16 Popular Donut Chains, Ranked

What's not to adore about the delightful combination of sugar and dough, fried to crispy, golden perfection? The humble donut, present across the globe for centuries, holds mysterious origins. Different donut variations exist in almost every country, like the French twisted donuts known as cullers, crafted from pate a choux, or the North Indian balushahi, a tangy donut featuring yogurt in the dough, fried in ghee or clarified butter. The simplicity of this pastry provides an ideal canvas for the brilliance of sweet and delectable ingredients to come together and form a spherical symphony of scrumptiousness.

The allure of donuts lies in their remarkable versatility, ensuring there's likely a donut crafted with your favorite combination of sweet or savory ingredients somewhere in the world. And if not, making your own at home is simpler than you might think. But if you're in the United States, you're likely not too far from an establishment that serves dozens upon dozens of donut varieties. The country boasts numerous chain donut shops, each bringing something unique to the table. In this exploration, we'll delve into some of the most popular donut chains in the country, distinguishing between must-try options and those that may not quite measure up to a more deserving donut champion.

16. Dunkin'

Dunkin's slogan, "America runs on Dunkin'," is likely not a reference to the donuts it's been slinging since 1950. In 2019, "Dunkin' Donuts" rebranded as "Dunkin'," dropping the donut from its name for good reason. Although this establishment was once famous for its pastries, the times have changed to make Dunkin' much more revered for a different menu item: coffee.

Dunkin's coffee outshines its donuts by miles, boasting a much higher-quality brew than many of its chain coffee rivals. If you're stopping by Dunkin' for your early morning coffee fix and need to satisfy a sweet craving, its donuts will stave off your hunger and give you that sugary fix you need in a pinch. But for a treat that won't leave you yearning for something better, you can safely opt for any other competitor's donuts and be much more satisfied.

15. Daylight Donuts

Founded in 1954, Daylight Donuts has established itself as a household name in baked goods in the Midwest. With over 300 locations, it gets the job done of ensuring that Americans have their donuts within reach. But if you prefer quality over accessibility, these donuts probably won't meet your standards.

It's nearly impossible for a donut to be blatantly unappealing, but it's incredibly common for a donut to lack any remarkable qualities. Daylight Donuts falls into this category, with an impressive menu that yields an underwhelming product. These donuts tend to be oily and made with low-quality ingredients. They may be far from the best in America, but the establishment's saving grace is its commitment to serving a consistent product, even if that means ensuring its customers are consistently disappointed. If you wind up in a Daylight, we recommend entering with an appetite for a salty, savory snack and opting for one of its signature sausage rolls, instead.

14. Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons has existed as a Canadian staple for nearly 60 years, serving iconic coffee and donuts, including Timbits — the chain's trademark donut holes — fast and with that classic Canadian friendliness and charm. The establishment became so popular in Canada that it expanded to the United States in the '80s, opening its first American store in Tonawanda, New York.

Like Dunkin', Tim Hortons has one thing going for it, and it's undoubtedly not its donuts. Canadians and Americans alike can't seem to get enough of the exceptional coffee at Tim Hortons, so much so that a rumor that the coffee is laced with addictive chemicals started to spread. But fear not, Canadian coffee connoisseurs — this conspiracy has been debunked. Unfortunately, nothing ever sparked a rumor about the addictive nature of Tim Hortons donuts since they're far from intoxicating. So, if you're looking for a delicious cold brew, keep Tim Hortons on your radar, but skip this famed cafe if you're aiming to satisfy your sweet tooth.

13. The Dapper Doughnut

Aesthetics amount to just about everything at The Dapper Doughnut. These delicate little morsels are undoubtedly beautiful. Every donut is dressed to the nines and is truly a sight to behold. The donut shop features about 20 varieties of donuts (a rather minuscule assortment compared to some rival establishments), and each one looks like something out of your most delightful donut dreams. But more senses need to be satiated than just one's vision to make a worthy treat, and these donuts fall short of satisfying every time.

Unlike the other donuts on our list, The Dapper Doughnut only serves mini donuts. These little treats take "mini" to a whole new level, with one donut barely even amounting to a single bite. Granted, if you indulge in a few dozen of these treats, you'll likely be content, but only after racking up an embarrassingly hefty donut tab.

12. Honey Dew Donuts

If you're from New England, then you're likely familiar with Honey Dew Donuts, and it's even more likely that you have mixed feelings about this divey donut shop. Having been around since the '70s, Honey Dew Donuts has already established itself as a New England staple and, therefore, doesn't have to try very hard to maintain a reputation for serving high-quality products. Although most New Englanders are satisfied with its coffee, there's something a bit more unpleasant to be said about its donuts.

The donuts served at Honey Dew are strictly satisfactory and nothing more. Made with generic ingredients and nothing particularly noteworthy, this style of dessert appeals to those who are just looking for a simple, standard treat. Unfortunately, the donuts would probably taste better if they were served in a more comfortable and clean environment. Honey Dew is infamous for not maintaining its restaurants, usually leaving customers feeling grossed out rather than fiending for a warm, doughy treat.

