.

Vegan Caramel Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts

These fluffy yeasted vegan doughnuts are made with warming pumpkin pie spices, dipped in buttery creamy vegan caramel and topped with toasted walnuts. Like the original coffee shop PSL, these doughnuts don’t need actual pumpkin to invoke the essence of pumpkin spice. But a bit of pumpkin puree will give these autumnal treats a beautiful orange colour so add it if you like. Click here for the printable recipe.

Video tutorial for Vegan Caramel Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts

 

I did mean for this recipe to go up months ago but life got in the way. I don’t think it’s Pumpkin Spice Season anymore. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’ve taken a break from posting. In fact, I’m not sure when I’ll get back to regular posts (even this one is missing the usual video tutorial). Through it all, I’ve been getting the most lovely supportive comments. Thank you so much for being there, for continuing to coming back to this blog and for watching my videos on YouTube. You mean the world to me! And you deserve these doughnuts! Merry Christmas!

More vegan doughnut recipes:

Making vegan doughnut dough

If you’ve made my simple glazed yeast doughnuts or vegan Boston Cream Doughnuts before, you’ll know that making proper yeasted doughnuts from scratch is really no big deal. The dough ingredients can go directly into your food processor with a dough attachment (or mixer or large bowl for manual mixing).

You can make this dough with or without pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin puree turns the dough a pretty orange!

It’s still nice without pumpkin puree. You can see the spices!

Let that dough proof right in the bowl until it’s doubled in size, then roll it out and cut out some doughnut shapes.

I use a mason jar ring and shot glass as my doughnut cutters.

After an hour or so in a warm place, the raw doughnuts will have puffed up; ready to go into hot oil. The best, softest puffy doughnuts are deep-fried so I don’t really recommend any other cooking method. But if you really want to, you can bake them. The texture won’t be doughnut shop legit though.

Speaking of legit; this vegan caramel sauce is super bomb:

Making Vegan Caramel Sauce

The idea of making caramel from scratch can be intimidating whether you’re attempting the vegan version or not but the process is more simple than one might think.

There are two ways of starting caramel: wet or dry. For both methods, you want to use a heavy bottomed pan for even heat distribution. I use quite a large pan with high sides. The larger the surface area, the faster the sugar will melt. Plus, I want the sugar in a thin layer so the top will melt before the sugar at the bottom starts to overheat and burn. Burnt caramel cannot be saved.

You want a pan with high sides because the super hot sugar will bubble up when you add cream or butter (vegan versions for our purposes, of course). On that note, since melted sugar is hot AF, make sure that you have a clean and tidy space to work in, with no tripping hazards underfoot, and with pets and kids safely away.

Using the dry method of caramelizing sugar, you simply heat sugar until it melts. In my kitchen, under ideal circumstances over medium-high heat, it usually takes between five and ten minutes. It’s counter-intuitive to believe that dry grains of sugar can turn into liquid with just heat but there it is!

The sugar at the bottom may melt faster and a puddle of liquid sugar will form. To help sugar cook evenly, use a wooden spoon to push the dry sugar into the liquid sugar. You might be tempted to give it all a good stir but you shouldn’t need to.

Whoops! Over stirred and now it’s grainy. No worries, it’ll melt.

Stirring can cause your caramel to go grainy. Which is a pain but graininess won’t necessarily ruin your caramel. If your caramel goes grainy you can save it by turning the heat to low and leaving it alone. Eventually, the grainy sugar will melt and liquify again. Recently, I went a bit overboard trying to prove that you can stir melting sugar without it getting grainy. Well, a few stirs were OK for previous batches but I ended up disproving my point because this time it went grainy! It took about 25 minutes to get the grainy sugar to melt again. Don’t be like grandiose-stirring-me. Keep the stirring to a bare minimum if you don’t feel like watching sugar melt for 25 minutes.

See? Grains are gone.

Once the sugar has completely liquified, take it off the stove. The heat in the pan will continue to cook the sugar and the colour will deepen. I find that after a few minutes, it’ll reach the deep amber colour that signals caramelization. However, if yours does not, put it back on the stove to cook further using low or medium heat. Again, be careful as caramelization happens super quickly and it only takes a moment to go from perfect to burnt. And burnt caramel cannot be saved.

