We’ve never met a doughnut we didn’t like! While most people will recognise these desserts for their ring-shaped hollow form, in truth, many cultures have their own version of what they consider a doughnut. And so to celebrate “World Donut Day” here are our picks (and pics!) of the best cream-filled, sugar-dusted, sticky-glazed sweet treats in the universe. Okay, okay, we know, “Best” is a pretty big call, so let’s just consider it a festive celebration of fried favourites. Now, get among the global goodness and please Do-Nut judge us if you’re drooling by the end of this post!

 

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Kicking off close to home, these hot, jam-filled treats are affectionately known as “Melbourners” by the locals and can be found at the vintage, American Doughnut Van at the city’s iconic Queen Victoria Markets. If the long line of crowds doesn’t give away the location, the sweet smell permeating the Melbourne morning air certainly will!

Fun fact: Canadians consume more doughnuts and have more doughnut shops – per capita – than any other country! There are plenty of stores selling tasty traditional varieties (Try Glory Hole, Von and of course Tim Horton’s), but for a truly authentic Canadian speciality, grab a Beaver Tail. These fried, flat, dough pastries are individually hand stretched to resemble beaver tails and smeared with the toppings of your choosing. Some of the best ones can be found at the namesake chain of BeaverTail pastry stands.

New York-based pastry chef Dominique Ansel may have invented cronuts, but some of the best versions of his croissant and doughnut hybrid can be found across the pond. Titled the “crodough,” Rinkoffs in London’s East End produces nine different flavours of this dessert, including the S’more – filled with Nutella and topped with marshmallow fluff.

Churros (long or knotted deep-fried choux-style pastries) can be found at almost any Spanish restaurant or cafe. At Madrid’s Chocloteria San Gines tradition reigns, and they are generally served at breakfast – con Chocolat (dipped into a cup of hot chocolate) – but can also be eaten with dulce de leche or sprinkled with sugar. Many sweet, fried dough dishes in Latin America, such as Mexico’s bunelos, are said to be descendants of churros.

 

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While bombolone may be primarily connected to Tuscany, slight variations of the recipe (for example, including egg) can also be found in pasticcerias in other regions of Italy. Rich and robust, Bombas are filled to the brim with custard or sweet ricotta (piped in from the top instead of the side) and are a bomb by name and (calorie) bomb by nature – albeit a ridiculously delicious one! Neapolitan Italians are particularly proud of the treat they know as “Bomba alla Crema” and really good ones “exploding” with cream can be had at Pasticceria Poppella.

The Deutsch version of doughnuts is the Berliner Pfannkuchen (or simply Berliner). These fried pastries are made without a hole and traditionally filled with cream, jam or fruit. (Although it’s also a common prank to pip one with mustard instead of something sweet!) Some of the best can be found at historical Backer Walf bakery – who make theirs with a pudding-like chocolate filling and sprinkles on the outside – instead of the sugary toppings that usually dust this treat.

The direct translation of this fried dough snack is “oil bulbs” but don’t let the greasy name put you off! These sugar-coated, fruit-studded dumplings are far tastier than the name suggests. Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve in The Netherlands, where they can be found at fairs in “Oliebollen kraams”, they are also sold at Winter street stalls in Belgium where a fruit-less version is also popular.

It looks like a doughnut, but this Peruvian dessert (which originated in Lima) is made with fried squash and sweet potato instead of wheat. It is typically eaten as a street food snack or an after-dinner dessert and often covered with a sweet syrup called chancaca made from unrefined cane sugar. Puro Corazon Parrillada Peruana serves some of the best picarones, but Manos Morenos and Tio Mario are also very good.

 

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Japan is close behind Canada, with the second-highest concentration of doughnut shops in the world per capita. The regional speciality here is called an-doughnut – fried dough filled with red bean paste. And the most popular place to grab one is at one of the many Mister Donut locations, which have been serving an-doughnuts since 1983.

Indian balushahi are rings of flour that are deep fried in clarified butter or ghee before being dipped in hot, sugary syrup. Sometimes described as a “crunchier glazed doughnut”, this dish is prevalent in North Indian areas like New Dehli and Uttar Pradesh. However, it is also a popular offering in southern coastal regions too, from Tamil Nadu to Kerala, where it is known as badushah. Some of the best can be found at Delhi’s Ramchander Balushahiwale.

