An Absolutely Correct Ranking Of Donut Flavors For National Donut Day


A great donut is a balance of sugary sweetness, airy dough, and deep fried umami. That simple triad of flavors has almost endless permutations. Bakers can go big and add everything to the mix from bacon to Capt’n Crunch. Or they can keep things subtle and let the yeast-risen dough shine on its own with a deep, fat-fried texture and maybe a dusting of sugar. (Granular sugar, not powdered — powdered donuts make too much mess for too little gain.)

Rocking up to the donut shop and making an informed decision on which to choose can be a tough task. There are just so many options. Also, doughnuts feel like special treats — this is fried dough covered in sugar, we shouldn’t be eating them daily — so you don’t want to punt on your choice.

That’s where we come in. We decided to rank our favorite donuts for National Donut Day. Are there any hard and fast rules for this ranking? No, not really. This is more about taking years of eating deep fried dough around the country and deciding which ones still get us excited whenever we walk into our local shop.

10. Classic Glazed

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Glazed to perfection. 😍

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A classic glazed donut is a great place to start any doughnut journey. The airy, yeast-risen fried dough needs to be both light and fatty. Then, of course, there’s the glaze. The cane-sugar syrup glaze should have a crunch to the exterior that gives way to a thick, soft syrup texture closer to the dough.

It’s a delicate balance to pull off. If someone gets it right (maybe a little sea salt?) then it’s a joy to behold.

9. Chocolate Glazed

Okay, a classic glazed is a little boring. Take your donut game up a notch by adding some rich, dark chocolate into the glaze. The trick with chocolate glaze, though, is that it needs to be a bitter and sweet counterpoint to the fatty dough. If the chocolate glaze is poorly (and cheaply) made, you end up with a saccharine glaze that doesn’t add balance. No one wants that.

8. Lemon Glazed

An almost assured winner in the classic glaze genre of donuts is lemon glazed. Let’s just assume the donut is fried perfectly and the glaze’s consistency is dialed in. When you add tart lemon curd to the mix, you get a great flavor to cut through the sweet and fat and elevate the whole thing. That pucker-inducing lemon edge is exactly what a sugary glazed donut needs to really pop.

7. Glazed with Sprinkles

This choice may be more nostalgic than objective. There’s something about Homer Simpson’s favorite donut that just works. The glaze does its thing, but then crunchy sugary sprinkles are added to the mix and, suddenly, you have a textural wonder.

Soft dough, warm fat, smooth sugar, and crunchy morsels are a great combo in donut form.

6. Cinnamon

Taking a step back from overly sugary donuts and adding in spice is a solid move. Cinnamon sugar on a plain doughnut feels like it should be a fall/winter seasonal treat, but, really, this a great variation for the whole year. The spiciness of the cinnamon offers a great base flavor for the sugar and fatty dough to shine.

The best part is that this one isn’t overly sugary. The granular sugar takes a back seat to the spice.

5. Double Chocolate

This is donut decadence. Technically, this is cake in donut form. Cake doughnuts are great every now-and-then, but they can get a little heavy. The cake needs to be light and moist with a rich cocoa nature. Then the glaze needs to counterpoint the sweetness of the cake with bitter, cutting dark chocolate vibes.

But, damn, when this one is done right, it’s one of the best.

4. Jelly Donut (Berliner)

This ball of fried dough is injected with a jam, marmalade, or jelly of the baker’s choosing. And, really, this donut shines or crashes based on that filling. The fried and sugared dough has a slight heft that needs a rich, fruity sweet paste to amp up the flavors. Silky plum jams, tart cherry mashes, even lemon marmalades all work when injected into a rich doughnut. Play around this one and try them all.

3. Cronut

It’s hard to separate the cronut from all the hype this thing got over the last decade. That hype was pretty deserved, though. The croissant/doughnut hybrid was a game changer in the doughnut world. The airy layers of buttery dough goodness are punctuated by a fried doughnut feel. Try it plain first to get a handle on the texture and then go all-in on the toppings.

2. Apple Fritter

An apple fritter is a meal. The large wad of fried dough spliced with spiced up apples and covered in a rich cane sugar glaze is the perfect combination of flavors and textures. Every bite of an apple fritter should have a little bit of cinnamon-forward, slightly tart apple, and smooth, well-risen donut dough with a thick layer of glaze.

If you woke up famished this morning, an apple fritter should definitely be the breakfast play.

1. Maple Bar

The light brown maple glaze and long-form of this doughnut make it a delicious outlier from the rest of the pack. The doughnut log needs have a very light, yeast-risen feel to it. It’s too big to have a heavy dough feel.

Then the glaze comes into play. There should be a clear essence of maple syrup at play here. The sweetness needs to have a natural, non-sugar-cane nuance that feels more like a forest maple trees than a field of sugar cane. This is also a filling choice. The size pretty much makes this a double doughnut. That’s a win.