The reason why some people prefer the wet process of making caramel is that the slower process prevents burning.  The wet process is the same as the dry process except you dampen the sugar with water so it dissolves and turns into syrup. Then the syrup is heated until it boils, thickens and turns into caramel.

I’ve only made the wet process work for me once without crystallizing and getting grainy. However, the wet method might work better for you and your equipment so if you want to try that, here are instructions on how to make caramel with the wet method.

Once the sugar has been caramelized, you can stir in vegan cream. I like using vegan soy creamer as an easy option. I’ve improvised by boiling down a cup of regular unsweetened soy milk to a quarter of its original volume and used that as the cream. My guess is that coconut cream would work too, though your caramel would taste like coconut in that case.

This happens to be my favourite vegan creamer for coffee too: Silk Original Soy Creamer.

Whatever vegan cream you choose, be careful as you add it to the caramel. The caramel is basically molten lava at this point so pour the cream in slowly and stir with care. The caramel will foam and bubble up against the sides of the pan. But as you stir, the caramel will calm itself and the mixture will lighten as the cream is incorporated.

Mix that vegan butter into the caramel to lighten the colour and give it a buttery flavour.

Stir in vegan butter to lighten the colour further and give the caramel sauce a buttery flavour. I only ever use Earth Balance Butter Sticks for this step. It behaves like butter more than any other vegan butter alternative that I’ve tried so far.

I’ve found that when I add the vegan butter before the cream, the butter doesn’t incorporate as well and tends to separate, leaving a layer of oil on top of the caramel. But it’s never happened when I add the cream first. However, even if the butter does separate, you can use a stick blender to force emulsification.

You can leave the caramel sauce in the pan so you can warm it up easily for easy glazing later. Or, you can transfer the warm caramel sauce to a heat-proof container and let it cool to room temperature before you cover and store it in the fridge for up to a month. To use it again, heat it up slowly in the microwave using 30-second intervals and watching that it doesn’t bubble over. You can also heat it up slowly on the stove over low heat.

If you started making the caramel while the dough was rising for the first or second time and all went well, you’ll have plenty of time to make one last topping: toasted walnuts. Sure, you could be one step ahead and buy your walnuts already toasted, fragrant and delicious. But if you’re like me and buy all your nuts raw for reasons you don’t even remember anymore, you can follow along here.

Toasting raw walnuts in the oven

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 175°C. Place a cup of raw walnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread them out so they can toast evenly. When your oven has reach temperature, place the walnuts on the middle rack and bake for 10 minutes. If your oven has hot spots, shake the nuts a bit at the halfway mark to prevent burning. But I never do. Afterwards, they should smell fragrant and once cool, you can taste the difference!

I like to crumble them a bit for the doughnut topping but you can leave them as large halves if you like. Toasted walnuts can be stored in a mason jar for a week. Just make sure to let them cool to room temperature before sealing the jar.

Frying Your Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts

Please be careful when deep-frying! Hot oil can cause serious burns so use caution, keep a neat work space, give yourself lots of room, and keep pets and kids safely away.
If you have an electric deep fryer, great! Set it for 350°F and away you go! For the rest of us, get out a good sized saucepan with high sides and a heavy base for even heat distribution. Fill it with 2 – 3 inches of canola or other neutral tasting oil with a high smoke point. You don’t want to use your good olive oil for this! Heat it up to 350°F (use a thermometer) and start frying!

testing oil temperature with chopstick
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use visual cues to figure out when your oil is hot enough. Use a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon and stick it in. If bubbles form around it, it’s hot enough for frying. But if the stream of bubbles is so intense that it seems to mist up, it’s a bit too hot. This is not a precise method so it’s not the best method but we use what we have!

When you lower each doughnut in, the oil will bubble up around it. Be super careful. If you’re new to deep frying on the stove, please do only one at a time. In about 30-45 seconds, the bottom should be golden brown and you can flip it. After about 30 to 45 seconds on that side, you can remove it, let the excess oil drip off, then place it on a paper towel lined rack to soak up excess oil. As you cook, make sure to regulate the temperature. If the doughnuts are cooking too fast, lower the temperature. If they seem to be taking more than 45 seconds to turn golden brown, turn up the temperature.

