12 Of The Best Coffee And Donut Pairings, According To An Expert

Few things in life can compare to the magic that happens when coffee meets donut. A perfect, pillowy pastry accompanied by a hot and fresh cup of joe, no matter how you like it, makes a great breakfast on the go or an ideal treat-yourself snack. Dunkin' may be credited with popularizing the iconic pairing when it first opened post-WWII, slinging nothing but coffee and donuts. The chain quickly became associated with police officers who frequented the shop looking for a midnight snack and coffee to help them power through the graveyard shift. The pairing continues to thrive, with most donut shops in the U.S. serving coffee alongside fresh pastries.

You can enjoy nearly every classic variety of donut with any style of coffee for a delicious pairing, but Bhavi Patel of Banjaran Foodie and I teamed up to show off what we believe to be superb coffee and donut duos. Patel is a dairy technologist and food writer with extensive knowledge of all things coffee. We've dissected the tasting notes of popular coffee drinks and determined which types of iconic donuts bring out the best in them, and vice versa. So, whether you're a donut aficionado or a coffee connoisseur, let's dive into the delightful realm of these ultra-indulgent curated pairings, sip by sip, bite by bite.

Classic glazed donut with an Americano

Although many regular coffee drinkers might ironically be unfamiliar with an Americano in the United States, this caffeinated beverage is as simple and commonplace as it gets. An Americano consists of only two ingredients — espresso and water — with varying ratios, depending on how strong you like your coffee. The Americano was initially created to transform espresso into something less bitter that resembled an American-style drip coffee, hence the name. The drink bears resemblance to a standard drip coffee, but with crema either on top or mixed into the coffee, thanks to the use of espresso.

What better pairing for a simple, straightforward coffee drink than the most modest donut of all? It doesn't get more iconic (and delicious) than a classic glazed donut. A simple pastry with a sticky, sugary glaze, Krispy Kreme-style, hits the spot every time, especially when it's paired with a piping hot cup of coffee. "The pairing sings simple and no-nonsense," says Bhavi Patel. "The sweetness of a classic gazed works well with the kick of an Americano. Together, they balance each other out well without getting too overpowering. It would work well with an iced Americano, too."

Chocolate glazed with a mocha

The only thing better than a chocolatey treat is two chocolatey treats. If you plan to indulge in a mocha — a luscious combination of espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate syrup, usually topped with whipped cream — then why not go big and add a chocolate-glazed donut to your order? Any seasoned coffee drinker will tell you that there's something truly spectacular about the robust, bitter nature of espresso joining sweet, decadent chocolate in a marriage of indulgence. An extra-chocolatey donut pairing makes your mocha even better, adding a double dose of rich, sweet chocolate flavor to your experience.

A chocolate-glazed donut is ideal for pairing with a mocha, but a chocolate-frosted donut with icing in the middle also makes a delicious treat, albeit with a bit of a sugar overload. If a chocolate donut and mocha pairing sounds like too much of a good thing, Bhavi Patel recommends a light sprinkling of salt atop your donut or mocha. An overly sweet experience can easily be tamed by transforming a donut into a sweet and salty snack. While dialing down the sweetness, the salt also mellows out any potential bitterness left in the espresso and brings out subtle nuances in the flavor of both coffee and donut. Try this trick with a dark chocolate-flavored donut for an extra luxurious treat.

Pączek with a black eye

Pączki are a Polish delicacy similar to jelly donuts in the U.S. The pastries are typically filled with fruity jelly and made of yeasted dough that includes eggs and milk, making them an ultra-rich treat worthy of their own special day of celebration. Fat Tuesday — usually reserved for New Orleans-style Mardi Gras celebrations — is also known as Pączki Day in Polish communities  around the country. On this February day, people gather to revel in the joy that pączki brings, honoring this delicious example of community and togetherness.

Pączki are known for their deeply rich, doughy properties and super sweet, decadent jelly filling. An ideal coffee pairing would be strong and sharp, with an acidic bite at the finish. A strong and dark black eye is the perfect pairing for this sweet Polish treat. A black eye, simply described as a drip coffee with two shots of espresso tossed in for added strength and caffeine, is easily mellowed by the creaminess and fruity flavors of a pączek. Follow each chewy bite with a tiny sip from this robust cup and allow the flavors to blend for a taste that's not too sweet or bitter.

Sugar-dusted donut with a cappuccino

A frothy cappuccino first thing in the morning is like waking up to a warm breeze and sweet birdsong — it just feels right. Although a cappuccino can be tweaked to suit specific tastes, this drink is typically categorized by equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam. The cappuccino is often confused for a latté, which has more steamed milk and a light layer of milk foam on top . You can tell a cappuccino apart from a latté by its trademark fluffiness.