11. The Fractured Prune

Initially located in Ocean City, Maryland, The Fractured Prune has been a household name in the state since 1972. The eatery prides itself on putting the choice in its customer's hands, offering a selection of glazes and toppings that can all be mixed and matched to your liking. The Fracture Prune's slogan, "There's no wrong way to make yours delicious," deserves to be examined. There are, in fact, many wrong ways to craft a donut, and sometimes giving customers the option to make their own items can backfire. A plethora of unappealing flavor combinations can be created when given free rein in the donut realm. Most of the time, it's preferable to trust those who are trained in the art of designing deliciousness to craft your treat.

The Fractured Prune's make-your-own approach would be much less unappealing if the donuts themselves were more remarkable. Rather, these donuts hardly hold up to their inflated price. But unlike some other donut shops, The Fractured Prune offers a glimpse into the donut-making process, with all of the equipment on display pumping out donut after donut. This is especially fun for kids, so bring in the little ones, but don't hold your expectations too high.

10. Pinkbox Doughnuts

Pinkbox successfully captures the essence of Las Vegas in its restaurants, each one designed to prioritize "fun." Aligning donuts with an exciting party-esque vibe is a strategic move that works in its favor. Upon entering any Pinkbox spot, the vibrant pink decor adorned with charming candy shapes provides a visually engaging experience. However, the intentionally quirky and delightfully tacky interior might be an attempt to divert attention from its somewhat mediocre donuts.

Pinkbox Doughnuts employs the "donut of the month" strategy to keep regular patrons feeling like they're always in for something new, and it's effective. Typically, the donut of the month stands out as the best option, although there are noteworthy choices like the Holy Cannoli–– a delightful fusion of a donut and cannoli — and the Golden Knight — a chocolate-frosted donut with white chocolate chips and peanut butter drizzle, named after the city's NHL team. These choices, along with some other over-the-top donut creations, give Pinkbox a good reputation in Sin City. But despite these winning combinations, the establishment falls short in terms of consistency and overall quality.

9. Duck Donuts

Duck Donuts, primarily situated along the Mississippi River with new locations steadily emerging, takes pride in providing its customers with essentially anything they could ever want in a donut. Whether opting for customization or selecting a self-proclaimed fan favorite, such as the renowned "bacon in the sun" (maple, bacon, and caramel drizzle) or the blueberry pancake donut, Duck Donuts aims to fulfill every donut craving. While the somewhat limited list of popular donuts may leave some wanting more, the option for customization effectively fills that void.

We suggest going for Duck Donut's customizable options, always freshly made to order and boasting a taste that almost rivals homemade. The standard assortments and fan favorites often lack the same freshness, giving off an impression of hasty preparation. A freshly crafted donut, with Duck Donut's signature extra doughy style and adorned with your chosen flavors, provides a satisfying experience, albeit at a higher cost compared to most mainstream donut chains. So, while the customizable feature at Duck Donuts will make your donut venture all the more enjoyable, it comes with a price tag that potential patrons should be prepared for.

8. Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnuts stands apart from others on our list by turning a cute dessert into something that may not be suitable for all audiences. What sets Voodoo Doughnuts apart are its quirky and amusing donut flavors, some of which may not be everyone's cup of tea. For instance, a donut with bubblegum on top may seem entertaining, but that's pretty much all it has to offer. The grape-flavored donut might attract more adventurous dessert enthusiasts, but for most of us, these flavors are better left untouched.

In addition to its unconventional combinations, Voodoo offers donuts that could make some customers blush and decide to leave their kids at home next time. From a phallic-shaped donut to a pastry resembling a burning joint, these donuts certainly grab attention, but may not be among the best choices on the menu. Arguably the most noteworthy feature at Voodoo is its selection of delicious vegan donuts, a rarity in the world of this delectable dessert. So, if you steer clear of the gimmicky options, you're bound to discover a light and fluffy donut worth falling in love with.

7. Shipley's Do-Nuts

If you're journeying around the southeast with donuts on the brain, then you're in luck because Shipley's Donuts has been slinging donuts since the '40s, and they've steadily maintained a solid reputation since. With multiple locations throughout Texas and several others peppering the surrounding states, venturing to a Shipley's location isn't going to have you straying way off course, which is great news for your sweet tooth.

With a menu that boasts over 60 different varieties of donuts, you'd be hard-pressed to visit and not find at least a couple of options that tempt your palate. There's nothing too obscure here, so if you're seeking out some one-of-a-kind, Instagram-worthy treat, you might leave disappointed, but you can never go wrong with classics like maple iced, Bavarian creme, and raspberry filled. They also offer plenty of donut hole flavors, as well as a few savory menu options if you feel cavities starting to form.

6. Winchell's Donut House

Winchell's is the place to visit if you're searching for a timeless, doughy delight. Renowned for offering a wide array of iconic donut varieties, from raised and cake donuts to fritters and French-style pastries, Winchell's Donut House secures its spot on our list as the largest donut chain on the West Coast. It maintains a reputation for consistent quality and boasts an extensive menu. Although Winchell's may not be considered artisanal, they guarantee a delightful, sugar-induced burst of euphoria with each bite of their warm, fluffy pastries.

