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The 21 Types Of Donuts from Around the World

Donuts (or doughnuts) have become an iconic sweet treat. The smell of fried batter and sugar permeates childhood memories of fairgrounds and days out.

They will always hold a special place in many people’s hearts, but how many types of donuts are actually out there?

Donuts are believed to have been introduced to New York in the early 17th century. Dutch settlers are said to have brought over snacks known as olykoek (oil cake).

This is a type of sweet cake that has been cooked by frying it in fat. They were said to be visually similar to modern-day donuts but without the hole in the center. 

One of the earliest recorded written records of donuts is in the 1809 book A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. The earliest record of donuts in a cookbook can be found in an English cookbook from 1803. 

By the middle of the 19th century, the taste and appearance of donuts is what we would recognize as one today.

It is believed that the ring shape was created by a 16-year-old American sailor on a lime-trading ship. He was said to think the center was often raw and shaped the dough like this to counteract it. 

Yeasted donuts

These are the traditional donuts you will see at a fairground. The dough contains yeast to help the donut rise and create the light and fluffy texture we all love. 

Cake donuts

These are essentially small cakes that utilize baking powder as a leavening agent. The texture is not as light as traditional yeasted donuts and you will notice far more crumbs being produced as you eat these donuts. 

Potato donuts

The texture of potato donuts has been likened to that of cake donuts. The main difference is that the batter contains potatoes or potato starch as a replacement for flour. This makes the resulting donuts a little lighter.

These were originally known as Spudnuts and came into existence in the mid-1900s. There were chains of Spudnut stores across the States, but their popularity has declined since then. 

Donut holes

Who doesn’t love a donut hole? All the best parts of a donut in a convenient bite-size. They are made using the excess waste dough from creating rings in traditional ring donuts.

They can be plain or filled and tend to be covered in powdered sugar or a sweet glaze. 

Ring donuts

This is the classic donut shape. They are often glazed with a white or brightly colored icing and decorated with sprinkles. This is the kind of iconic donut you would see Homer Simpson munching on. 

Filled donuts

Filled donuts are the next level up from ring donuts. They do not have a hole in the middle.

Instead, the empty air spaces created in the dough are filled with an assortment of delicacies. Popular choices are jelly (or jam in the UK), chocolate, and custard. 

Beignet

If you are from New Orleans, you will know exactly what a beignet is. It is a deep-fried yeasted dough that originates from France.

It differs from a traditional yeasted donut as the dough is choux pastry. This is the same dough used for eclairs and profiteroles, and has a different taste and texture to classic donuts. 

Beignets can be filled with chocolate or a fruit compote. They are served warm with a dusting of powdered sugar. They tend to be square in shape. The name comes from the French word ‘buyne’, meaning a lump. 

Boston Cream 

This is based on a Boston Cream pie and is essentially a donut version. The dough is yeasted, like a traditional donut. Once cooked, it is filled with a custard and dipped in a chocolate frosting. 

Cronut

Cronuts were invented in 2013 by a French-American pastry chef. They are a hybrid between a donut and a croissant, filled with a flavored cream. They shot to popularity and became an iconic New York food within 3 days. 

Cruller

Crullers have a distinctive twisted appearance. They can be rectangles or formed into a ring, depending on where you are purchasing the cruller.

In France, the crullers are more likely to be circular, whereas in New England you will probably find rectangular crullers.

The dough is somewhere between yeast and cake donuts giving them a unique flavor and texture. They are commonly served coated in a vanilla or honey glaze. 

Long John

These donuts are rectangular in shape. They are a yeasted dough and can be filled with jelly or custard. They are visually similar to eclairs, the main difference being that they are fried instead of baked. 

These donuts are sometimes topped with a maple glaze. When this is the case, they are referred to as a maple bar. 

Berliner

This is an iconic pastry in Germany due to the unforgettable speech given by John F. Kennedy in 1963. As he was attempting to show solidarity with the residents of Berlin by saying he was one too, he accidentally called himself a donut.

This has become somewhat of an urban legend, although experts claim this theory is only prevalent in non-German speaking countries. 

Either way, the donut is delicious and any discourse surrounding the sweet treat is welcomed.

It is also referred to as a Bismark and Krapfen. Berliners are jelly-filled donuts with no holes. They are topped with icing sugar or sweetened whipped cream before serving. 

Yum yum 

This is a kind of twisted and deep-fried donut dough. Yum yums are much flakier and have more stretch than standard donuts. They are commonly found in the UK and are always covered in a sweet glaze.

Zeppole

These are a type of traditional Italian donut. They are a traditional food to be eaten on Festa di San Giuseppe. They tend to be approximately 4 inches in diameter and circular in shape. 

The zeppole can be filled with pastry cream (like cannoli), custard, jelly, or a mixture of butter and honey. They are served topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.

You can also get savory zeppoles. These tend to be made from bread dough with a strongly flavored filling such as anchovies. 

Malasadas

These donuts are Portuguese in origin and are especially popular with the Portuguese community in Hawaii. The dough uses yeast as a raising agent and is very light and fluffy in texture. They are commonly consumed on Mardi Gras, the day before Lent begins.

The dough is fried and then rolled in sugar. Traditionally they are not filled, but some modern versions incorporate fruit or custard.

Paczki

This is Poland’s take on the donut. The dough is highly enriched, containing eggs, fat, sugar, milk, and yeast. This dough is then infused with grain alcohol and fried. This prevents the oil from entering the dough too deeply making the paczki greasy. 

They are commonly filled and tend to be topped with icing, glaze, powdered sugar, or dried orange zest. They have been a staple element of Polish cuisine since the Middle Ages.

Koeksister

This is a South African dessert that is very similar to a donut. They are formed of 2 strands of plaited dough that are then fried in oil. The hot dough is pulled out of the oil and immediately dunked in sugar syrup that is ice cold. 

This creates a very crunchy outer shell and an interior swimming in sugar syrup. These donuts are very sweet and are said to taste like honey.

Sfenj

This comes from Morocco. They are shaped into rings and fried in oil. The cooked dough is dipped in honey and given a sprinkling of sugar before serving. They are eaten at breakfast time and for afternoon tea. 

These donuts are also eaten for Hanukkah. This is because the process of frying in oil is reminiscent of the Hanukkah miracle about the oil in the lamp. 

Yo-yos

These are Tunisia’s take on donuts. They are made with a yeasted dough that is shaped into rings and deep-fried. The cooked dough is then soaked in a honey syrup for 4 minutes on each side. The honey syrup is flavored with orange blossom water too. 

They are coated in sesame seeds and consumed with vanilla and a drink of orange juice.

Gulgula 

These are an Indian delicacy. They are deep-fried balls, similar to donut holes but with less of a regular shape. They are very popular market foods and you will find them all across India. 

The dough is made from a mixture of flour, baking powder, sugar, and spices such as fennel seeds to provide flavor. The dough is then fried in ghee or oil until golden and delicious. They are served warm and are commonly eaten during Hindu prayers, accompanied by Veda’s.

Pershing

This is a type of donut that is popular in Northern Ontario and is also sometimes referred to as a Persian roll.

It is essentially a cinnamon roll made using yeasted donut dough. This is topped with an icing glaze and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

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Written by Ryan F.

Ryan is a Philadelphia local who enjoys checking out Philly's restaurant scene every chance he can. He grew up in South Jersey and now lives in Philadelphia's Point Breeze neighborhood. Ryan also enjoys traveling and checking out local eateries in every city he visits.