The Best Donuts in America

12/05/2013 01:22 pm ET | Updated Feb 04, 2014

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.

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.

America's Best Donuts

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).

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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