There are two arguments as old as time itself: the first is whether to spell the word for fried rings of dough as “doughnut, “donut,” or “do-nut,” and the second, which doughnut is the best in the amazing U. S. of A. As I am only a humble college student, I will not attempt to give a definitive answer to either of these existential questions – I will leave that to our great food philosophers. Instead, for the purposes of this article, refer to these pastries as “doughnuts,” and instead of making the call on the best doughnut in America, I will hand you a list of doughnuts worthy of a cross-country road trip to decide for yourself.
1. Peanut Butter Icing with Chocolate Sprinkles, Duck Donuts (Outerbanks, North Carolina)
Sounds like a Reese’s cup in the form of a doughnut to me, and what more could a girl ask for? Learn more about Duck Donuts here.
2. Creme Brûlée, Astrodoughnuts (Washington, D.C.)
The crisp, sugary crust of a creme brûlée provides the perfect contrast to the soft fluffy doughnut. Read more about Astro Doughnuts and other doughnut shops in the DC area here.
3. Apple Fritters, Fox’s Donut Den (Nashville, Tennessee)
An old classic among Nashville natives, Fox’s never disappoints and neither does the cinnamon glory of their apple fritter. Recreate the flavor with some artistic flair with these apple pie roses.
4. Cherry Iced, Shipley’s (Houston, Texas)
Houstonians live and die by Shipley’s, and the cherry iced is a perennial favorite. It is best enjoyed with a bottle of chocolate milk and one of Shipley’s sausage and cheese kolaches. Eating one of these is like celebrating the Cherry Blossom Festival all year long.
5. Marshall Mathers, Voodoo Donuts (Denver, Colorado)
Voodoo Donuts has locations in the nation’s most hip cities, including Portland, Austin, and Denver. Other classics include the voodoo doll donut (particularly a voodoo doll Tom Brady at the Denver location). Read more about Voodoo Donuts here.
6. A-Town Mocha, Sublime Donuts (Atlanta, Georgia)
An homage to the ATL, the A-Town Mocha is this shop’s trademark and one of its bestsellers. For a slightly healthier sweet snack, try these chocolate mocha protein pancakes.
7. Blackberry Basil and Lime, Union Square Donuts (Boston, Massachusetts)
For the more refined palates, I present the Blackberry Basil and Lime doughnut. From the tartness of the lime and blackberry to the spicy notes of the basil, this doughnut provides the perfect balance of flavors. If you’re not sold, buy one of these and one of their more mainstream flavors.
8. Strawberry Cheesecake, Peace, Love, and Little Donuts (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Peace, Love and Little Donuts has locations all over the country, and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that they do after tasting this bad boy. If you find yourself craving strawberry shortcake later but can’t justify eating cake and doughnuts in the same day, try these no-bake cheesecake stuffed strawberries instead.
9. Strawberry Stuffed Donut, The Donut Man (Glendora, California)
What’s better than fresh strawberries and fresh doughnuts? Probably nothing. This strawberry rhubarb crisp might be a close second.
10. Plain Glazed, The Amish Baking Company (Tampa, Florida)
With a cult following from appearances at Lollapalooza, the Amish Baking Company proves that old school never goes out of style. If you feel inspired, start up your own doughnut stand and make this recipe your trademark.
11. Chocolate4, Glazed and Infused (Chicago, Illinois)
Chocolate gets powered up in this immediate classic made of a chocolate cake doughnut covered in chocolate ganache and white and dark chocolate curls. The owner of Glazed and Infused recommends that you enjoy this doughnut with a glass of chocolate milk to complete the “Chocolate5.” If this wasn’t enough chocolate for you, check out this doughnut recipe.
12. Classic Glazed, Richy Kreme Donuts (Maryville, Tennessee)
Described by Maryville, Tennessee residents as a “hometown hero,” Richy Kreme has been churning out these beauties for almost seventy years. They’re clearly on to something, and there are many who believe that doughnuts will be sticking around.
13. Maple Bacon, Gibson’s Donuts (Memphis, Tennessee)
Bacon and maple syrup is perhaps among the most underrated of breakfast flavor combinations, and it’s only fitting that it become manifest in the most perfect of breakfast pastries. If this flavor combo speaks to you, impress a loved one with these maple bacon roses.
14. Blueberry Bourbon Basil, Blue Star Donuts (Portland, Oregon)
Blue Star Donuts comes in with another fruit-and-herb flavor to add to the list, which makes me think there may be a new niche in the world for “adult” doughnuts. Recreate the flavor for your next cookout with this sorbet.
