Check out the different types of donuts (plus donut variations from all over the world) so that when a craving strikes, you know which one to pick.
What is a donut?
A donut is a yeasted, fried doughnut …. which is shaped into a ring or a flattened sphere that can be filled with jelly, custard, cream, or fruit
Although the word “donut” typically refers to round yeast-raised sweetened breads in the United States and Canada, many other countries use the name “doughnut” for their flat-fried pastries.
Types of donuts (short version quick list):
- Glazed Donuts
- Sprinkled Donuts
- Jelly Donuts
- Sour Cream Donut
- Boston Cream Donut
- Cinnamon Twist Donuts
- Coconut Donuts
- Long John
- Apple Fritters
- Donut Hole
- Maple Bacon
- Old-Fashioned Donuts
- Cider Donuts
- Pershing Donuts
- Berliner Donuts
You cannot buy happiness, but you can buy a box of donuts – and that’s pretty much the same thing (if not better).
Donuts are a popular comfort dessert in many countries because they are quite easy to make and taste absolutely divine. They can be prepared in various ways at home or even purchased from bakeries, food stalls, supermarkets, or food outlets that specifically produce and sell these sugary delights. Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, it is probably safe to say that you wouldn’t mind a fresh donut once in a while.
Donuts come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and of course, flavors. Given their versatility, it is difficult to cover all the varieties of donuts at once. Here we list and describe the most popular types of donuts, plus the different variations of this sweet food from all across the world.
Donut Nutritional Chart
Doughnut or Donut?
This fried-dough confectionery is cherished by everyone worldwide but while the love for donuts is shared by people everywhere, the issue of how to ‘spell’ this fried sweet has been a debate for quite some time now. So, let’s shed some light to clarify things before proceeding.
The original spelling for this fried good that first appeared in print back in the early 19th Century was ‘doughnut.’ This combination of the words dough and nut was used because doughnuts were initially nut-sized balls of sweet dough deep-fried in oil or fat. The word ‘nut’ was used in the earlier context of referring to small rounded cake or cookies.
It wasn’t until the 20th Century that the toroidal shape became more common. It is said that the alternative spelling ‘donut’ was introduced by the New York-based Display Doughnut Machine Corporation to make the word easier to pronounce for foreigners to whom they intended to sell their automated ‘doughnut’ making machines. However, this variation was barely used until 1950 when the widespread success of the American doughnut chain (yes, you guessed it, Dunkin’ Donut) made it universal.
Today, both variations of this sweet fried dough are accepted as its official dictionary spelling. But according to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘doughnut’ is internationally accepted while ‘donut’ prevails mostly in America.
With that said, we will use ‘donut’ from here on and urge team doughnut to continue reading as well. After all, it’s a trivial battle that doesn’t affect the greatness of do(ugh)nuts one least bit.
Origin of Donuts
The earliest origin of donuts can be traced back to the Dutch settlers who introduced their traditional sweet, olykoek (oily cake) to early New Yorkers. These sweets were not shaped like a ring but did resemble the average modern-day donut that we all know.
National Doughnut Day
Such is the popularity of this confectionery item that a day is dedicated to honoring its sugary goodness. Every year, the first Friday of June is celebrated as the National Donut Day in America. The trend was started by The Salvation Army in 1938 to pay tribute to their members who served donuts to the army men during the first World War.
Types of Donuts
Bakers who are passionate about what they do, concoct new flavor combinations and come up with different fried-dough shapes every now and then. The following types of donuts are not just the greatest ones ever conceived, but they are also a must-try for everyone.
Of course, the most ubiquitous type of donut is the glazed donut. Prepared in the classic circular form with a hole in the middle, this ring-shaped donut is usually made from yeast-based dough but always covered in a shiny, glazed coat. Typical glazed donuts feature an icing made purely from sugar for a transparent, smooth and lustrous finish. However, other versions of glazed donuts can include a slightly translucent glaze achieved by adding milk or in some cases, food colors for a more fascinating look. It is common to add a few drops of vanilla essence to the topping in order to balance the sugary sweetness.
