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No eggs, no dairy, no gluten. What’s left are Chani’s Donuts

A home cook’s vegan, allergen-free donut shop offers tasty treats for nearly every diet

A half-dozen allergen-free donuts with powdered sugar and chocolate drizzle
A half-dozen allergen-free donuts with powdered sugar and chocolate drizzle
Video:

Chanis Donuts machine



Can you call something a donut if it doesn’t contain nuts? Obviously, the answer is yes. What if you take away milk and eggs? As a proliferation of vegan donuts around San Diego in the past decade tells us, also yes. And you can clearly make a good donut without using soy, seafood, or sesame seeds. The question I sought to answer at Chani’s Donuts, is whether you can leave all of these things out, while also making the donut gluten-free?

Place

Chani's Donuts

Interstate Retail Center, Suite 118, San Diego


Chani’s specializes in making what it calls allergen-free donuts. Which means it steers clear of all of the above, each part of a top ten list of Americans allergies.


The shop’s founder and namesake, Chantelle Harris, can quickly recite this list. She and members of her family count several of the allergies among their own, which for the most part have kept their household donut-free. That is, until Harris devised a new donut recipe on her own: first studying the science behind the fried dough, then refining the technique until she had something all the kids in her extended family were clamoring for “Aunt Chani” to make.

Chantelle Harris in her new, allergen-free donuts shop: Chani's Donuts


Making a satisfying raised donuts without gluten would seem to be the biggest challenge, one she navigated with a recipe that includes rice, sorghum, and tapioca flours. And part of the reason her donuts work as well as they do, is that they’re small. As mini donuts, they fry up crispy on the outside, consistently soft and fluffy on the inside, with just enough of tapioca’s trademark chew that nobody’s going to miss the gluten.


To make sure of this, I brought along the most demanding donut enthusiasts I know: my stepkids. They too now sing the praises of Chani’s Donuts, winning me points with the Mrs.


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The wildest thing about this shop is that Harris only finished creating her recipe this past February! By May, she had assembled a colorful donut cart, with old-timey wagon wheels, to serve them at outdoor events, including summer concerts in Tierrasanta. It’s at one of these events she connected with the owner of Long Island Mike’s Pizza, who hooked her up with an open storefront next door to his shop on Murphy Canyon Road and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard (just off the 15 freeway). In October, the Chani’s donut cart was parked inside its new, permanent location, open for business (and, whether or not by coincidence, Long Island Mike’s has recently added gluten-free pizzas to its menu).


Inspired by the original wagon, Chani’s Donuts has been decorated with a circus theme thanks to the help of local artist Emily Dolton, who furnished the place with circus animal figurines and paintings inspired by vintage Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey posters. Meanwhile, Harris and her husband drove to Portland, Oregon, to secure an automated donut maker that continuously turns batches her dough into crispy fried mini donuts. It’s kind of captivating to watch them tumble across a lane of hot oil, like factory goods riding a conveyer belt.

A dozen mini donuts mixed between strawberry glaze and powdered sugar


Offered by the dozen ($7.95) or half-dozen ($4.50), these mini-donuts are flavored to order, dressed with a choice of powdered sugar; cinnamon and sugar; or drizzles of chocolate or strawberry glaze. During our visit, limited time options included maple and apple glazes, as well as pumpkin pie seasoning.


Harris acknowledges it’s tough to keep the entire menu free of every potential allergen — she’s already met customers who profess cinnamon and rice allergies — but given how many ingredients are already omitted, it’s pretty pretty remarkable what she’s accomplished. And she promises allergen-free cakes and cookies are on the way. Her shop’s already growing in popularity among vegans and San Diego donut fans afflicted with celiac disease, and it could potentiallty catch on with a low sugar crowd. Undressed, each donut contains only 1.2 grams per mini donut. Don’t tell the kids!






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A half-dozen allergen-free donuts with powdered sugar and chocolate drizzle
A half-dozen allergen-free donuts with powdered sugar and chocolate drizzle
Video:

Chanis Donuts machine



Can you call something a donut if it doesn’t contain nuts? Obviously, the answer is yes. What if you take away milk and eggs? As a proliferation of vegan donuts around San Diego in the past decade tells us, also yes. And you can clearly make a good donut without using soy, seafood, or sesame seeds. The question I sought to answer at Chani’s Donuts, is whether you can leave all of these things out, while also making the donut gluten-free?

Place

Chani's Donuts

Interstate Retail Center, Suite 118, San Diego


Chani’s specializes in making what it calls allergen-free donuts. Which means it steers clear of all of the above, each part of a top ten list of Americans allergies.


The shop’s founder and namesake, Chantelle Harris, can quickly recite this list. She and members of her family count several of the allergies among their own, which for the most part have kept their household donut-free. That is, until Harris devised a new donut recipe on her own: first studying the science behind the fried dough, then refining the technique until she had something all the kids in her extended family were clamoring for “Aunt Chani” to make.

Chantelle Harris in her new, allergen-free donuts shop: Chani's Donuts


Making a satisfying raised donuts without gluten would seem to be the biggest challenge, one she navigated with a recipe that includes rice, sorghum, and tapioca flours. And part of the reason her donuts work as well as they do, is that they’re small. As mini donuts, they fry up crispy on the outside, consistently soft and fluffy on the inside, with just enough of tapioca’s trademark chew that nobody’s going to miss the gluten.


To make sure of this, I brought along the most demanding donut enthusiasts I know: my stepkids. They too now sing the praises of Chani’s Donuts, winning me points with the Mrs.


Sponsored
Sponsored

The wildest thing about this shop is that Harris only finished creating her recipe this past February! By May, she had assembled a colorful donut cart, with old-timey wagon wheels, to serve them at outdoor events, including summer concerts in Tierrasanta. It’s at one of these events she connected with the owner of Long Island Mike’s Pizza, who hooked her up with an open storefront next door to his shop on Murphy Canyon Road and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard (just off the 15 freeway). In October, the Chani’s donut cart was parked inside its new, permanent location, open for business (and, whether or not by coincidence, Long Island Mike’s has recently added gluten-free pizzas to its menu).


Inspired by the original wagon, Chani’s Donuts has been decorated with a circus theme thanks to the help of local artist Emily Dolton, who furnished the place with circus animal figurines and paintings inspired by vintage Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey posters. Meanwhile, Harris and her husband drove to Portland, Oregon, to secure an automated donut maker that continuously turns batches her dough into crispy fried mini donuts. It’s kind of captivating to watch them tumble across a lane of hot oil, like factory goods riding a conveyer belt.

A dozen mini donuts mixed between strawberry glaze and powdered sugar


Offered by the dozen ($7.95) or half-dozen ($4.50), these mini-donuts are flavored to order, dressed with a choice of powdered sugar; cinnamon and sugar; or drizzles of chocolate or strawberry glaze. During our visit, limited time options included maple and apple glazes, as well as pumpkin pie seasoning.


Harris acknowledges it’s tough to keep the entire menu free of every potential allergen — she’s already met customers who profess cinnamon and rice allergies — but given how many ingredients are already omitted, it’s pretty pretty remarkable what she’s accomplished. And she promises allergen-free cakes and cookies are on the way. Her shop’s already growing in popularity among vegans and San Diego donut fans afflicted with celiac disease, and it could potentiallty catch on with a low sugar crowd. Undressed, each donut contains only 1.2 grams per mini donut. Don’t tell the kids!






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