Are Donuts Gluten Free?

Gluten free can be confusing to figure out. What has gluten? Do donuts have gluten?

Donuts contain gluten. Any product made from flour derived from wheat, barley, or rye contains gluten. This includes traditionally made donuts unless they are specifically labeled gluten free. It is vital for anyone following a prescribed gluten free diet to avoid regular donuts.

If you are trying to figure out what has gluten and doesn’t have gluten, I have included a handy chart below to clarify this.

Do Donuts Contain Gluten?

Unfortunately, traditionally made donuts do contain gluten.

Wheat, barley, and rye are gluten grains. Anything derived from these grains contains gluten. These include all-purpose flour, pastry flour, or 00 flour.

Donuts can be made using rice flour, gluten free all-purpose flour blends, or other types of gluten free flour.

One of the things I love about cooking with gluten free flour is that it performs better when frying it! I wrote a whole article on all the things that gluten free flour does better than wheat flour. Check it out if you are curious.

The struggle with gluten free donuts is not in the frying but the rising. The difficult part comes in when you need to make the dough soft enough to allow the yeast to rise while making it firm enough to shape. And keeping that shape between where it is rising and hitting the hot oil.

Gluten free donuts are surprisingly good with a soft texture right after frying. However, they deteriorate rapidly and need to be eaten as soon as possible after frying but within 24 hours.

I would fry donuts to order on my food cart when we had them on the menu to provide the best possible texture.

What Products Have Gluten?

Figuring out what products contain gluten can be tricky, especially if you aren’t a cook and aren’t aware of what is made with flour.

Anything made with traditional flour contains gluten.

This can sometimes be hard to spot, and it is very overwhelming when first learning about gluten vs. gluten free.

Here is a little table I designed to show some surprising foods that contain gluten.

Product or IngredientGluten Free?
Pie no
Cake no
Pasta no
Couscous no
Rice yes
Pizza no
Rolls no
Quinoa yes
Donuts no

What Desserts Are Naturally Gluten Free?

Gluten can seem to be in everything and to be everywhere. But there are only 3 grains that are found in wheat, rye, and barley. However, the derivatives of these grains have spread far and wide. There are many varieties of wheat as well as products made from wheat. And even barley hides under the name of malt!

It can be difficult to start cooking and baking with gluten free flours such as rice flour, almond flour, tapioca starch, teff flour, sorghum flour, and many more! They require a different set of skills in the kitchen which can be intimidating.

It can be easier to stick with things that never contained gluten without learning about new things.

So here is a list of some gluten free desserts that are already gluten free (although you need to check the specific ingredients on a recipe to be sure):

  • Rice Krispie Treats (as long as you use Malt-O-Meal brand Crispy Rice instead of Rice Krispies brand)
  • Coconut Macaroons
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake
  • Fudge
  • Toffee
  • Fruit
  • Meringue
  • Mousse
  • Flan
  • Ice Cream (although some toppings can contain gluten)
  • Candied Nuts
  • Pudding
  • Pumpkin Pie Filling
  • Cheesecake Filling
  • Brittle such as Peanut Brittle
  • Creme Brulee
  • Pavlova
  • Caramel Apples
  • Sorbet
  • Banana Split
  • Hot Fudge Sundae
  • Sticky Rice Pudding
  • Khanom Chan (Thai Steamed Rice Cake)
  • Granitas
  • Marzipan
  • Fruit Salad
  • Caramel or Caramel Sauce
  • Macarons
  • Bananas Foster

That’s quite a list of desserts that don’t contain gluten! None of the ideas on this list use gluten ingredients, so there are no substitutions to do.

When cooking gluten free it is always important to check ingredients to make sure they are gluten free as some things on this list could have gluten or be cross-contaminated with gluten ingredients during production.

The great thing about the above list is that it isn’t specific ingredients. For example, there is an infinite number of types of Macarons you could make. My favorite ones were made with English Breakfast tea as a flavoring!

You don’t need to limit yourself when cooking gluten free, even if you aren’t using alternative ingredients and want to go with recipes that never contained gluten.

How To Make Gluten Free Donuts

If you decide to go for it with donuts and replace the wheat flour with a gluten free flour blend, remember some tips to help you succeed.

If you are using a recipe that calls for yeast, make sure that your dough is soft and loose enough to let the yeast work its magic. Sometimes I will accomplish this by using less flour than is called for in the first rise and adding the rest of the flour between the first and second rises.

If you use this tip, make sure you don’t beat all the beautiful air pockets you have created out of the dough – fold it in. And make sure the dough doesn’t become too stiff for the yeast to move it.

One thing you can do is make sure that you are raising them in a warm spot. I’ve even used my dehydrator! I can set it to just under 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which lets the yeast work its magic. Over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the yeast will start to die off.

Make sure the dough is just stiff enough to hold its shape while rising and frying.

I have had great success with another method: using a piping bag to put it in the fryer directly. I typically use a pastry choux dough for this method, and it turns out light and airy with big airy holes just as you want.

You can also make your yeast donut dough a little bit thin and use a piping bag to drop it directly in. You may end up with a funnel cake-like result instead of the typical donut shape.

What I did when I made Apple Cider Donuts was to bake them instead. Apple Cider Donuts are typically baked and not fried, so this follows the typical method. This way, the batter can stay thin enough for the baking powder to rise in the oven.

No matter the method you choose, you will find that the sooner you consume them after they are made, the better the result will be.

I usually find that donuts not eaten within the day they are made, or at the most 24 hours, are not enjoyable. Or, as my children coin it, “chicken food.”


My passion is supporting those who need to be gluten free. After my family had to transition to eating gluten free I realized how difficult it is. It is more than finding a recipe. It is about how to navigate social situations, deal with isolation, and other things that come along with it. I live in Oregon with my family, cats, and chickens.

Try this recipe for a great gluten free donut!