National Donut Day only comes around twice a year (yes, twice), and we need to be ready for it. This year, the first celebration occurs on Friday, June 7, which doesn’t give us much time to plan. After all, eating just a single donut isn’t enough to truly participate in National Donut Day. Any real donut connoisseur has come to understand that free donuts aren’t always the way to go; a high-quality, gourmet experience is much more satisfying than a cheap giveaway. So put on your comfy pants, buckle your seatbelt, and get ready for an all-out road trip across California (or maybe just across town) to savor the best donuts in the state.
Sidecar Doughnuts, Santa Monica
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, bam! Sidecar Doughnuts enters the scene with basil eggs Benedict—stuffed into a donut. What sorcery is needed in order to cram a poached egg, ham, and house-made basil hollandaise into a Malasada-style donut? We may never know, but it is undoubtedly worth the experience (and a picture or two). For dessert, opt for one of the rotating monthly flavors such as the dulce de leche churro or the equally impressive Madagascar vanilla–glazed donut to enjoy the comforts of classic flavors. If you are feeling more adventurous, try the spiced-cake doughnut topped with a Oaxacan-inspired carrot mole glaze.
Donut Friend, Los Angeles
Every gourmet donut at the aptly named Donut Friend is made with all-vegan ingredients, but given the vibrant flavors and rock ‘n’ roll theme, you’d never know it. Grab a dozen to try out the Jets to Basil—filled with vegan cream cheese, fresh basil, and strawberry jam and finished off with sweet vanilla glaze and balsamic reduction—and the Compassion Fruit (half of the proceeds are donated to charity). Don’t miss out on the Youth Brulée, either, featuring Bavarian cream and brȗléed sugar.
Pepples Donut Farm, Oakland
This Bay Area icon has been serving up vegan, organic donuts on San Pablo Avenue since 2010. Choose from familiar flavors such as lemon poppyseed, orange creamsicle, coconut, and chocolate cookie. Or, spring for something a bit more daring like the lavender Earl Grey, sweet curry, or Philz Coffee donut. While these treats may sound like guilty pleasures, you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating them; sustainability lies at the core of Pepples Donut Farm, which features locally sourced ingredients and an entirely plant-based menu. Dip in during the week for the griddled mac ‘n’ cheeze, or stop by for a weekend brunch to try the scrumptious chik’n and waffles or the buffalo cauliflower accompanied by house-made ranch.
Dynamo Donut & Coffee, San Francisco
Crafting donuts from scratch in the Mission District since 2008, Dynamo Donut & Coffee knows what makes taste buds happy. But don’t take our word for it; allow the caramel de sel, chocolate star anise, maple bacon apple, pineapple basil, and lemon huckleberry donuts speak for themselves. If these high-class flavor profiles aren’t enough to entice you, the donuts are crafted from local, organic, and seasonal ingredients wherever possible—resulting in fresh, drool-worthy treats that give customers a taste of the San Francisco culture.
Halfsies Doughnuts, Tustin
When it comes to Halfsies Doughnuts, think gourmet froyo bar mixed with fluffy donut perfection: You can doll up your donut any way you’d like. Craving baklava and s’mores at the same time? Cover one half of the donut with honey glaze, pistachios, and a sprinkle of cinnamon and the other half with chocolate glaze, toasted marshmallows, and graham cracker crumbs.
*Due to renovations, this Orange County gem may be closed for this year’s first National Donut Day, but fingers are crossed for its reappearance before the next one on November 5.
The Donut Man, Glendora
If stopping by The Donut Man for some famous strawberry-filled donuts every time you find yourself in Glendora isn’t on your to-do list yet, it ought to be. These massive, newsworthy delights are made year-round, but make sure to schedule a special trip during the late summer months to nab a seasonal one stuffed with fresh peaches. Watch out, though: The artisanal creations are likely to leave you daydreaming of donuts the rest of the year.
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Los Angeles and
Los Angeles County reigns supreme when it comes to combining cuisines. This is particularly true with Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, where you can get your donuts and chicken separately—or combine them to create a decadent sandwich. At both the Los Angeles and Santa Monica locations, Astro makes everything to order, so your fried chicken on a vanilla-glazed donut will be fresh and piping hot. Other offerings that are sure to rock your world include the Nutella, cinnamon sugar, maple bacon, and crѐme brûlée donuts.
Donut Snob, Los Angeles
Although this L.A.-based business doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location, Donut Snob simply had to make our list. The $10 delivery fee may seem steep—and even steeper in the extended areas where it costs a whopping $15 for delivery—but the gourmet creations are otherwise well priced and stuffed with top-notch ingredients. Place an order for the whole office, and stock up on the Berry Best so you can enjoy every bite of the cinnamon-glazed donut bursting with a mixed-berry coulis and topped with a medley of fresh berries. The blueberry Earl Grey, peanut butter chocolate, and seasonal cherry hibiscus are other can’t-miss flavors. (Don’t worry, we won’t spill the beans if you decide to keep them all for yourself.)
Sweet Retreat Donuts, Long Beach
Established in 2015, Sweet Retreat Donuts crafts high-quality treats by using the best ingredients around. The shop’s gourmet offerings are spruced up at surprisingly reasonable prices, too. (I mean, you can get a peanut butter and jelly donut topped with chocolate sauce, peanut butter, and crushed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for merely $3.75? Yes, please!) Grab an old standby—such as a chocolate donut with sprinkles—for just $1, or go a little crazier with the blueberry donut covered with lemon icing, the vegan rosebud creation, or the made-to-order strawberries-and-whipped-cream masterpiece.
Birdies, Los Angeles
Birdies puts a new twist on American classics. Chef-owner Jason Harley set out to provide fast yet fresh foods—including artisanal donuts made every hour—in a casual dining environment. Opt for the unusual lemon thyme pistachio for a mixture of sweet and savory, go all in with the candied bacon maple, or stick to the triple dark chocolate to cure your sweet tooth. While you’re there, you might as well pick up a spicy fried-chicken sandwich complete with ghost-pepper mayo, Tillamook pepper jack cheese, cured pickles, and coleslaw. Make sure to get extra house-made ranch and a side of the potato salad, too.
Surfside Donuts, Pismo Beach
Combining the best of the beach-town, donut, and coffee worlds, Surfside Donuts brings a relaxed environment, creative flavors, and Stumptown coffee to Pismo Beach. Even the traditional favorites have a twist; the chocolate donut, for instance, has been upgraded to the chocolate malted milkshake. Other unique offerings include Mexican hot chocolate, Twix, and caramel latte donuts—but the Wake ‘n’ Bake is the real must-try. This cinnamon-sugar donut is stuffed with caramel custard, topped with a stroopwafel, and finished off with a pipette of Stumptown’s single-origin cold-brew coffee.
Primo’s Donuts, Los Angeles
The family-owned Primo’s Donuts has been a Los Angeles institution since 1956, withstanding the test of time thanks to its inventive flavors and willingness to adapt to the ever-changing preferences of its customers. Pick up a dozen vegan varieties—including cherry, vanilla, and blueberry—or try longtime staples such as the cinnamon apple donut, orange cake donut with sprinkles, and the maple-bacon crunch bar.
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, Los Angeles and San Francisco
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse is a must-try when you find yourself in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. With plenty of baked goods to go around (and an iconic “I got baked in San Francisco” sign), this spot has become popular over the years and recently expanded into Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood—and it’s easy to see why. The donut menu changes daily but may feature such tantalizing flavors as blackberry jam, hibiscus, and coconut lime.