Where to Get the Best Doughnuts in New York City
Here's where to find the finest fried dough in the Big Apple.
A City Guide to Fried Dough
The doughnut craze is still going strong in NYC, with people flocking to reliable old-school favorites and popular newer spots with more unique and trendy flavors. While there are several doughnut-dedicated shops throughout New York City, some of the best are sold exclusively at restaurants and coffee shops. Find out where to go for the finest fried dough in the Big Apple.
Photography courtesy of @foodbabyny
The best, most-inventive and straight-up fun cake doughnuts are available once (sometimes twice) a week at this Queens brunch mecca. Every Sunday, "Donut Diva" Montana D'Alessio Barbieri, the sister of owner Donnie, concocts a new flavor, often riffing on current holidays or events. She and her husband, Nick, continually crank out fresh, hot and huge cake doughnuts topped with their signature doughnut holes throughout the bustling brunch shift. Whether you choose one of the more wild and colorful flavors covered with cereal and rainbow sprinkles or one of the more understated and simple ones like the Pumpkin Butterscotch, you can't go wrong. The food here is always destination-worthy, but the added bonus of doughnuts and other surprise sweet treats from Donut Diva on Sundays makes Sunday the required day to visit. If you can't get here early enough and don't want to commit to the inevitable line, you can always run in and grab some doughnuts to go.
In what seemed like a silly hipster joke when it started, this operation serving freshly fried doughnuts from a tiny stall in the Westside Highway Car Wash is actually one of the best of the best of the full-service cake doughnut shops. Scott Levine initially attracted a lot of well-deserved attention here not just for the quirky location, but for the unique Halva Doughnut, one of the several must-try flavors from the always changing rotation. The Dark Chocolate and Brown Butter — as well as one of the latest creations, the Passion Fruit with Chocolate Pearls — should be at the top of your list to order. If you prefer something simpler, they also employ a doughnut robot that cranks out piping-hot fresh plain doughnuts, which can be rolled in a sugar flavoring of your choice, such as Espresso Bean or Coco Raspberry. If you don't need a car wash, or the remote West Side location is too far a haul, you can pick up a variety of the eatery's flavors from several coffee shops around town, including Everyman Espresso, Plowshares Coffee Roasters and Joe Coffee.
The Doughnut Project
The newest doughnut spot to open, and also the one churning out the most-inventive and -unique flavors, this fun graffiti- and Star Wars-heavy shop is run by Troy Neal and Leslie Polizzotto, who — lucky for us — met by chance while Neal was bartending at Eataly. He is now frying up some of the best yeast doughnuts in the city, with ingenious new flavors popping up all the time. They recently started getting the attention they always deserved from heavy media buzz brought on by their Everything Bagel Doughnut, topped with a sweet cream cheese glaze and a salty, savory seasoning that works surprisingly well. The bright-pink Beet Ricotta and the impressive-looking Maple Bacon Bar are the originals that are the definite must-try flavors, along with the addictively salty Chocolate with Buttered Pretzels. They run one-off specials for a day or two here and there, so be on the lookout for stuff like the delightfully sweet Mango Bango (if you see Neal there, ask him for the details on that name). They’ve also started expanding their reach to other coffee shops in the city, such as The Uncommons, Elk Coffee and The Chipped Cup uptown.
She initially started Dough in a less accessible little storefront in Bed-Stuy, but Fany Gerson now offers fluffy yeast doughnuts fried to perfection on practically every block in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Dough really began to take off after long lines formed at its stand at Smorgasburg and other food festivals. Now, the bright and beautiful Hibiscus doughnut (and several other varieties) can be enjoyed in scores of coffee shops, including a more convenient shop in the Flatiron District, and now dedicated stands in the City Kitchen and Urbanspace Vanderbilt food halls. The classics like the Cafe au Lait and Dulce de Leche are musts, but if you make it into the flagship store, try some of the more rarely seen flavors, such as the Nutella-filled bombs or the occasional rotating specials — think Green Velvet Cheesecake for St. Patrick’s Day.