Winchell's takes pride in delivering deliciousness the old-fashioned way, using high-quality ingredients crafted with care in a warm and unpretentious setting. There are no gimmicks or surprises at Winchell's; instead, the focus is on form and function, which appeals to some but may not be the choice for those seeking a quirky treat for their kids. So relax in Winchell's minimalist dining room, savor your pastry with a cup of hot coffee, and take a moment to appreciate life's simpler pleasures.

5. Top Pot

If you're from the Pacific Northwest, you've probably indulged in at least a few Top Pot donuts throughout your life. Thankfully for all Top Pot fans out there, the eatery's menu is constantly changing, showcasing a variety of seasonal delights along with tried-and-true classics. Top Pot promises always to have at least 40 different offerings to pick from, so make sure to spread your visits to Top Pot out over the course of the year so that you can indulge in all of their seasonal favorites. This includes pumpkin old fashioneds, cherry blossom cake donuts, and the peppermint snowdrift donut, all of which are only available for a limited time.

If you're not feeling the seasonal spirit, Top Pot excels at delivering the classics, especially when it comes to old-fashioned style donuts. These dense, cake-like delights sport a rough, uneven surface that adds a touch of rustic charm, perfectly embodying Top Pot's inviting atmosphere.

4. Blue Star

When it comes to gourmet donuts, it doesn't get much better than Blue Star, which operates multiple locations in and around Portland and a spot in Los Angeles. Unlike most chains that rely on marketing cute, froufrou desserts, the donut shop prides itself on crafting donuts for grownups using high-quality ingredients, so you don't have to worry about being stuck with an overly sweet, candy-covered monstrosity.

Although the Blue Star doesn't have the largest selections out there, you likely won't need too many choices before you find one that suits your taste. The eatery boasts unique combinations, like the tiramisu crème brûlée donut or the strawberry Champagne pie donut. But for a taste of one of the best donuts of all time, try the bourbon basil blueberry donut – a Blue Star specialty.

3. Five Daughters Bakery

As the smallest chain in our lineup, Five Daughters Bakery has earned a top spot through hard work, churning out delicious, handmade donuts across Tennessee, Georgia, and Nebraska, with more locations on the horizon. Founded by a husband-and-wife team, the bakery reflects their hope that customers can taste the love for family and passion for baking in every bite of their gourmet treats.

While a trek may be necessary to enjoy a dessert from Five Daughters, rest assured, it's worth it. The bakery specializes in 100-layer, croissant-style donuts with unique flavors for each month of the year. These pastries strike a balance between density and flakiness, making them a one-of-a-kind indulgence. Truth be told, you won't find another donut like it anywhere else in the United States.

2. LaMar's Donuts and Coffee

LaMar's has cemented itself as a household name in Colorado, Kansas, and beyond. Founded in 1960 by baker Ray LaMar, this donut chain earned its coveted reputation by transforming the humble donut into an artistic masterpiece. LaMar even appeared on The Tonight Show as "the undisputed donut king of the Midwest" and still retains that title posthumously.

Almost every style of donut on LaMar's menu mirrors its exceptional reputation, but a few standouts truly shine. Experience the delightful melt-in-your-mouth sensation by indulging in a selection of fried cake donuts, each offering a rich and dense texture. Or try LaMar's most iconic treat of all — the Devil's food cake donut — and be whisked away to dessert heaven. LaMar's also features a wide variety of fruity delights, like apricot-filled Bizmark donuts or apple-spiced and banana cake donuts. Bite into any of the bakery's lightly fried, golden treats, and there won't be a doubt in your mind that LaMar's takes the cake when it comes to gourmet pastries.

1. Krispy Kreme

And finally, we have the cream of the crop — Krispy Kreme. There are few Americans who haven't had the pleasure of biting into a warm, glazed donut from this famed establishment. The glaze leaves your fingers sticky and flakes onto your shirt, but you couldn't care less because you've just taken a bite of one of the most exceptional treats on the planet. If you're one of the few unfamiliar with Krispy Kreme's famous donuts, you might be surprised to learn that the eatery's simple, plain glazed option is the most sought-after.

When it comes to iconic chains, Krispy Kreme is by far the best — no contest. Upon entering the donut shop, you're welcomed by an explosion of sweet, sugary aromas that somehow exude a comforting warmth. You watch as the donuts move across the converter belt, complete with steam emitting from each one, so you know that they were made only moments ago. If you want to ensure that you get the freshest possible donut, look for Krispy Kreme's famous Hot Light glowing on the outside of the building. This means the donuts are being prepared and you'll have the opportunity to grab one fresh off the belt. But don't fret if you miss the Hot Light — even day-old Krispy Kreme donuts rival any other donut in America.


To compile this list, we considered factors such as accessibility, pricing, the consistency of the products, and — most importantly — their quality. Our assessments were based predominantly on firsthand experience, supplemented by online customer accounts, reviews, and details sourced from the companies' websites.

We used this information to craft a comprehensive list that ranks each establishment both fairly and accurately. Achieving the pinnacle of donut perfection is no simple task, and while each of these establishments has endeavored to master it, the quest for the ideal donut remains an authentic American pursuit.