Frying alternatives

Deep fried doughnuts are the standard but baking or air frying is easier, quicker, probably safer, and way lower in fat. They come out pretty darn delicious too so even though they aren’t the same as the deep fried version, they are still worth it.

To bake, preheat your oven to 350°F or 175°C and when the oven has reach temperature, bake for 10 minutes and not a second more. You just want to cook the doughnuts but not brown them. Just like with frying, set them on a wire rack to cool before glazing.

If you’re using an air fryer, preheat it a few minutes or according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I set mine to 360°F. While that’s going on, lightly oil the pan and set your dough in. My pan fits only one doughnuts and a couple ‘doughnut holes’ at a time. Pop them in, set a timer for 4 or 5 minutes and let it cook. They come out a little golden on top and really look more like bagels than doughnuts. But they will get donut-iter when covered with caramel glaze!

Finishing your Caramel Walnut Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts

If the caramel has cooled until it’s no longer liquidy, warm it up over low heat or microwave using 15- to 30-second intervals to prevent bubbling over.

Dip the doughnuts, one by one, into the glaze and place glazed side up on a wire rack. Top with toasted walnuts and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice and brown sugar.

These doughnuts do take quite a while to make (almost 3 hours!) but they are the most impressive thing you can bring to a holiday party or office potluck. If you don’t have that kind of time or you just want to break down the process, try making the dough ahead of time. The dough can sit in the fridge for a couple days. You can also make the caramel sauce and store it in the fridge for up to a month. Freshly toasted walnuts can be kept at room temperature in a sealed jar for a week. After frying the doughnuts, you can delay glazing to as close to serving time as possible. Whatever you do, serve them as fresh as possible. After 24 hours, the caramel glaze tends to sink into the doughnuts and the aesthetic is just not as nice. They’ll still taste amazing though. Good luck!

For more vegan Pumpkin Spice goodness, try these recipes:

Printable recipe for Caramel Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts

Caramel Walnut Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts - US
Yields 12
These fluffy yeasted vegan doughnuts are made with warming pumpkin pie spices and dipped in buttery creamy vegan caramel topped with toasted walnuts. Like the original coffee shop PSL, these doughnuts don't need actual pumpkin to invoke the essence of pumpkin spice. But a bit of pumpkin puree will give these autumnal treats a beautiful orange colour so add it if you like.

