The best part of visiting new countries is learning about new cultures, and what better way to learn about a new culture than through food?
There are some things you can’t eat anywhere else…Donuts is not one of them. It’s a food remarkably and consistently popular across the borders of countries and continents. When you think of a donut, you typically think of a flakey, sugary, circular piece of fried dough (with a hole in the middle), but that’s not the case for all donuts around the globe. Different they may be, but these donut variations will leave you drooling.
1. Bomboloni (Italy)
The Bomboloni is Italy’s variation of the donut. These are the Munchkins of Florence, except these donut holes are filled with custard. The little bites of heaven are enjoyed all over Italy.
2. Berliner (Germany)
Berliners, also called Bismarcks, are made from sweet yeast dough that is fried and then filled with marmalade or jam and topped with sugar. The jam/marmalade is piped into it just like a jelly donut. Other times, they aren’t filled at all. If John F. Kennedy called himself a Berliner, then it must be good enough for the rest of us.
3. Pączki (Poland)
These delicious Fat Tuesday treats are similar to Berliners except they’re made with more butter and eggs which creates a richer texture and taste. Large Polish communities in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Boston commemorate Paczki Day by chowing down on these Polish pastries. Bakeries will sell tens of thousands of them on the special day when the lines wrap around the block.
4. Beignet (France)
Anyone who has visited or is from New Orleans knows beignets were originally invented as a dessert in France. Topped with delicious confectioners sugar, this treat will melt in your mouth instantly. Unlike most other donuts, Beignets are square. They’re traditionally enjoyed with hot coffee—café au lait, a French phrase meaning “coffee with milk.”
5. Jalebi (South Asia and Middle East)
You might notice the resemblance these have to the carnival treat funnel cake. They are soaked in saffron syrup which preserves the juicy interior while giving a crunchy exterior. The chewy texture and sweet taste makes this dish quite popular among people of all age groups. The popular sweet is prepared all over the India and Pakistan with little variations, but all varieties enjoy the similar status of the “celebration sweet.”
6. Churros (Mexico)
Traditional Mexican churros are the perfect combination of sugar, cinnamon and fried dough. Originally, churros were served as a breakfast food, but they’re eaten now for dessert as well. In Cuba, churros are often filled with guava, while in other countries they will them with dulce de leche. With every crunch into a churro bite, your mouth fills with cinnamon goodness.
7. Sufganiyot (Israel)
Traditionally served during Hanukkah, sufganiyot are the Israeli version of jelly donuts and feature various cream and jelly fillings. These fillings include cappuccino cream, chocolate, custard and jelly. Jelly-filled suganiyot are always served during The Festival of Lights in October, but also year round in the Middle East.
Making sufganiyot can be tricky because it requires patience, as well as extra cookware. If you’re trying to make them in your home, consider buying a clip-on thermometer to make sure the oil is at the right temperature.
8. Youtiao (China)
Also known at the Chinese cruller, the youtiao is like a deep fried breadstick. The Chinese typically dunk the deep fried breadsticks in soy milk for a nice crunchy-to-soft consistency.
9. Balushahi (India)
Similar to a glazed donut (in appearance and ingredients), balushahi—also known as badusha—is a traditional Indian pastry. It is soaked in a syrup to give it a moist, sugary center. The flaky, round dessert is best enjoyed with a delicious cup of tea or coffee.
10. Oliebol (The Netherlands and Belgium)
Oliebol means “oil spheres” in Dutch. The deep fried desserts are the size of a baseball, and typically eaten during holidays. The Dutch usually make them into a “celebration bread” by adding raisins and sometimes nuts.
11. Tulumba and Lokma (Turkey and Greece)
Tulumba are small, oval-shaped sweet pastries with ridges, made from golden and crispy deep-fried dough and then soaked in sweet fragrant syrup. The sweet syrup can be made with flowers or even a fruit. Lokma are different because they are round, ping-pong sized dough balls that are bathed in thick honey or syrup then sprinkled with cinnamon once they’re out of the oil. That alone makes me want to hop on a plane and fly to Greece with an empty belly.
12. Koeksister (South Africa)
There are two distinct koeksister varieties. The Cape Malay community prepares a spicy, cakey and often coconut-coated version, and Afrikaners generally make a sweeter, crunchy, sticky braided pastry that’s dipped into a cold syrup after it’s fried. Cold syrup usually doesn’t sound appealing, but if it is coating fried dough and sugar it most definitely is.
13. Sfenj (Northern Africa)
Stemming from the Arabic word for sponge, Stenj can be dipped in honey, sugar, jam—anything you like really. They are not made with sugar, so they are not as sweet as the other versions of donuts from around the world. It’s the ‘diet’ version of a donut, if there is such a thing.
14. Sel roti (Nepal)
Sel Roti is known as “sweet rice bread“ and resembles a large, thin puffed-up donut. This red crunchy donut is commonly served at festivals around Nepal. These are similar to funnel cakes that are also served at festivals.
15. Buñuelos (South America)
Buñuelos are bite-size dough balls rolled in flavored syrup, sprinkled in cinnamon sugar and served with warm honey. This dessert symbolizes good luck, so you’ll want to eat a few of them. These process of preparing and cooking Buñuelos are very labor intensive, so many people do not make them at home anymore, and instead will choose to purchase them instead.
Go on, have your donut and eat it too.