A Mini-Guide to International Donuts

By Kelly Dobkin  |  November 13, 2013
Credit: Danya Henninger

While fall is a perfect time to enjoy the beloved American version of the donut (with a steaming hot mug of cider), every cuisine and culture seems to have its own spin on the deep-fried pastry as well. Check out a few different types of donuts from around the world in the slide show below and find where to get them in a town near you. (And no, cronuts are not one of them.)

  • Beignets

    This classic French fried pastry is made from fried choux dough (the same used in profiteroles) and often is dusted with powdered sugar. While the origin of the dish is French, they are most famously associated (and served) in the city of New Orleans. First brought to the Big Easy by the Acadians (the same French colonists that settled in Quebec), they are now enjoyed all over the country, including at Seattle's RockCreek, where these golf ball-sized pastries are filled with ricotta, brown sugar and caramelized apples. The accompanying vanilla bean creme Anglaise makes for a refined dipping sauce.

  • Sufganiyah

    Traditionally a staple around Chanukah time, this Jewish take on the donut consists of deep-fried dough stuffed with jelly or custard and then dusted with powdered sugar on top. With all the Thanksgivukkah craziness happening this year, we'd be remiss not to tell you what NYC's Zucker Bakery is doing for the occasion. In honor of overlap of Thanksgiving and Chanukah this year (they start on the same day), Zucker is preparing four different varieties of pumpkin sufganiyah, including two that are turkey-stuffed. Options include turkey and gravy, turkey and cranberry, or just cranberry, plus one more sweet version made from sweet potato with toasted marshmallow cream filling. Yes please!

  • Loukoumades

    This Greek spin on the donut may be one of the oldest in history: apparently, these were served to winners of the Olympics in Ancient Greece. Today they are simply deep-fried balls of dough soaked with honey, cinnamon and sometimes sesame. Niko Niko's Greek & American Cafe in Houston is the only place in town to offer this specialty pastry other than the annual Greek festival. You can try them there by the half or full order.

  • Buñuelos

    Spain's OTHER donut (besides the churro), is beloved by not only Spaniards but also by denizens throughout Latin America and parts of Europe. The simple dough often is flavored with anise, then shaped into a disc or, more commonly, into round balls (not much different from donut holes). LA's Petty Cash and Red O both have these on the menu.

  • Zeppole

    You may have already tried these at your local street fair, but this Italian donut is also a deep-fried dough ball that's topped with powdered sugar and sometimes filled with custard or jelly. Traditionally served on St. Joseph's Day in March, you can find these year-round at a variety of restaurants. At Boston's Cinquecento, they come with whipped ricotta, orange and ginger syrup. In Dallas, at Cane Rosso, they toss 'em in powdered sugar and serve with a side of warm chocolate sauce and berry compote. 

  • Pącski

    The Polish version of donuts commonly are eaten on Fat Thursday (the day after Ash Wednesday) before Lent is observed as a "use up" for all the fatty ingredients laying around the house. Pacski dough is especially rich and is shaped into a flat round before it's filled with jam and dusted with powdered sugar, icing and/or orange zest. Sometimes a bit of alcohol is added to the dough before cooking. You can get these most of the year at Chicago's Delightful Pastries.