The pioneer for artisan doughnuts in NYC is still going strong after more than 20 years with some of the best yeast and cake doughnuts in the city. In fact, Doughnut Plant is the top shop that nails both styles so well. After expanding from a tiny original location to a much bigger one with more seating and then opening up a second location in Chelsea, Doughnut Plant has more recently expanded into both Brooklyn and Queens. You can also find the shop's signature and seasonal specials at several other locations, like Toby's Estate Coffee and Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, where they will make you a doughnut ice cream sandwich. Considering one of the largest selections of flavors, it’s tough to choose, but for a good intro to all of the styles they offer, go with the square Peanut Butter and Blackberry Jam yeast doughnut, the popular Tres Leches cake doughnut and the little Creme Brulee Doughseed, filled with vanilla cream.
Moe's Doughs and Peter Pan
Rather than taking up two spots on the list, these shops can be grouped together due to their shared history, similar style and quality of doughnuts — and their close proximity to each other. While Peter Pan has been around since the 1950s serving up classic doughnuts like its Blueberry Buttermilk, one of the bakers who had worked there for several years left in 2014 to open Moe's Doughs a few blocks away in the same neighborhood of Greenpoint. Mohamed Saleh uses the same recipes employed at Peter Pan, but he applies them to several new flavors. Peter Pan is a New York institution that should be visited early in the day (especially on the weekend) before flavors sell out. But if you want more variety and the same great-tasting doughnuts, head to Moe's, which recently hopped aboard the rainbow train and received some social media attention for its unique rainbow-hued doughnut, which has more to it than just food coloring and deserves a taste.
Don't be deterred by the huge crowd waiting out front for a table at Pies-N-Thighs in Williamsburg. Instead, step inside and head to the register to find a large selection of doughnuts that are just as worthy of praise as the much-lauded pies. The flavors rotate all the time with fun surprises like a massive, rich Chocolate Peppermint during the winter holidays, but make sure you try the Butter Pecan Crunch, one of the shop's finest creations. In Manhattan, make sure to visit Pies-N-Thighs' newer, larger space near Chinatown, which has the unique Sourdough Doughnuts, not available at the original location.
Dan Dunbar and Christopher Hollowell (get the name now?) opened the first all-vegan doughnut shop in 2011 and have been going strong ever since. Offering a dozen flavors that change every week, they always seem to have several peanut butter varieties on hand, which is the strong move here. You can't go wrong with the Chocolate PB&J or the Chunky Peanut Butter. If you aren't a peanut butter person for some unfortunate reason, there is usually a wide array of beautiful fruity glazes as well; the Orange Pistachio and Wildberry Macadamia are both very sweet and fluffy options.
For some of the best no-frills doughnuts around, head to Brooklyn to experience another timeless old-school bakery. Originally opened in the 1960s, Leske's closed briefly in 2011 but reopened soon after with several of the original bakers, who brought back the same beloved cakes, black-and-white cookies, signature Kringlers and, of course, some good old-fashioned doughnuts. The absolute must here is the best-in-class Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnut. The soft yeast pocket topped with a sweet peanut butter frosting and filled with a tart blackberry jam is worth the trek out to Bay Ridge.
The doughnut program at Gossip Coffee is run by the eccentric Scottish Francis, aka Francis Legge, a former contestant of MasterChef. For a perfect complement to the large selection of artisan coffees and teas, try his signature Prosciutto Guinness, a huge soft disc that is denser and chewier than most yeast doughnuts. It's a fun spin on the usual maple-bacon variation, but it is still one of the more normal flavors compared to the other crazy stuff here, such as the Everything Doughnut, which is topped with literally every topping at the chef's disposal, and several more booze-infused varieties that are on rotation all the time. He will often whip up kooky specials to respond to current events: His special Popenut coincided with the papal visit to NYC, and his striking Ziggy Stardust doughnut honored David Bowie.