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The Best Donuts in America

Posted: 12/05/2013 1:22 pm

There are few treats that are more delicious than a freshly fried donut. And from a plain glazed one in Texas that's an essentially perfect representation of the form to a blueberry cake donut in California that has developed a legion of followers, we've tracked down the country's 25 best.

Click here to see the 101 Best Pizzas in America

Before we get to our list, though, there's one important question worth asking, and it's a trickier one than you might think: what, exactly, is a donut? It is any sort of sweetened, fried pastry? Well, not exactly. For our purposes, we're defining a donut as an item that you would expect to see in a donut shop : the familiar ones we know and love (of both the raised and cake varieties), crullers, apple fritters, and other donut-shop classics -- you know them when you see them.

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  • 5) Stan’s Donuts, Los Angeles: Peanut Butter and Banana, with Chocolate Chips

    <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/americas-25-best-doughnuts/12313?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=donutsbest" target="_hplink"><strong>Click Here to see The Complete List of Americas Best Donuts</strong></a> There’s a lot to love about Stan’s, which has been holding down its Westwood Village corner since 1965, and owner Stan Berman still comes in early every morning to make them by hand in dozens of varieties. His most famous creations are the ones with peanut butter (including a Reese’s peanut butter pocket), and his peanut butter and banana donut, topped with chocolate chips, will haunt your dreams. Thankfully, they ship nationwide; we advise taking them up on their offer. <em>Photo Credit: © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/64751818@N04/" target="_hplink">Flickr /iammanda</a></em>

  • 4) Bouchon Bakery, Yountville, Calif.: Jelly Donut with Seasonal Preserves

    Every Saturday and Sunday morning, a handful of donuts in several varieties are fried up at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro before it opens for lunch and are served (very quickly) at his next-door bakery. At about $3 each, they’re certainly not cheap, but the rich confections of brioche-like, buttery dough filled with fresh-made, seasonal preserves demonstrate creative ingenuity and an adherence to only fresh, seasonal ingredients, and the end result is something the country’s most renowned chef can be proud to tack his name to. <em> Photo Credit: Bouchon Bakery </em>

  • 3) Dough, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Lemon Poppy

    <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/americas-25-best-doughnuts/12313?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=donutsbest" target="_hplink"><strong>Click Here to see The Complete List of Americas Best Donuts</strong></a> This little shop, nestled into a cozy corner of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, is quietly turning out some spectacular doughnuts. The owners of Dough stick to yeast as opposed to cake donuts, and it’s a recipe that they’ve perfected. The key is freshness, and freshly fried donuts are near-constantly being brought out of the kitchen. The offerings are continuously changing, but never cease to surprise. Passion fruit, hibiscus, Earl Grey, blood orange, chocolate glazed… you might just have to return a few times before your cravings for these donuts will be satisfied. But they most likely never will be. If you see the lemon poppy donut on offer, make sure you buy a couple: big, light, fluffy, and bursting with bright, lemony goodness, one bite of these will put a smile on your face 100 percent of the time. <em>Photo Credit: © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/" target="_hplink">Flickr /wallyg</a></em>

  • 2) Round Rock Doughnuts, Round Rock, Texas: Plain Glazed

    The unique orange-yellow yeast-risen donut that put Round Rock on the map gets is color from the high-quality fresh eggs that go into it. The recipes and ovens used to create these rings of perfection haven’t changed since the 1920s, and they sell for only $0.59 apiece. Forgo the "Texas Size" giant for the classic plain glazed. Simple and delicious. <em>Photo Credit: © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/" target="_hplink">Flickr /wallyg</a></em>

  • 1) Doughnut Vault, Chicago: Plain Glazed

    <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/americas-25-best-doughnuts/12313?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=donutsbest" target="_hplink"><strong>Click Here to see The Complete List of Americas Best Donuts</strong></a> While not an easy place to score your donuts (they're only open until they sell out, which can take less than an hour), once you’ve made your precious purchase it’s nearly impossible to not leave The Doughnut Vault a very happy camper, in proud possession of the best doughnuts in America. The menu is gigantic, but narrow down your options to the cake donuts, which are surprisingly light and fresh. From there your best bet is to keep it simple; a simple, sugary glaze should be all you need to change your opinion of cake donuts forever. <em>Photo Credit: © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/star512/" target="_hplink">Flickr /wallyg</a></em>

For this reason, the Cronut, an invention that's really only 50 percent donut (the other half is a croissant), and regional specialties like the sopapilla and the beignet, which are completely distinct foods that you don't find in everyday donut shops , weren't considered for our ranking. There are plenty of amazing true-to-form donuts out there, so we hewed as closely to tradition as possible (while keeping room for wild creativity, of course).

Click Here to see The Complete List of Americas Best Donuts

In order to assemble our ranking, we incorporated those from last year's list but also added lots more. We stuck to strict criteria in looking for the best individual donuts in America: Freshness is key, as great donuts need to be served right out of the fryer. Are these legendary donuts that have become things of cultish devotion at the shop that sells them? We considered both plain glazed and extravagantly topped creations, but there needed to be a balance between all the components, be it bacon or blueberry jelly. Most importantly, these donuts need to be groan-inducingly good: fresh, soft, gooey, perfectly proportioned, and intended to leave you wanting just one more bite.

Another quality that makes donuts such a wonderful food is the fact that they're usually incredibly inexpensive and democratic: world-class donut shops are oftentimes incredibly humble, family-run operations, selling their wares for sometimes less than a dollar. Anyone can experience a world-class donut for a handful of coins.

-Dan Myers, The Daily Meal

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