A simple donut with a dusting of soft, sweet powdered sugar complements the fluffy milk of a cappuccino. Bhavi Patel claims that an airy cappuccino's milk and froth cuts through the sweetness of light and breezy powdered sugar donuts, balancing out both flavors. Patel recommends you "have the cappuccino without [...] sugar so the sweetness from the donut can enliven [it]." But, if coffee without sugar sounds like your nightmare, Patel says to "ask for a pump of vanilla or hazelnut," as these will likely exaggerate any creamy or nutty notes in your donut.

Beignets with chicory cafe au lait

The humble beignet is as simple as it is iconic. Like gumbo, jambalaya, and po'boys, beignets are among many New Orleans staple dishes that make the city's cuisine one of the nation's best. Beignets starkly contrast the vibrantly spiced savory dishes of the Big Easy. These light and airy pillows of sweet dough and powdered sugar are made of only a few simple ingredients and are versatile enough to be stuffed with any filling. They are sweet and delicate enough to be savored all on their own.

You can't bring up New Orleans' beignets without mentioning another treat famous in the city: chicory coffee. Chicory is a root that, when ground and prepared using traditional coffee methods, tastes similar to the regular joe we know and love. It's frequently brewed on its own as a coffee substitute or sometimes used as an additive in regular coffee. Unlike standard coffee, chicory coffee contains no caffeine, making it an excellent choice when you're up late in the French Quarter and are craving a warm drink with your sugary treat from Café du Monde. A cup of strong chicory coffee and steamed milk with a few fresh beignets is a pairing as old as time and as southern as it gets. Add a touch of honey to chicory coffee and drizzle some on a warm beignet if you're craving an extra-sweet snack.

Maple glazed with espresso

Maple is a complex and polarizing flavor. Some of us live for it, while others would take chocolatey or fruity flavors over maple any day. The flavor profile of this ingredient is often described as woody and sweet, with notes of caramel and toffee. The nuances of this naturally-derived ingredient make it perfect for a diverse range of uses, whether you're aiming for something sweet or savory. Maple-flavored donuts are ideal if you're bored of typical chocolate and fruit flavors and especially hit the spot in the fall when you get sick of pumpkin spice everything.

Dark and rich espresso complements sugary, sweet, and nuanced maple in various ways. Bhavi Patel recommends pairing a maple-glazed donut with a full-bodied espresso containing caramel or chocolate notes to enhance the coffee's natural subtleties. She says that an espresso with an equal balance of acidity and sweetness, a good body, and minimal bitterness will be brought to life with a maple donut pairing.

Cake donut with a breakfast blend

A cake donut can only be described as a glorious combination of — you guessed it — cake and a donut. As opposed to traditional yeast donuts, cake donuts are made with essentially the same ingredients as a typical cake, resulting in a much more dense final product than the classic light and fluffy donuts adorned with frosting, glaze, or colorful sprinkles. Cake donuts are much easier to make at home than yeast donuts, making them a fun and creative breakfast treat to whip up on a lazy Sunday.

While a cake donut first thing in the morning might not make the most nutritious breakfast, it's certainly filling and convenient. Whether you make old-fashioned cake donuts at home or snag one from a grocery store or bakery, pair your on-the-go breakfast with the most ideal early-morning coffee: a breakfast blend. A breakfast blend features lightly roasted beans, creating a smooth, mellow coffee with an added caffeine kick. Pairing a hearty donut with this bright cup creates a delightful contrast in flavors and textures that won't bog you down but will fill you up and leave you feeling rejuvenated.

Cinnamon sugar donut with a macchiato

In recent years, the macchiato has become a source of frustration for baristas and coffee lovers. Before Starbucks came along, the drink was as elusive and underappreciated. Nowadays, the famed Starbucks caramel macchiato has taken the world by storm, leaving a trail of misinformation in its wake. AS a result, the differences between cappuccino, latté, and macchiato have become a blur. To clear up any confusion — a traditional macchiato comprises espresso with a mere dollop of milk foam on top and nothing more — macchiato translates from Italian as "marked" or "stained."

Cinnamon sugar donuts are an exceptional treat, but they can usually use a little boost. The cinnamon flavor becomes boring after the initial bite, which is where a robust macchiato comes into play. "The small amount of milk foam on the macchiato coats your palate just enough to make the cinnamon sugar shine," explains Bhavi Patel. Cinnamon gives flavor to the creamy foam in the macchiato while taming any powerful bite from espresso.

Boston Cream with espresso tonic

An espresso tonic is as simple as it sounds — it's made up of espresso poured over ice-cold, bubbly tonic water. If the thought of espresso mixed with tonic water sends shivers down your spine, rest assured you're not alone in your skepticism. Although it appears that the combination of two bitter ingredients would be overly sour and acrid, tonic water accentuates the creaminess of espresso. In contrast, espresso highlights any citrusy flavors in tonic. Together, the two ingredients harmonize, creating a mellow but tart drink perfect for sipping in the summertime. The drink has only recently become popular in the United States after being invented in Sweden in 2007. Although it's not typically on cafe menus, you can sometimes track one down as a seasonal offering or locate the drink from an artisanal café with more obscure coffee selections.