15. Beignets, Café Du Monde (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Beignets may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of doughnuts, but I’ll be darned if an American classic made of fried pastry doesn’t end up here. Fluffy and covered in snowy powdered sugar, it’s worth the pilgrimage to NOLA for these alone. If you want to fill the rest of your meal time there, check out this list.
16. Malasadas, Leonard’s Bakery (Honolulu, Hawaii)
This Portuguese twist on the doughnut is the perfect treat to complement your vacation to Honolulu. What’s a beach body if you can’t eat doughnuts, anyway? Check out the rest of Honolulu’s amazing eats here.
17. Raspberry Glazed with Crumbled Raspberries, Vortex Doughnuts (Asheville, North Carolina)
An Asheville native, Vortex loves putting a spin on classics with their own local flair, and since they locally source all their ingredients, you can bet that this raspberry glaze is as fresh as they come. Check out this baked raspberry challah french toast if you need a raspberry fix to make at home.
18. The Bombshell, Glam Doll Donuts (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Filled with spiced Mexican chocolate and topped with candied pecans, the Bombshell is for when you want to take a walk on the sexy side with your doughnut (a sentence I’m sure has never been written before). Glam Doll Donuts gets bonus points from me for their creative and catchy names such as “Pinup Girl” (their apple bourbon fritter) and “Misfit” (an orange, ginger and cinnamon infused glazed doughnut). Complement this doughnut with the perfect Mexican hot chocolate.
19. Cinnamon Twist, Ronald’s Donuts (Las Vegas, Nevada)
A big rope of cinnamon goodness, this twist puts even your mom’s best cinnamon buns to shame. Science says that cinnamon has health benefits, which to me sounds like the perfect reason to eat about five of these twists in one sitting.
20. Granny’s Pie, Gourdough’s (Austin, Texas)
If I ever have doubt in humanity, I can rest easy knowing that a food truck exists that serves both doughnuts and fried chicken (often together). Gordough’s is that food truck, and the Granny’s Pie is one of their masterpieces. With caramel, pecans, bananas, and graham cracker, it is as much a sundae as it is a doughnut. If you’re left with nostalgia for the banana cream pie your grandma used to make, check out this recipe.
21. Cinnamon Glob, The Donut Stop (St. Louis, Missouri)
A work of art so beautiful it cannot even be confined to a normal doughnut shape. Marketed as “the cinnamon bun’s ‘unrefined’ cousin,” the Cinnamon Glob is a Donut Stop original. If you want a little extra sophistication, check out these cinnamon rolls and make some of your own.
22. Hibiscus Doughnut, Dough (Brooklyn, New York)
The doughnut gets a tropical upgrade with this glaze, and you’ll be left wondering when you can make your next getaway (or when you can get your hands on another one of these doughnuts). Hibiscus seems to be pretty on trend these days, popping up in everything from iced teas to rhubarb, and what better way to try it out that this doughnut?
23. Salted Caramel, Fractured Prune (Ocean City, Maryland)
With Fractured Prune’s create-your-own doughnut option, your visit is almost guaranteed to satisfy. Salted caramel, however, makes for the iconic balance of sugary and salty and can work in everything from doughnuts to mochas.
24. Glazed, Randy’s Donuts (Inglewood, California)
A Los Angeles classic, Randy’s makes for an iconic stop in your cross-country doughnut expedition. What better way to experience an icon than with a classic glazed doughnut, especially when Randy’s does it so well? Check out other L.A. classics here.
25. Maple Bacon, Holtman’s Donuts (Cincinnati, Ohio)
There can never be too many maple bacon doughnuts in this world, and Holtman’s makes a glorious contribution to the sweet and savory culinary canon. If the offerings of the doughnut world are not enough to satisfy your bacon cravings, check out these bacon chocolate chip cookies.
26. Boston Créme Donut, Donut Pub (Chelsea, New York)
Filled doughnuts changed the game of frying pastries, and the Boston Creme is among the classics. Frosted in chocolate and filled with a sweet custard, it covers almost every sweet flavor profile you could want. If you leave wanting more of the sweet dessert, go for the classic Boston Creme pie or these cupcakes.
27. Buttermilk Bar, Bosa Donuts (Phoenix, Arizona)
I have no idea what buttermilk tastes like by itself, but if it is at all responsible for making this doughnut taste as good as it does, I’d like to buy it by the gallon. If you’re like me and have no idea where to buy such a magnificent yet mysterious substance, take a shot at making your own.