This recipe makes 10 - 12 doughnuts and doughnut holes. Serve them as fresh as possible; same day or the next. Check the notes for longer term storage options.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
2 hr 30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
2 hr 30 min
Cook Time
30 min
For the doughnut dough (no pumpkin puree)
  1. 3 cups + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  2. 1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten*
  3. 2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  4. 1/4 cup sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix (see below)
  6. 1 cup + 3 tablespoons warm water (110°F)
  7. 1 tablespoon ground flax or chia seed
  8. 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  9. 1/2 teaspooon vanilla extract
For the doughnut dough with pumpkin
  1. 3 cups + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  2. 1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten*
  3. 2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  4. 1/4 cup sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix (see below)
  6. 1 cup warm water (110°F)
  7. 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  8. 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  9. 1/2 teaspooon vanilla extract
For the caramel glaze
  1. 1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  2. 1/2 cup plain soy creamer, room temperature or warm
  3. 1/2 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance or similar)
Other toppings
  1. 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted or raw)
  2. 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix (see below)
  3. 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Pumpkin Spice mix
  1. 2 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  2. 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  3. 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  4. 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  5. 1/4 teaspoon cloves
Make the doughnut dough
  1. Combine the dry dough ingredients (flour, gluten, yeast, sugar, spices) in a mixer, food processor, or large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  2. Add the wet dough ingredients (warm water, pumpkin puree/flax, coconut oil, vanilla). Process/mix until a soft, sticky dough comes together. Process/mix a minute more, then cover and let rise in a warm location for 1 hour or until the dough doubles in size. While the dough is rising, you can make the caramel glaze.
Make caramel glaze
  1. Using a heavy bottomed pan with high sides, heat 1 cup + 1 tablespoon of white sugar over medium to medium-high heat. It may take 10 minutes or more for the sugar to start to liquify. Watch this process carefully and be aware that the sugar, solid or liquid, will be extremely hot. You can gently draw the liquified edges to the middle of the pan with a heat-safe spatula to help the sugar caramelize evenly. See the blog post for details if you haven't made caramel before.
  2. When the sugar has liquified, it will turn dark amber very quickly. Remove it from the heat as soon as it does to prevent it from being burnt. Burnt caramel cannot be saved.
  3. During this next step, the caramel will bubble up quickly so proceed with caution. Pour the cream in slowly while stirring with a long-handled wooden spoon. After the cream is fully incorporated, add the vegan butter, stirring in a tablespoon at a time. Set the caramel aside to cool.
Toast walnuts
  1. If you have raw walnuts, toast them to make them more fragrant. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Let cool, then store in an air tight container if not using right away.
Cut Doughnuts + Fry
  1. Scoop the dough out gently on to a floured surface. Gently roll the dough out to a half inch thickness. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky to handle but keep it to a minimum. Cut out the doughnuts using doughnut/cookie cutters or improvise as I did with a large mason jar ring lid for the outer edge and a small shot glass for the inner edge.
  2. Place cut donuts and doughnut holes on to a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a warm, lightly damp towel or a sheet of plastic with the bottom side dusted with flour. Let the uncooked donuts rise for 45 minutes to one hour or until at least doubled in size.
  3. When the dough has risen, prepare a saucepan or fryer with canola oil. Heat to 375°F. During cooking, try to keep the oil at this temperature for best results. Prepare a wire rack and any utensils that you'll need for flipping the donuts and dipping them into glaze.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to gently lower a doughnut into the hot oil. Cook only one layer of doughnut at one time. Each doughnut will take 30 to 45 seconds on the first side to become golden brown. Flip and cook for about 30 seconds or until that side is golden brown. Remove carefully with tongs (or chopsticks) and let drain on the wire rack or on some paper towels. Continue with the rest and let the doughnuts cool before glazing.
Glazing
  1. If the caramel has cooled until it's no longer liquidy, warm it up over low heat or microwave using 15 to 30 second intervals to prevent bubbling over.
  2. Dip the doughnuts, one by one, into the glaze and place glazed side up on a wire rack. Immediately top with toasted walnuts and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice and brown sugar.
  3. Serve on the same day for best results. If serving on the next day, store in a covered container at room temperature.
Notes
  1. *Vital wheat gluten makes the doughnuts more fluffy. If you can't find it in the bakery aisle, try a health food store. Alternatively, you can use bread flour instead of all-purpose and leave out the additional vital wheat gluten.
  2. I used Instant Dry Active Yeast (aka quick rise) for this recipe. If you are using regular dry active yeast (aka Traditional), dissolve it in the warm water before adding to the rest of the dough ingredients.
  3. Soy creamer can usually be found with other plant-based milks in grocery stores. Alternatively, you can make your own by boiling 2 cups of plain soy milk down to 1/2 cup. You may be able to substitute with coconut cream or cashew cream but these have not been tested with this recipe.
  4. These doughnuts do take quite a while to make (almost 3 hours!) but they are the most impressive thing you can bring to a holiday party or office potluck. If you don't have that kind of time or you just want to break down the process, try making the dough ahead of time. The dough can sit in the fridge for a couple days. You can also make the caramel sauce and store it in the fridge for up to a month. Freshly toasted walnuts can be kept at room temperature in a sealed jar for a week. After frying the doughnuts, you can delay glazing to as close to serving time as possible. Whatever you do, serve them as fresh as possible. After 24 hours, the caramel glaze tends to sink into the doughnuts and the aesthetic is just not as nice. They'll still taste amazing though. Good luck!
Mary's Test Kitchen http://www.marystestkitchen.com/
Showing 5 comments
  • Trinity Fernandez
    Reply

    This sounds yummy i would L😍VE to try this!!!!

  • Amy
    Reply

    Yasss!! I must have these at once! They look so golden and glorious, my brain feels so happy looking at them 🙂

    • Mary
      Reply

      That’s awesome! Have fun! 🙂

      • Beverly
        Reply

        I want to make these but I can’t have wheat or processed sugar.
        Do you have any alternatives to make these?

        • Mary
          Reply

          No, sorry.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.