When it's time for a refreshing, effervescent, caffeinated drink, go the extra mile and order a Boston Cream donut to accompany it. The exquisite cream in this treat coats your palate and calms any aggressive bitter flavors in your tonic, especially if the drink is not made using the optimal beans. Luscious cream will accentuate the espresso's crema, initially giving your espresso tonic the perfect balance of citrus and milky flavors, with a sharp bite at the finish of each sip.

Vanilla frosted donut with a dark roast

Beloved by both children and adults, the vanilla-frosted donut is among the most timeless treats in the dessert realm. When adorned with fun sprinkles — a necessary touch to enhance its visual appeal, considering a solid white donut doesn't look particularly appetizing — this dessert is both adorable and delicious. The sprinkles add a fun party-time vibe and provide a slight crunch with a hint of fruity flavor, adding an element of excitement to an otherwise standard, chewy treat.

The classic vanilla flavor is neutral enough to be loved by most and to pair with nearly any cup of coffee, but Bhavi Patel suggests matching this creamy delight with the bold flavors of a dark roast. She recommends black coffee, preferably as espresso, an Americano, or a long black. Choose a dark roast with fruity notes if your donut is topped with sprinkles. The hint of fruity candy-like flavors from the sprinkles is amplified with a coffee containing berry or citrus notes, adding extra flavor to straightforward vanilla and added sweetness to a smokey, full-bodied coffee. This is the perfect pair for dipping and dunking, ensuring your donut captures maximum rich coffee flavor.

Apple cider donuts and caramel latté

For those seeking a departure from the traditional clove and nutmeg notes of pumpkin spice but still eager to embrace fall flavors to the fullest, caramel and apple flavors offer an appealing, autumnal alternative. A crisp apple coated in creamy caramel is arguably more of a classic fall treat than the pumpkin-spiced latte. The essence of the legendary fruit-and-candy-combo can easily be recreated using other popular autumn desserts, like donuts made with hot apple cider.

Apple cider donuts are typically baked rather than fried and are less sugary than their yeasty cousins. In the fall, apple cider donuts are a staple in the northeastern United States. You can often find these cakey morsels at farmer's markets during the season, usually served with a steaming cup of cider. If you want more of a pick-me-up, pair your apple cider donut with a caramel latté instead of the classic cider pairing. A sweetened, caffeinated beverage is the perfect treat to bring apple picking, and chances are you'll have the opportunity to scoop up the famous donuts while enjoying the fall festivities. The donuts aren't too sweet, so the sugar in the drink won't be overwhelmed, and the caramel flavor will blend perfectly with apple for a dessert that doesn't rely on polarizing nutmeg and cloves for that nostalgic fall feeling.

Lemon glazed or lemon cream donuts with cold brew

In mid-afternoon on a hot summer day, an ice-cold coffee drink hits the spot like nothing else. It cools you down while lifting you up and out of the late-in-the-day haze, especially when you opt for a delicious cold brew instead of traditional iced coffee. In recent years, the allure of cold brew has extended far and wide, leading to the creation of nitro cold brew and cold foam to top these strong iced coffee concoctions. If you prefer your coffee iced, you've likely enjoyed indulging in this hearty cup, characterized by its full-bodied texture, strong taste, and higher caffeine content.

A lemon iced or glazed donut is the perfect cold brew companion on a summer day. When you're in the mood for a sweet donut treat but are sick and tired of the classics, a citrusy donut is the perfect choice to satisfy your craving. Citrus provides a complex flavor profile, offering tangy, sour, creamy, and candy-sweet notes. Bhavi Patel explains that the acidity in this lemony confection pairs well with an intense yet smooth cold brew, exposing any subtle citrus notes in the coffee as you alternate between sips and bites. Be bold and try this with a black cold brew to fully immerse yourself in the subtleties of the coffee's taste and texture.


Bhavi Patel and I curated this list to elevate the iconic coffee and donut duo by presenting specific pairings that truly maximize both flavors. With nearly a decade of experience as a barista, I've repeatedly sampled each coffee mentioned in this list. Familiarizing myself with these various artisanal drinks inspired me to explore ways to enhance them, including finding pairings that accentuate the coffee's finest qualities while elevating the taste of the accompanying food. I firmly believe that donuts are unparalleled companions to coffee, bringing out the best in each other. 

Bhavi Patel of Banjaran Foodie is a coffee connoisseur, dairy technologist, and food expert. She expertly curated most of the pairings on this list, offering insightful explanations as to why these combinations are so delicious. We hope this list transforms your perception of the classic coffee and donut pair from a hurried snack on the go to a meticulously planned, gourmet indulgence.