28. Berry Canoli, The Holy Donut (Portland, Maine)
Combing the tartness of berries with sweet cannoli cream….can I get a “hell yeah?” A Maine native, The Holy Donut is popular among gluten lovers and gluten-free fans alike since some of their doughnuts are made with potato flour instead of wheat. For other gluten free options, substitute rice flour for wheat flour or use almond butter like in these chocolate chip cookies.
29. Nutella Pocket, Stan’s Donuts (Chicago, Illinois)
I have it on good authority that Stan’s is one of the best doughnut shops in Chicago, and it comes as no surprise that their heavy hitter is their Nutella Pocket. If there’s a culinary problem that cannot be solved by Nutella, it is a truly big problem. You put it on toast, you can make cake out of it in your microwave, and you can eat it straight out of a jar with a spoon: of course it’s going to upgrade any excellent doughnut to the next level.
30. Glazed Cake, Dom’s Bakery (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Dom’s seems to occupy a unique part of the Michigan experience, and their glazed cake doughnuts stand out in the crowd for their sweet, dense goodness. Their blueberry cake is particularly excellent, but if you can’t make it out to Ann Arbor and still have a craving for blueberries, try ’em in a crisp like this.
31. Cardamom Apricot, Dynamo Donut + Coffee (San Francisco, California)
Yet another doughnut for your refined palates, this cardamom apricot doughnut hits some similar notes as a cinnamon-apple treat but with flavors that are far more likely to impress your mom’s friends at the country club. Cardamom is an underrated spice often used in Indian cuisine. If you’re not brave enough to try it as a full dish, sample its flavor potential in this doughnut or even by upgrading your hot chocolate with it.
32. Buttercrunch, Spunky Dunkers (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
This doughnut wins on texture contrast alone: nothing like a sharp crunch to compliment the sweet fluffiness of yeasty doughnuts. Coated in toasted coconut and billed as “coconut taste without the coconut texture,” it’s sure to convert even the most adamant coconut-hater. Check out these macaroons for more coconut goodness.
33. Apple Fritter, Green Bush Bakery (Madison, Wisconsin)
This apple fritter is as big as yo’ face, and it nearly qualifies as a meal by itself. If you aren’t satisfied with one doughnut from this bakery, their caramel-filled buttermilk bar offers another take on the classic doughnut that’s sure to impress. Fritters are made with chopped apples, after all, so you’re basically eating a well-balanced breakfast. If you want more apple in your life, make these crescent bites.
34. Frozen Custard Doughnut Sandwich, Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Only available during the Milwaukee Brewers’ season, these sandwiches are a hot commodity and worth snapping up if you ever find yourself in Wisconsin at the right time. They’re filled with frozen custard and a variety of toppings, making them the perfect treat at a professional baseball game. For more on what to eat when you’re out to a ballgame, check out this bucket list of ballpark eats.
35. Cinnamon Sugar Old-Fashioned, Top Pot Doughnuts (Seattle, Washington)
Ah, yes. Cinnamon sugar. The simple yet elegant flavor combination gifted to us by the heavens. Top Pot renders this flavor in an old-school manner with their old-fashioned doughnut, and it is truly immaculate in execution. A Seattle original, Top Pot prides itself on fusing the old with the new and stands tall as a culinary landmark of the city. If you find yourself in Seattle, check out these other amazing foods to fill your plate.
36. Vanilla Lavendar Sugar-coated, Federal Donuts (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Don’t let their sophisticated flavors fool you: Federal Dounuts is all about fun, as you’ll see from their website, which takes you to a theatrical introduction before showing you their pastry offerings. Philly natives love the place and speak volumes of it whenever they have to be apart from it for too long. Just looking at this fluffy beauty, it’s not hard to see why. Bonus: lavender has de-stress benefits, so you’re basically doing your body good by eating this doughnut.
37. El Guapo, O Face Doughnuts (Las Vegas, Nevada)
From their delightfully inappropriate logo to their delicious doughnut flavors, O Face Doughnuts makes me want to book a flight to Las Vegas right now for a visit. El Guapo, a Mexican chocolate doughnut filled with horchata pudding, is one of their most popular flavors. Horchata, for the novices among you, is a drink or flavor made with rice, cinnamon, and sometimes vanilla, and it can be used in everything from french toast to cocktails. It’s a flavor train we should all be boarding.
38. Pretzel Donut, Bill’s Donut Shop (Dayton, Ohio)
Two carbo-loaded delights in one? Sign me up. Voted one of the 10 best places to get a doughnut by USA Today, Bill’s is a 24-hour doughnut shop that has been cornering the doughnut market in Centerville, Ohio since 1960. Their pretzel doughnuts are their signature, and if they’ve been in business for more than fifty years I’ve got to guess they’re doing something right. If pretzels are your dream, check out more ways to eat them here.