Sprinkled donuts include any and all donuts that come with lots of sprinkles. They can be prepared in any shape and in any flavor; the only requirement is that there must be some sprinkles over it. Single or two-toned sprinkles are commonly used but rainbow sprinkles are sure to bring a smile on anyone’s face. Plus, they are extremely well-liked by children of all age groups.
Jelly donuts refer to a type of center-filled donuts that contain fruity elements. They can be made in several shapes but the typical jelly donuts feature a compact, closed cylindrical shape. These have no hole in the center so that the jelly doesn’t spill.
Moreover, the absence of a hole means more space for the filling that ensures tons of flavor burst forth with every bite that you take. Depending on the taste and preferences, the filling for jelly donuts can range from grape jelly and apricot jam to orange marmalade and many more.
Sour Cream Donut
Making a sour cream donut is easy – simply add sour cream to the conventional donut batter and you get this amazing delight that is still famous despite being around for years. Incorporating sour cream into the dough makes it extra moist, soft and fluffy. And of course, it tastes great too! The topping for the sour cream dough is usually vanilla flavored but it can vary as per your preference.
Boston Cream Donut
This version of the Boston Cream pie is perhaps everyone’s favorite. Closed cylindrical-shaped; this type of donut has no hole and is filled with lots of vanilla custard or pudding that oozes out as you take the first bite. The topping for Boston Cream donuts is always a chocolate-glaze the pairs well with the vanilla goodness inside. Boston Cream Donuts are so beloved that they were named the official state donut of Massachusetts in 2003.
Cinnamon Twist Donuts
These ‘twisted’ donuts belong to the family of cinnamon rolls. The dough is spun and twisted into a long braid-like shape for a rather large fried confectionery that you would love to share with a friend. Besides the unique shape, what sets these donuts apart from other types is its flavor.
Needless to say, cinnamon donuts contain a cinnamon powder that despite having generous amounts of cinnamon, it doesn’t seem too overpowering. It can feature a cinnamon-sugar glaze only or you can also add the powdered spice in the dough for a more incorporated taste.
Crullers are a type of donuts that are well-liked mainly due to their unique shape. It is also known as ‘twister’ in many regions because it is shaped as a spiral. Crullers are made by
twisting the dough several times and then forming it into a ring-shape like regular donuts. The common topping for these donuts is a honey or vanilla glaze as it further accentuates the twists in the dough plus makes it taste equally great.
Most shops sell crullers that are hand-twisted cake donuts, but specialized vendors are donut franchises are likely to offer French crullers as well. These are made with pate a choux and have a much more warped dough to hold the entire thick glaze.
This contemporary style donut was introduced not so long ago but has been a hit since its inception. New Yorkers simply adore this hybrid between a croissant and the traditional donut (hence, the portmanteau ‘cronut’) as it originated in the city about six years back thanks to the pastry chef Dominique Ansel of Dominique Ansel Bakery.
This pastry is filled with flavored cream and fried in grapeseed oil that gives it a unique taste and complements its equally unique texture. The shape of the cronut is ring-shaped like most donuts but it is much taller and more light and hollow inside. The airy, croissant-like texture inside counterbalances the heaviness of cronuts. The toppings for cronuts can vary from apple slices and blackberry frosting to caramel and more.
Although it’s more like a particular flavor of a donut, coconuts donuts are so coveted that they can be considered as a class of their own. They can come in different shapes and sizes but the standard circular (with or without hole) shape is common to find.
It goes without saying that this type of donut comprises of coconut flavor achieved by adding finely grated chunks of coconut to the batter. True coconut lovers can opt for a generous coconut topping for a more flavorful experience. Toasted coconut provides an even richer taste.
Long Johns are considered to be the American version of the delightful French Éclairs. This type of donuts features long, rectangular bars of fried dough that are center-filled with custard or sometimes even jelly. A thick coat of chocolate is poured over the top but other colorful frostings can be used too. Sprinkles make a great addition to Long Johns as well.
