Donuts are among the most special of foods, belonging to that class of desserts that have somehow managed to convince us they’re actually breakfast. The time of day you eat them, though, doesn’t really matter. Dig into a donut first thing in the morning if you want to get your day off to a sweet start, or save one from your morning coffee run so you can enjoy it later in the evening. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
The real problem is deciding what flavor you want. Some donut shops have a dizzying number of options, taunting you with the threat of donut-related FOMO; choosing just one out of all the available options seems like an insurmountable task, especially if you’re still waiting on your coffee. That’s why I’ve gone ahead and done the dirty work for you by ranking ten of the most popular donut flavors, starting with my least favorite and working my way to the best.
I’m sorry, but what? If you order a cruller in front of me, our friendship is over. It adds unnecessary texture to what should be a relatively simple food. Just order a glazed donut and stop making everything so complicated.
9. Apple Cider
The apple cider donut is an absolute staple of autumn. It’s a blessedly pumpkin spice-free reminder of the best season of the entire year. However, I never, ever crave an apple cider donut outside of September and October. It’s a strictly seasonal food that doesn’t need to grace our coffee shops in mid-July.
How can you not like a glazed donut? It’s just fried dough covered in liquid sugar. It’s impossible not to enjoy. However, you have to have a serious sweet tooth to crave this kind of donut on the regular. It’s the kind of treat you split with a friend because otherwise, the sweetness is just too intense.
7. Donut Holes
Okay, technically, donut holes are more of a style than a flavor. On the plus side, they’re small enough to snack on, and you don’t feel compelled to eat an entire donut. You can just have a few and get on with your day. But part of the joy of eating a donut is about the shape, and the donut hole completely negates the pleasure of that experience. However, if you want to mix and match flavors without buying a full dozen donuts, donut holes are definitely the way to do it.
6. Crumb Cake
When I was a kid, I called crumb cake donuts “rabbit poop donuts” because of the dropping-like appearance of the little cinnamon sugar crumb pieces on top. Crumb cake is a top-notch flavor, but that’s technically because it’s just a totally different dessert. Your average, everyday crumb cake would suffice; there’s no need to put a hole in the middle. That being said, I’ll never turn one down.
Now, there are two slightly different styles of donut that can fit in this category. The first is the powdered sugar donut. The powdered sugar itself doesn’t add much flavor; it’s more about the powdery, cooling texture you get in every bite. Then there are the donuts covered in coarser sugar, which offers a slight crunch instead. They’re both solid, but I personally prefer the powdered version. Whichever one you choose, though, be warned: It’s going to get messy.
4. Maple Bacon
The sweet-salty craze lives on in maple bacon donut format. The first time I saw one of these things on a menu, I thought it looked disgusting. Turns out that the saltiness of bacon pairs perfectly with the rich sweetness of maple syrup. Is it for everyone? Definitely not. But is it for me? Absolutely. This is one of the few donuts I actually enjoy first thing in the morning.
3. Boston Cream
Boston cream donuts are mind-bendingly good. Not only do you get that beautiful chocolate glaze on top, but you’re then greeted with a hefty dose of cream in the middle. Sometimes, it comes as a surprise—that’s even better. The only thing from keeping Boston cream donuts from rising to the top of the pack is the fact that they’re just so, so messy. This is not the donut flavor you want to eat while you’re driving one-handed through busy city streets.
Similar to the Boston cream donut, the jelly donut is transcendent because it takes a simple dish and makes it into something special; you get all the joy of a regular donut plus the addition of sweet, sugary jelly in the center. Again, these are messy, but since they usually don’t have the chocolate glaze on top, they’re slightly easier to eat on the go.
1. Chocolate Frosted
We’ve finally come to the best of the best. It’s simple, unfussy and uncomplicated: It’s the chocolate frosted donut, and it’s almost always going to be a solid order. Colorful sprinkles on top are not necessary but are very much appreciated.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.