It was the winter of 2008-2009 for former President Obama’s inauguration that we first visited the U.S. We still remember that day, all that vibrant hope and joy pulsating through the thousands upon thousands who braved the icy winds to congregate on both avenues of the National Mall in Washington D.C. Almost twelve years later, his former Vice President Biden has succeeded to the top post. It seems rather fitting then, that to coincide with such a wonderful full-circle occasion and the arrival of colder weather here in NYC — weather that ignites cravings for desserts more substantial than ice cream — that we ought to do a round-up of the circular fried dough dessert creation known as the doughnut. For what has been a rather grim year, 2020 is starting to brighten up already! We will keep adding to this tour of NYC’s best doughnuts, so do bookmark for a future dessert adventure!
*Updated April 2022.
*If you were looking for a doughnut tour in Melbourne, here is an old tour guide, one of the very first round-up reviews we did and immensely popular so many years on!.
For classic doughnuts
- Dessert destination: Dunwell Doughnuts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
- Must eat flavour: Original glazed or lemon poppyseed.
- Short and sweet story: If you just want a classical doughnut – i.e. a doughnut with the trifecta of being reasonably sized, pillowy, and well-glazed – Dunwell does traditional doughnuts exceedingly well. It distinguishes itself from other NYC doughnut shops by its pronounced classical flavours. For example, chocolate is unrestrained, almond is intense, strawberry is sweet. We love the original glazed or ultra-tangy lemon poppyseed the most.
For GIANT doughnuts
- Dessert destination: Dough, multiple locations, including at Whole Foods grocery stores.
- Must eat flavour: Hibiscus or Toasted Coconut.
- Short and sweet story: Dough makes doughnuts in a decidedly American portion size, i.e. giant and generous. If you like your doughnuts super-sized and super airy, this is the place to visit…and probably bring a friend along so you can fit more than one doughnut in! We recommend the doughnuts infused with a taste of the tropics, particularly the Hibiscus or Toasted Coconut pictured below. Keep an eye out for the more elusive Passionfruit offering too.
For cake doughnuts
- Dessert destination: Doughnut Plant, multiple locations.
- Must eat flavour: Carrot Cake or Creme Brulee.
- Short and sweet story: Like Dough, Doughnut Plant offers a range of yeast and cake doughnuts. However, we prefer their denser-textured cake doughnuts, which are available in a seasonal rotation of flavours such as chocolate, carrot cake (our favourite), berry, apple cinnamon etc. That said, there is a yeast doughnut formed into a small round orb, beautifully golden tanned and filled with a luscious custard cream that squirts everywhere on first bite. It is called the Creme Brulee doughnut – don’t miss it!
For very different flavours
- Dessert destination: Doughnut Project, West Village, Manhattan.
- Must eat flavour: “Everything Bagel” flavour.
- Short and sweet story: If you are a savoury dessert lover, Doughnut Project offers doughnuts on that end of the flavour spectrum. Over the years, we have tried an olive oil doughnut, a beet ricotta doughnut, and also an “Everything Bagel” doughnut. Speckled with sesame, poppy seeds, garlic and sea salt, the latter is for when you are trying to deceive yourself that eating doughnuts for breakfast is a good idea. Be warned, you will either love or hate this.
For slightly Eastern flavours
- Dessert destination: Win Son, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
- Must eat flavour: Red Rice.
- Short and sweet story: When we were writing up our mochi doughnut and dessert series earlier this year (see here for the full review), we visited Win Son for its mochi doughnut offering, but were not particularly enamoured. A recent return visit however, allowed us to encounter the Red Rice glazed doughnut. It’s slightly savoury, slightly sweet, and a must-eat.
For crunchy and fried
- Dessert destination: Daily Provisions, Gramercy/Flatiron.
- Must eat flavour: Original Cruller.
- Short and sweet story: Your Dessert Correspondents here were once upon a time, very skeptical about crullers. They are just a twisted circle of fried dough, right? Not quite a doughnut in the traditional sense, nor the deep-fried stick of dough that one sticks into Chinese porridge, so what it is… If there is one cruller that will dissipate all those mental murmurings away, it would be Daily Provisions’. Weighty yet light, crunchy yet soft, coated with cinnamon sugar or maple glaze, this is well….may I have another please?
For baby doughnuts
- Dessert destination: Doughnuttery, Chelsea; and Cuzin’s Duzin, Downtown Brooklyn.
- Must eat flavour: Original or Coco Loco (from Doughnuttery); Original or S’mores (from Cuzin’s Duzin).
- Short and sweet story: As much as we love our doughnuts to be voluptuously-sized, there are occasions when our stomachs will simply not agree with further stuffing. Thankfully, we have discovered two delightful places in NYC that prove that miniature desserts can satisfy doughnut cravings just as well as their super-sized cousins. Pictured first below, Doughnuttery offers mini-doughnuts made from being tossed around in one or more sandpits of flavoured cinnamon sugar. By contrast, Cuzing’s Duzin specializes in mini-doughnuts akin to the funnel cake, drizzled in a variety of saucy glazes, sugar powders, and even colourful cereal flakes.
For old school style
- Dessert destination: Peter Pan, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; and Donut Pub, border of West Village and Greenwich Village.
- Must eat flavour: Honey-Dipped or Toasted Coconut (from Peter Pan); Salted Caramel or Maple Bacon (from Donut Pub).
- Short and sweet story: In this era of Instragram dominance, when the most ostentatious and outrageous garners the immediate attention of millions, it’s easy to forget the older and less photogenic. Yet arguably, the latter is equally if not more deserving of consideration. In respect of old-fashioned doughnuts, if you want a taste of nostalgia, of a time when doughnuts were displayed on angled rows of silver trays in retro 1950s diners and washed down with polysterene cups of black coffee, and the whole experience costing no more than a five dollar note, Peter Pan in Greenpoint and Donut Pub in Manhattan are two good bets. Of the two, we prefer Peter Pan (pictured first below) as it is more atmospheric, with the doughnuts being slightly cheaper, and more consistently memorable in terms of taste and texture.
Doughnut secrets –
- Doughnut secret #1: Doughnut tree at The Dutch, Soho, Manhattan.
- The following picture was taken in the pre-Covid heydays of our NYC restaurant gallivanting, but once this pandemic is over and restaurant hopping returns as a legitimate weekend activity, do look out for “Doughnut Trees” in NYC’s restaurants. Whether trees of full-sized doughnuts or a bite-sized doughnuts, they certainly make for a memorable sweet end to a meal.
- Doughnut secret #2: Hidden doughnuts from Cinnamon Snail and Underwest Doughnuts, Manhattan.
- Although we are including Cinnamon Snail and Underwest in this “Best NYC Doughnuts” round-up review, it would appear that these two little semi-hidden doughnut destinations have quietly shuttered sometime before or during the course of the pandemic. 😦 Cinnamon Snail was hidden in a food court area near Penn Station, and Underwest Doughnut was located in a car wash station! We are hoping that they will re-emerge in a future pop-up or rejuvenated shop of some sort.