12 Of The Best Donuts In America
photo credit: Carly Hackbarth
We love a Krispy Kreme as much as the next person, but in the world of donuts, you’d be missing out if that’s all you’re eating. No matter where you are in the country, you’ll find people lining up for new and unexpected flavor pairings the same way they do for a table at a buzzy restaurant, along with a steady stream of regulars at shops that have been around since before barcodes were invented doing simple, perfect old fashioneds. And just so we’re clear, we’re pretty sure only Boston (not America) runs on Dunkin’.
photo credit: Brooke Fitts
While many casual, high-volume shops in Seattle suffer from unremarkable frosting pumped with artificial flavors, oily dough, and dry cake, that’s not the case at Family Donut. Instead of fake fruit essence, the donuts at this strip mall spot are coated with a glaze that contains actual bits of blueberry, orange zest, or raspberry puree. A heavy hand of buttermilk makes the bars phenomenally moist and tangy, and old fashioneds are soft on the inside despite the craggy crunchy edges. Even the free little hole on a stick you get on your way out is special.
photo credit: @kenscamera
If the MoMA ever wanted to open a museum exclusively for fried pastries, the Filipino donuts from Kora in NYC would have a permanent exhibition. You'll have to order a box of five and the menu changes all the time, but pray that they’re doing the maximalist ube with purple yam custard, glaze, and fried crisps on top. A box of donuts used to be near impossible to secure—the waitlist was once 10,000 deep and it could take months for your opportunity to order, only for them to sell out in minutes. Luckily, now you can just put in an order on a Saturday and pick it up seven days later. The hassle is 100% worth it.
photo credit: Carly Hackbarth
Bob’s Donuts in SF is open for 24 hours and has been frying up incredible classic glazed donuts and apple fritters since the 1960s. The giant, footlong donut is something extra special: get it with chocolate frosting, crumbs, sprinkles, or maple, and ask yourself if you’d like to participate in their three-minute challenge. There’s a whole leaderboard of people who have eaten this thing in under two minutes (shout out to James S.), but if you don’t want to find yourself in a makeshift episode of Man Vs. Food, the regular-sized glazed and apple fritters are more than worthy of a visit.
photo credit: California Donuts
LA has over 1,500 independent donut shops, and a good majority of them are owned by Cambodian Americans. (That’s a story in itself.) But if we had to pick just one, it's always going to be California Donuts. The 24-hour strip mall spot serves an incredible range of options, like fluffy lemonberry crumble, old fashioneds with sweet matcha glaze, and a donut decorated like a panda that’s arguably too adorable to ingest. Parking is a nightmare, but where else are you going to find a donut this good at 7pm on a Thursday night?
Dat Donut in Chicago specializes in Texas-style donuts, which (shocker) are gigantic. They're about 10 inches in diameter, can be shared by two to three people, and make for the perfect party favor for your friend who despises cake. And yet, this yeast-raised giant is unbelievably light and fluffy. While we love their cartoonishly large donuts, another great option is their reasonably-sized, not-too-sweet, and actually-tastes-like-fruit strawberry glazed.
photo credit: Nicole Guglielmo
No matter what time of day you stop by Beiler’s in Philly’s Reading Terminal Market, you’ll be in for a wait as long as the women’s bathroom line at a Taylor Swift show. It’s worth it, though, because Beiler’s has been perfecting these warm and doughy Pennsylvania Dutch treats since 1985. They offer 40 varieties every day, and come stuffed, topped, and drizzled with Lancaster’s best ingredients. It’s nearly impossible to pick just one from behind the glass display, but you can’t go wrong with the classic chocolate iced or the seasonal harvest apple (which is a perfectly tart and gooey taste of fall).
photo credit: Amy Sinclair
The South didn’t need another deep-fried food obsession. But then Dollies opened in Atlanta, smelling like sweet, sunflower-oil-fried pastry heaven. They always have new, interesting flavors that taste like the owners thoroughly thought sh*t out. We’re talking about pumpkin coffee cake, earl gray cream-filled london fog, and the classic Dollie: a giant, caramelized sugar-coated brioche stuffed with creme brûlée. You’ll have to get in line early for the vegan donuts, though because the fluffy, yeast-raised, and dense cake varieties sell out fast.
photo credit: Quit Nguyen
As the crowned donut headquarters of Houston, Christy’s Donuts & Kolaches makes one the best apple fritters in town. You can also load up on cherry and chocolate-iced donuts with sprinkles, classic bear claws, glazed donuts with a cinnamon sugar crumble, and kolaches, the Czech-style sweet bread stuffed with sausage or boudin. Service at this family-run spot is quick and friendly, and they always tuck a couple donut holes into each bag.
photo credit: Brandi Toole
The Salty’s small shop isn’t too remarkable, but the donuts at the end of your wait are Miami’s best. Go for the brown butter and salt, guava and cheese, and white chocolate tres leches, but know you’ll probably only make it through one and a third of the huge donuts before you realize you’ll have to shove the rest of them in your fridge and try again tomorrow. More good news about this place: they got so popular that you can now find a handful of locations scattered around Florida and the South.
photo credit: Nina Palazzolo
When we walk into this Takoma donut shop in a mood, our happiness meter immediately jumps from “Wrecking Ball” to “Party In The USA.” Donut Run’s classic glazed gives Krispy Kreme a run for its money, but it’s the french toast and death by chocolate that'll keep you coming back. Order a dozen, which will come in two giant pink boxes, so you can try flavors like The Homer, a strawberry sprinkle ring straight out of The Simpsons. And for the people who need to know, they’re all vegan.
Malasadas are Portuguese fried donuts, but they’re a staple on Oahu. And while you can seek out a couple of places to get them on the island (including the touristy and extremely delicious Leonard’s Bakery) you’ll find the best at Pipeline. These donuts come fried to order, and you should definitely get them with a dusting of puckery-sweet li hing powder. They’re obviously best if you eat them straight away, though unlike most other malasadas, these are still good the next day.
photo credit: Becca Mathias
You should take a trip to Rehoboth Beach just to visit Fractured Prune, a casual micro-chain and coastal Delaware staple that’s been around since the ‘70s. The pillowy cake donuts are fried to order and coated with your choice of glazes and toppings, like mocha and marshmallow or crumbled bacon and cookie crumbs. We recommend them all, but maybe not all on one donut. Fractured Prune claims that there are 155,648 different combinations of toppings, but for those who feel overwhelmed by that decision, they have a menu of set flavor pairings for you to choose from. Don’t leave town without getting the OC Sand that’s topped with honey glaze and cinnamon sugar.