Let’s face it, any time is a good time for donuts. Morning, afternoon or late night, there’s always room for a donut outing to satisfy those sweet tooth cravings. The history of American donuts, traditional round pieces of fried dough with a hole in the center, can be traced back to the 1800s. However, from an international standpoint, American donuts are just a fraction of the world’s donut population.
While the term donut is universal, there are many variations, all with different shapes, sizes, textures, toppings, and filling. It seems the simplicity of frying dough and modifying it to match the culture has become much more than just food.
So, just to show you what you’ve been missing, here’s some donut alternatives for you to sink your teeth into once that donut craving sets in.
Italy — Bomboloni
In Italy, bomboloni are small, round pastries, traditionally stuffed with custard, chocolate,and marmalade, and coated with granular sugar.
Mexico — Churros
While the country of origin is heavily debated, one thing everyone can agree on is that churros are delicious. While theoretically created somewhere in Spain, these pillars of fried dough are rolled in cinnamon and sugar and may contain filling. Churros have become very popular in American culture, appearing at county fairs, amusement parks, and even setting precedent for new churro-based ice cream shops. In Mexico, churros are usually best served with hot fudge or melted chocolate and are made for dunking.
Israel — Sufganiyot
This Israelian pastry is a Middle Eastern version of the jelly donut. In Israel, sufganiyots are a popular treat made specifically during the annual celebration of Hanukkah. Traditionally, these treats are stuffed with jelly or custard, and topped with powdered sugar.
India — Balushahi
If you’re looking for donuts in India, you might want to try a balushahi or badusha. This sweet, flaky version of a glazed donut is deep-fried in clarified butter and take a healthy dip in sugar syrup.
South America — Buñuelos
Buñuelos are very popular in several parts of South America including Colombia, Guatemala, as well as Spain and Morocco across the pond. The dough is traditionally rolled into a ball and fried. In Mexico, buñuelos are usually served with syrup and made with a type of sugar called piloncillo, which is made from boiled sugar cane juice.
South Asia — Jalebi
This spiral-shaped pastry is native to South Asia and is referred to as a zulbia in some regions. Jalebi is made traditionally made by deep-frying wheat flour batter into the shape of a pretzel or a funnel cake. The sweet tip is a healthy soak of sugar syrup for added saccharine measure.
France — Beignet
Perhaps one of the world’s most popular donut pastries is France’s beignet. This light, fluffy treat is made with a deep fried dough known as choux. In the U.S., it is ommonly served as a breakfast pastry topped with heaps of powdered sugar.
Germany — Berliner
This jelly-filled pastry shares similarities to Israel's sufganiyot pastry, as well as the traditional jelly donut of the United States. Berliners were primarily made as a celebratory food for New Years, but thanks to an irresistible taste, Berliners have found a permanent function as a delicious dessert all year long.
The Netherlands — Oliebol
This Dutch pastry had origin that was said to have been with early Germanic tribes during the Yule period between December 26 to to January 6.. Also known as smoutebollen, Dutch donuts, or Dutchies, oliebol pastries have become a respected version of fried dough across the globe.
Turkey — Lokma
This dessert pastry is local to Turkey, Greece, and Egypt. These bite-sized pieces of fried dough are usually covered with a simple syrup, honey, or chocolate when served. The word “lokma” actually means “morsel” or “mouthful,” which is a clear indication of what folks want to have of these.
South Africa — Koeksister
Pronounced “coke-sister,” the popular South African dessert, koeksister, is named after the Dutch word “koek,” for confectionery. Resembling the American glazed twist donut, but in a more concise braid, this delightful pastry is one of the most iconic treats of South Africa..
Northern Africa — Sfenj
This North African pastry is often compare to a fritter, thanks to its crispy exterior, and it’s buttery softness inside. They’re usually served up doused with sugar or dipped in honey for breakfast with a cup of mint tea. Makes for an ideal first meal of the day, I’d say.
Poland — Pączki
This Polish desert is similar to the American donut in shape and texture. Traditionally, Polish pączkies are made with a minimal amount of grain alcohol. Other tasty deets include these treats served up with fruit and cream fillings including, custard, raspberry, and apple.
China — Youtiao
Youtiao are a savory Chinese donut lightly salted and typically served for breakfast with rice porridge. Clearly breakfast being the most important meal of the day knows no bounds.
The Caribbean — Johnny Cakes
In the Caribbean, johnnycakes are the fried dough of choice — even if they’re a typical staple in New England cuisine — by way of the local Native Americans — with an origin from Rhode Island. Expect these to be enjoyed like a pancake, with honey, syrup or other sweet toppings.