Lemon poppy seed donuts

Are you looking for an easy lemon donut recipe that can be prepared in a matter of minutes? Then check out this recipe for baked lemon poppy seed donuts with lemon icing. These cake style lemon poppy seed donuts have a light, subtle lemon flavor that perfectly compliments the bold, zesty flavor of the lemon glaze.

This recipe is made with gluten free all purpose flour so these lemon poppy seed donuts are 100% gluten free. However, if you do not have a gluten intolerance you could also make this recipe with regular all purpose flour. You can substitute regular all purpose flour 1:1 for gluten free all purpose flour. 

Frosted gluten free lemon poppyseed donuts

What are cake style donuts?

What are cake donuts? There are a few differences between cake donuts and traditional donuts. This biggest difference between cake donuts and traditional donuts is the raising agent. Cake donuts are made with baking powder whereas traditional donuts are made with yeast as a raising agent. Cake donuts also tend to contain more sugar in the dough than traditional donuts. 

These lemon poppy seed donuts are cake style donuts. The main advantage of making cake style donuts is that the donuts can be prepared in a matter of minutes. This is not true of traditional donuts which need to be left out to rise for an hour or more before they can be cooked. 

Lemon poppyseed donut dough

How to add lemon flavor to donuts

There are a few different ways you can add lemon flavor to donuts. You can use lemon juice, lemon extract, or lemon zest. Lemon zest has the mildest flavor of the three so it should be used when you want to add a subtle lemon flavor. Lemon juice has the boldest flavor of the three. Lemon juice has a bright, tart flavor that balances out sweet flavors. Lemon extract has the flavor of lemon without the excessive tartness of lemon juice. 

If you are making lemon flavored donuts you should always use at least a little lemon juice. Lemon juice gives donuts the sharp, tart flavor you expect to get when you take a bite of a lemon flavored baked good. Lemon juice and lemon zest are both used to flavor these donuts. If you want your donuts to have a milder lemon flavor you can leave out the lemon zest. 

How to add lemon flavor to donut icing

Lemon juice is used to add flavoring to this lemon icing. You should always use lemon juice to make lemon icing. You need the bright, tart flavor of lemon juice to cut through the sweetness of icing sugar. Lemon juice is even added to other icing flavors such as vanilla icing to help counteract the sweetness of the sugar.

Unfrosted gluten free lemon poppyseed donuts

Can you ice donuts when they are warm?

Can you ice your donuts when they are still warm? You should not ice donuts when they are warm. At least not if you are using a thick icing that is meant to sit on top of the donut. If you ice donuts when they are warm the icing will melt and fall off the donut. 

If you are using a thin glaze that coats your entire donut then you can apply the glaze when the donut is still warm. In fact, it is preferable to apply a thin glaze when a donut is still warm so that the glaze does not become too thick.

The lemon icing that is used in this recipe is a thick icing that should sit on top of the donuts. You should wait until your lemon poppy seed donuts have cooled to room temperature before icing them. If you do not want to wait so long you can pop your lemon poppy seed donuts in the freezer to speed up the cooling process. 

Lemon poppy seed donuts

This easy lemon poppy seed donut recipe can be prepared in a matter of minutes.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Cooling time10 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Keyword: egg free, gluten free, vegetarian
Servings: 6 donuts


  • 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tbsp applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon zest

Lemon glaze

  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice


  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix all of the dry ingredients other than the sugar together.
  • Mix the butter and sugar together then add the rest of the wet ingredients to the mixture.
    Pour the lemon poppy seed donut mixture into a donut tray. Fill the wells of the donut tray no more than 3/4 of the way to the top. If you are not using a non-stick donut tray you should grease the donut try with vegetable oil or butter prior to pouring the batter in.
  • Bake the donuts for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. While the donuts bake you can mix together the ingredients for the lemon icing.
  • Mix together all of the ingredients for the lemon icing and wait for the donuts to cook to ice the donuts. If you want to cool the donuts faster you can pop them in the freezer for a few minutes.


Tips for measuring flour. We recommend measuring flour by spooning the flour into a measuring cup then leveling off the flour with a butter knife. This is the most consistent way to measure flour. If you dip your measuring cup into the bag of flour, it will compress the flour and you will end up with extra flour. 
Xanthan gum. If your gluten free all purpose flour blend does not contain xanthan gum or a similar replacement for gluten then you should add around 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum per cup of flour.

Substitutions for lemon poppy seed donuts

  • Gluten free all purpose flour. If you do not have a gluten intolerance you can substitute the gluten free all purpose flour with regular all purpose flour. 
  • Sour cream. If you do not have any sour cream on hand you can substitute the sour cream in this recipe with greek yogurt. If you are going to use greek yogurt you should use unflavored greek yogurt. 
  • Applesauce. If you want to use eggs instead of applesauce then you should use 1 egg per 12 donuts you make.  
  • Milk. You do not have to use dairy milk. You can use any type of milk you prefer here. I sometimes use almond milk. 
  • Unsalted butter. You can use salted butter if that is the only kind of butter you have. If you use salted butter you should exclude all salt from the recipe.

Other easy donut recipes

Glazed gluten free chocolate doughnut

If you are looking for another easy baked donut recipe then you should check out this recipe for glazed chocolate donuts. These light and fluffy chocolate donuts are coated in a sweet sugar glaze.

Gluten free & vegan lemon poppyseed cupcakes with lemon icing.

Can’t get enough of that bright lemon flavor? Check out this recipe for lemon poppy seed cupcakes with lemon icing! These easy cupcakes are gluten free, vegan, dairy free, and egg free.

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