According to Greek mythology, the ancient Gods created Loukoumades because they were looking for a better version of heaven. Ok, while the accuracy of this legend is questionable (or a downright fallacy that we just made up!) there is no denying that the Hellenic contribution to dessert is truly divine. Loukoumades are small balls of dough, fried until golden then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon or a variety of items. The aptly named Lukumades coffee shop on Aiolou Street in downtown Athens serves some of the country’s best!

While New Orleans popularised the beignet, the fried pastry has its roots in France. However, Beignets from the motherland (referred to as beignets de carnaval) are spherical and made with yeast (not choux). Regardless, the French fritter is always best enjoyed doused in powdered sugar, paired with a milky coffee (cafe au lait) and – according to French-trained chef David Lebovitz – the freshest can be found at Boulangerie au 140.

 

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The best sfenj-makers in Morocco are the street vendors, who take sticky, unsweetened leavened dough and freshly cook your order in sizzling oil – often using skewers to remove the doughnutty creation from the vat. Sfenj’s name stems from the Arabic word for “sponge,” and the honey it is dipped in after frying, truly does soak it with sweetness. While Sfenj is enjoyed year round, it is particularly popular with Moroccan Jews during Hanukkah – who eat fried foods during this period to commemorate the miracle associated with the temple oil. Find a vendor among one of the many souks and street stalls in Jemaa el-Fna square in Marrakech.

A small amount of grain alcohol is required to cook these deep-fried Polish doughnuts – The spirit helps the pastry avoid absorbing too much grease. Pronounced “Poonch-key” or “pawnch-key”, Paczki translates to “little package” and is often filled with rose-jam, custard, plum or lemon curd and sprinkled with dried orange zest. They are commonly made for Fat Tuesday to celebrate the last day before Lent, in the traditionally Catholic country. Order them warm at Cukiernia Pawłowicz in Warsaw.

In Croatia, Krafne/krofna (or pokladnice) are round doughnuts usually stuffed with marmalade, jam or chocolate. Similarly, fritule or prikle (depending on the dialect) are smaller versions of these – minus the filling. Because each village has its own recipes – which claim to be the original and the best (of course!)- you will find discrepancies in the production of these tasty treats. Most will feature yeast-dough but others may be of made of potatoes (Desiree or Sebago) instead of flour. Some will be laced with dark rum, others grape brandy (loza). Finally, flavourings can vary between grated apples, citrus zest or dried fruit. If you can’t find yourself a “baka” to whip up a batch, try the ones at Bobis – a local chain of bakeries and patisseries.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS - ALL ABOUT THE AMERICAS

The doughnut capital of the world (in all their holey glory) is arguably America. We could nominate hundreds across the 50 states, but here are a few guaranteed to drive you glazy…

 

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This Brooklyn stalwart (which opened a second store in Manhattan in 2014) specialises in super-sized soft glazed doughnuts in flavours like passion fruit, hibiscus and tropical chilli.

Trust LA to offer a place to cater to all kinds of dietary requirements! This place serves up “enlightened doughnuts” by transforming all your favourite flavours to 100% gluten-free, with low-to-no sugar added, organic ingredients…while always expanding the popular vegan range.

The origins of this doughnut (made of small balls of yeast dough, coated with granulated sugar) are Portuguese, but Hawaiians have given it a local spin by filling the versions at Leonard’s with macadamia coconut and guava.

 

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Can’t decide between a warm doughnut or a serve of cold ice cream? You don’t have to at Milk & Cream in Dallas. Simply choose your buns (glazed or unglazed doughnut) and one of the many flavours of ice cream to nestle between. Extra toppings are optional but recommended!

Voodoo’s popular pink-boxes put Portland on the doughnut map, but a number of quirky new additions have kept it there. Blue Star Donuts is one of them. Try the Apple Cider Fritter – made from leftover doughnut holes, so you can slowly pull it apart.

This diner has a full section of the menu dedicated to doughnuts called “Hi-Tops” – giant creations topped with a mini-mountain of sweet or savoury toppings. The Notorious PIG- served with pulled pork, black beans and eggs – is as
good as it sounds!