Originating from France, this type of donut is a worldwide favorite. Éclairs are rectangular in shape just like Long John but usually less in width. They are normally filled with custard or light whipped cream and topped with chocolate icing. For a more creative spin, vendors often sprinkle nuts, fruit chunks or their mixture on top of Éclairs.
Apple fritters comprise of slices of fresh apple rolled in dough mixture and then deep-fried till golden brown. They are normally made with a subtle touch of cinnamon powder added to the dough. Apple fritters can be made into neat and well-defined shapes by professional vendors but their true essence lies in asymmetric and bulbous shapes.
The common topping for this type of donuts is a mixture of cinnamon and sugar although a zesty lemon-based sauce goes well depending on taste. Children love to devour apple fritters and they are a common household snack.
Ever wondered where the dough removed from the center to make ring-shaped donuts goes? The answer to that is simple. Usually, it is mixed back into the main batter to make more donuts but sometimes, it is fun to fry these little holes and enjoy them as it is.
Donut holes, as the name suggests are little balls of dough that are obtained when the baker pokes a hole in the center to make a traditional donut. However, if you feel like it, you can directly shape the batter into small balls to create faux donut holes. They are popular because of their handiness as you can pop these bite-sized donuts on easily on the go. They can be glazed, covered with powdered sugar or simply eaten on their own.
As is evident by the name, maple bacon donuts combine maple syrup with bacon sprinkles or sometimes entire strips of bacon for a really unique flavor profile. These donuts can come in various shapes and sizes and are often topped with more maple syrup and real bacon.
Paczki comes from Polish cuisine where it is a popular dessert. These are center-filled donuts that are flattened slightly so you can bite into it easily. They are circular and wide, with no holes in between and are usually iced with powdered sugar. However, some might come with a deep chocolate glaze as well.
Old-fashioned donuts are so-called because that is exactly what they are – super old! Dating back to the 1830s, this ancient form of donut also goes by the name of ‘cake donuts’ because it is made from cake batter. The toppings for these donuts vary from glazes to powdered sugar or even no topping at all. Cake donuts are pretty much similar to regular donuts in shape except that their hole is larger than the conventional ones.
Cider donuts or apple-cider donuts are quite similar to coconut donuts in the sense that they are more like a particular flavor of donuts than a separate type characterized by distinct shapes or texture. Nonetheless, owing to the popularity of this flavor profile, we categorize them into a class of their own.
Cider donuts are typically smaller than regular donuts and much denser as well. They are sprinkled with granulated sugar that provides a crunchy spin that contrasts against the softer dough.
Pershing or Persian roll as it is often called in some regions is just the average cinnamon roll – except that it’s a cinnamon roll made from donut dough. Just like a cinnamon roll, it can be topped with sugar glaze or a dash of cinnamon powder.
So, if you ever eat a sugary delight that tastes like a donut but looks like a cinnamon roll, then know that it’s a Pershing.
Also known as a Bismark or a Krapfen in some countries, the Berliner donut is a type of jelly donut that is really popular in central Europe. It has no hole and is topped with icing sugar and/ or whipped cream, making it a truly scrumptious treat.
Other Donut Varieties across the World
Koeksister is a donut-like sweet that is extremely common in South Africa. It includes traditional donuts that are coated with lots of coconut shavings and soaked in a spicy syrup before serving.
Known as Sfenj by the locals, this pastry goes overboard in sweetness as it is dipped in pure honey and served with sugar sprinkled over it.
Yo-yos comprise a coating of sesame seeds and are eaten along with vanilla and a glass of orange juice.
Gulgula and Imartiare are two variations of donuts that are customary in Indian culture. Gulgulas are bite-sized deep-fried balls like donut holes but are irregularly shaped instead. Imartis, on the other hand, are similar pretzels but made from fried batter and dipped in sugar syrup.
Did reading about so many different types of donuts leave you craving for one right now? Well, what are waiting for? Go, grab one, and feast on the donut that you liked most!
P.S. We had a treat too after writing this.