seed Donuts Ingredients
Many of these ingredients are vegan staples so you may have some on hand!
- All-purpose flour – Any kind of all-purpose flour should do the trick just fine. If you want to experiment with other types or go gluten-free, I can’t vouch for them! Please do let me know though how it turns out in the comments 🙂
- Baking soda & powder – These help the donuts rise! A little goes a long way so be sure to stick to the recipe.
- Salt – If you strive to be health-conscious like me, it can be tempting to skip or reduce the salt, but don’t! Adding even a little salt really helps bring out the other flavors.
- White sugar – You can substitute other types of sugar, but white sugar works well and is nice for that classic doughnut taste. You should know, however, that many white (and brown) sugars are not vegan-friendly (at least in the U.S.). This unfortunate issue is due to bone char. Luckily, you can find vegan-friendly white and brown sugar online if not in your preferred grocery stores. The Wholesome brand is one of my favorites because it is vegan and can be found at a lot of grocery stores.
- Poppy seeds – Poppy seeds, like nuts and seeds in general, can easily lay claim to the name “superfood.” That’s because they’re highly nutrient dense. In addition to fiber, you can count on significant amounts of manganese, copper, calcium, and magnesium, among other micronutrients. If you aren't a poppy seed fan you can either forget them entirely or swap them out for chia seeds in this recipe.
- Vegan butter – Vegan butter has come a really long way in recent years! For this recipe, it might be best to find a vegan butter in stick form. Luckily, there are several brands that offer this now, including Miyoko’s and Earth Balance. There’s also Country Crock plant butter, which I’d recommend only if you can’t find the others as it contains palm oil (unfortunately Earth Balance does as well). Any vegan butter should work okay, though.
- Plant milk – Soy milk, oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk—we’re really spoiled these days! While you can simply choose your preferred plant milk, you may get a richer result if you opt for a creamier plant milk rather than one that’s more “thin,” i.e. more watery.
- Lemon juice & lemon zest – In addition to poppy seeds, the real lemon juice and lemon zest in this recipe help create a more nutritious doughnut than you’ll find pretty much anywhere else. Lemons possess many health benefits, including high amounts of vitamin C and moderate amounts of potassium and vitamin B6. Furthermore, many of the plant compounds found in lemons are potent antioxidants. You’ll get even more by consuming the fruit whole or using the zest, which is what this recipe calls for!
- Vanilla extract – It’s not a huge deal if you don’t include it, but vanilla extract adds a wonderful touch!
- Powdered sugar – You’ll need this for your glaze! Just aim to find a clearly labeled vegan powdered sugar.
How to Make Vegan Donuts
For the Donuts:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and grease a donut pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds). Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the wet ingredients (butter, milk, lemon juice, vanilla extract) and lemon zest. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Use a spatula to transfer the batter to a piping bag, or a plastic baggie with the tip cut off. Pipe the batter into the donut mold until it is about ¾ths of the way full.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the donuts are golden brown.
- Remove the donuts from the oven and allow them to cool in the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Allow the donuts to fully cool before dipping in the lemon glaze.
East Homemade Glaze for Donuts
These doughnuts are great on their own, but the glaze really takes them to the next level! To make this simple lemon glaze, you’ll follow these simple steps:
- Add the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of milk, and vanilla extract to a small mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
- Whisk in the powdered sugar and add more milk until you get your desired consistency.
- Dip each donut in the glaze and allow the glaze to set for 5 minutes.
- Devour your donuts!
Baked versus Fried Donuts
Baked or fried? Which one should you choose? Ultimately, it comes down to your preference.
The original donuts, which date back at least two or three hundred years, were fried in hot oil. Nowadays, however, it’s common to find both baked and fried donuts.
One benefit to frying is it helps hold the shape of the donut better, which means a larger, rounder hole in the middle.
Baked donuts will provide you much the same taste, but they won’t be quite as rich and won’t have quite the same taste or feel as fried donuts (think Krispy Kreme—they even have “Krispy” in the name).
On the other hand, baked donuts will be generally healthier as they will have less fat and calories. This is because they don’t have any exposure to frying oil.
This recipe calls for baking as it’s simpler, healthier, and still produces a quite delicious result. It’s your call though, so fry away if you feel like it!
Tips for Making Baked Donuts
Here are some handy tips for making baked donuts!
- Create a piping bag by cutting the edge of a plastic baggie. This is so much easier and cleaner than spooning the batter into the pan.
- If you really want to ramp up the lemon flavor, you can simply replace the vanilla extract with lemon extract.
- Use a mini donut pan to make even more, bite-sized donuts.
- If you aren’t a fan of lemon, you can use the base of this recipe to make any kind of vegan donuts that you’d like!
- Before handling them, let the donuts cool for 5 minutes in the donut pan after pulling them out of the oven.
- Allow the donuts to completely cool before dipping in the glaze or it won’t harden.
- If you don’t like glazed donuts, you can make sugared donuts! Just dip the donuts in a little melted vegan butter and roll them in sugar.
How do I store these lemon poppy seed donuts?
Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or room temperature for one or two days.
Can I freeze these lemon poppy seed donuts?
Yep! Freeze them without the glaze for up to two months. When you’re ready, thaw and dip in the glaze before serving.
Can I use another citrus fruit?
Definitely! Go with whatever you prefer. You could try orange, mandarin, even lime instead of lemon!
How should I garnish these lemon poppy seed doughnuts?
You can sprinkle on more poppy seeds, use a lemon wedge, an edible flower, lemon zest, etc.—whatever you feel!
Is there a substitute for the poppy seeds?
Absolutely - you can either leave the poppy seeds out entirely or swap them for chia seeds!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
This recipe is simple and easy—much easier than you would expect for how delicious they are! They’re also zestier and healthier than most donuts out there. This is going to become one of your new favorite recipes because they are...
- Healthier – Thanks to poppy seeds and real lemon juice and lemon zest, not to mention an all-vegan recipe, this lemon poppy seed donut recipe is one that you can enjoy making much more often than many other donut recipes!
- Simple – Just two bowls are required for mixing (which you can make one if you really want to) and then just twelve minutes in the oven! You’ll be amazed that such a delicious recipe is so quick and easy.
- Fluffy and zesty – These donuts are particularly yummy in spring and summer, in my humble opinion, thanks to the fresh and zesty flavor of lemon! They've got such a nice zing to them that perfectly complements the sweetness of the doughnut. These make for a great breakfast or snack and are a convenient on-the-go option as well.
Let me know if you try out this recipe for vegan lemon poppy seed donuts, and if you do, I would love it if you left a rating and review below! Make sure you are also following along on Instagram and Pinterest for more food inspiration.
Try more vegan dessert recipes below:
- Nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookies
- Pomegranate chocolate tart
- Raspberry custard tart
- Matcha glazed donuts
- Millionaire shortbread bars
- Chocolate dipped ice cream bars
- Refined sugar-free apple crisp
- Pumpkin pie bars
- Gingersnap cookies