39. Sugar and Spice, Carpe Donut (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Sugar, spice, and everything nice: this doughnut is Carpe Donut’s trademark, and they do it oh-so-well. They’re a signature part of Charlottesville, and they pride themselves on locally sourced organic ingredients. Eating this doughnut both allows you to support your local doughnut stand owners and feel just a little bit like you’re going on a cleanse. It is organic, after all.
40. 100 Layer Donut, Five Daughters Bakery (Nashville, Tennessee)
A refined and untrademarked cousin of the famous Cronut, this treat stands out among the Nashville doughnut scene for its artistic perfection and the sheer amount of work undertaken to bring it to the masses: a full three days of labor to put one on the shelf. If you feel up to the task, you can attempt a cronut of your very own and see if it stacks up.
41. Buttermilk bar, Primo’s Donuts (Los Angeles, California)
The mysterious buttermilk appears again, this time in the form of a more bar-looking shape. Judging by its glossy surface and the sheer number of times people have Instagrammed it, it must be a magnificent dessert, and we’re clearly on to something with this buttermilk thing. Give it a shot in your pancakes as well as your doughnuts, even if you’re dairy-free.
42. Peanut Butter & Blackberry Jam, Doughnut Plant (New York, New York)
The Doughnut Plant commits to their PB&J doughnut in a way that few shops do with house made peanut butter and jam, and it makes me want to eat peanut butter and jelly this way for every single day of my life. Doughnut Plant makes a huge stand in New York’s strong culinary scene full of classics that leave New Yorkers wanting more whenever they leave.
43. Salted Caramel Old Fashioned, Doughnut Vault (Chicago, Illinois)
Salted caramel strikes again, but this time in Chicago. The Doughnut Vault prides itself on its cake and old-fashioned doughnuts, so be sure to pick up one of their best iterations. For more salty caramel goodness, try these cinnamon buns.
44. Maple Waffle, Underwest Donuts (New York, New York)
A more breakfasty cousin of the maple bacon doughnut, the maple waffle makes for a beautiful union and is one of the more accessible doughnut-and-pastry combinations alongside the pretzel doughnut. For another take on the waffle and doughnut combo, check out the wonut.
45. Pistachio Meyer Lemon Glaze, Do-Rite Donuts (Chicago, Illinois)
Do-Rite Donuts once again ranks among the best doughnut shops in the country, and with classy flavors like pistachio and meyer lemon alongside a selection of vegan and gluten free doughnuts, they’ve got an offering for everybody. If these doughnuts awaken a craving for pistachios as they do for me, check out this dark chocolate pistachio bark.
46. S’mores, Doughnut Lounge (Kansas City, Missouri)
S’mores are the greatest gift camping ever gave humanity, and I’m glad that the Doughnut Lounge understands that fact. The only thing we’re missing is a campfire, but you can always get your s’mores fix without a campfire thanks to modern kitchen technology.
47. Strong Pimp Hands, Polar Donuts (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
Aside from what is perhaps the most interesting doughnut name on this list, these monstrous bear claws are a standout. Oklahoma City’s got some spunk in their pastry game, and bear claws are among the most underrated doughnuts in this world. They need more love in this world.
48. Green Tea Coconut Cake, Hugs & Donuts (Houston, Texas)
Another Houston favorite in a trendy neighborhood, Hugs & Donuts is among the best. Green tea is so fetch these days: put it in your doughnuts, put it in your smoothie, and make your dreams come true in a way that will have your grandmother very proud of you.
49. Cookies and Cream, Pink Box Doughnuts (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Another Las Vegas local, Pink Box serves their pastries in their trademark pink box and slays it with what is sure to be an instant classic. From the cream to the crunchy topping, this doughnut provides the perfect contrast of bite. What can’t Oreos improve? Nothing.
50. Red Velvet Oreo, Donut Bar (San Diego, California)
The Donut Bar claims to have “The Best Donuts In the World,” and after seeing the number of awards they’ve won, it’s not hard to see why. I’d be remiss not to mention their “Big Poppa-Tart” doughnut, which is essentially a doughnut stuffed with crushed Pop Tart, jam, and covered in marshmallow glaze. They’ve also clearly crushed the game by stuffing a beautiful doughnut with a red velvet Oreo. Use red velvet Oreos in cupcakes too to impress all your friends.