Pumpkin Donuts with Panela Honey – Gluten Free

(Gluten-Free Pumpkin Donuts inspired by Peruvian Picarones con Chancaca)

Picarones is a Peruvian dessert which is a type of doughnut made of a batter that has been enriched with pumpkin or sweet potato puree sometimes found with both pumpkin and sweet potato and is traditionally served with a spiced honey made out of panela best called Chancaca by the locals, which is an unrefined sugar made from cane sugar with strong molasses and robust flavours, Picarones has strong influences from Spanish dessert Buñuelos, Picarones could be a healthier version of their counterparts.

It makes a great addition to any afternoon tea, a fun way to serve an extra side of veggies to the kids. Picarones is a treat that is sure to delight kids and adults. This recipe is very special as it was developed in order to make it suitable for Gluten and Dairy intolerances yet so yummy, light and fluffy.

As this is a Gluten-Free version I wouldn’t call this a traditional Picarones recipe as the original process is somehow different to what I am going to present to you guys here, however, I must say this version is sure to please your donuts with a pleasant twist, I hope you enjoy it.

Tips to make Gluten Free Pumpkin Donuts

  • Note that this recipe being gluten free I had to make several adaptations to be able to find a manageable dough, I don’t recommend changing gluten free flour for wheat-based one as it won’t yield similar results, in terms of Gluten Free flour I suggest going with a brand that allows you substitute cup by cup which are normally a blend of several gluten free flours, my preferred one here in Australia is brand Free From which is the homebrand from Woollies.
  • The recipe calls for Panela, which is an unrefined sugar made out of evaporated sugarcane juice which is used widely in Latin American / South American desserts, adding special notes of earthy and caramel molasses-like flavour, also known as piloncillo, chancaca, and rapadura sugar, which can be found in specialty stores where you find Spanish, South American products and it comes in blocks which can be melted with water or grated, nowadays in Australia you can easily find PANELA or RAPADURA sugar from the baking section in Woolworths or Coles under the brand Panela Macro Organic and Panela Organic Mountain, you can use CSR Rapadura sugar as well but it will be slightly less sweet than the Panela sugars.
  • Dry instant yeast can be substituted by an equal amount of baking powder for a faster version of this recipe though the dough might rise a little less (don’t allow resting just use straight away as baking powder is activated by heat it will not rise with resting time).
  • Stick to amounts of yeast and times as the recipe can be easily overproof resulting in an unpleasant yeasty flavour.
  • Different brands of gluten free flour may yield different results, if your dough turns out too liquidy add extra flour by the spoon and let rest a bit to allow the flour to thicken and absorb the liquids, and if it is too dry make sure you add extra water by the spoon as well until you reach a sticky consistency that can be piped without effort.
  • This recipe is suitable for vegetarians, gluten free, dairy free diets. It can be easily done sugar-free by swapping the sugar for erythritol or stevia-based sugars and doing a light syrup with the spices and Natvia Gold Sweetener or Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener Golden using the brand conversions. 
  • Oil needs to be hot enough when piping the donuts so it bubbles immediately but if you find the donuts turning dark in less than 2 min turn the heat a bit lower as the gluten free flour need a bit longer to cook than wheat so it needs to fry until cook trough.

Pumpkin Donuts with Panela Honey – Gluten Free

Recipe by KeymaCourse: DessertCuisine: Street Food, Peruvian, LatinDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time




  • Pumpkin Donuts
  • 250g Pumpkin (peeled and cut in chunks)

  • 1 star anise

  • 1 tsp aniseeds (2 tsp of fennel seeds if not finding aniseed)

  • 1 cinnamon quill

  • 1 c  water

  • 270g Plain Gluten free flour

  • ¼ tsp xantham gum (leave off if your GF flour contains it)

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 40g of panela* or brown sugar

  • ½ tsp of salt

  • 1 ½ tablespoon dry instant yeast**

  • 3 eggs

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1l vegetable oil for frying

  • Spiced Panela honey
  • 1 c water

  • 200g Panela sugar

  • 100g White sugar

  • 1 cinnamon quill

  • 1 star anise

  • ½ tsp aniseeds (or 1 tsp fennel seeds)

  • Lemon and orange peel about a tablespoon each (whole peel so it can be removed later)


  • Pumpkin Donuts
  • In a small sauce pan place the pumpkin, one cup of water, and spices (cinnamon quill, aniseed, star anise) and bring to boil with a lid on.Cook for about 20 min until the pumpkin is just soft, strain reserving the liquid left if any and take out the star anise and cinnamon quill.
  • Let rest the pumpkin until is cool enough to puree but still a bit warm. Make a smooth puree in a small food processor or using a hand stick blender (alternatively you can pass through a fine sieve making sure there is no lumps in the puree).
  • Top reserved liquid if you end up with less than 1/4  cup with warm water (30 C aprox) until you have about ¼ cup.
  • Mix eggs, pumpkin puree, oil, and spiced water.
  • In a bowl place the gluten free flour, xantham gum, 40gr of sugar, salt, dry yeast, and extra ground cinnamon, mix with a whisk to incorporate. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and use a spoon to incorporate very well, the result will be a very sticky wet bread like dough.
  • Let rest in a warm place for about 30 min with a lightly wet cloth on top.
  • In a deep frying pan or a fryer preheat the oil at medium low heat or 150C.
  • Fill a piping bag without a tip or using a round open tip of about 1 cm diameter. Place half of the donut mixture in the piping bag and once the oil reaches temperature pipe carefully into the oil making 6-8 cm rings cutting the dough as it closes the ring with a knife or kitchen scissors, this can take a bit of practice. Alternatively make open shapes like a C is its easier to handle.
  • Cook at medium low heat for a bout 2-3 min per side, turning frequently as they can brown pretty easily, if they brown too quickly but are not cook through reduce heat is best to cook them a bit slower so they cook throughout and brown evenly.
  • Remove from oil and drain excess oil over paper towels.
  • They can be dressed with icing sugar for a simple treat or serve warm drizzled with panela honey on top.
  • Spiced Panela Honey
  • Meanwhile make the honey, place in a saucepan all the ingredients for the panela honey and bring to the boil at medium heat let simmer for about 15-20 min until you get a syrupy consistency, strain and set aside to cool a bit [ti should have a honey or golden syruo consistency when cold, if is too thick to be poored down you will need to add extra water and thin out).