Not surprisingly, our love of fried dough is universally shared, and we’re lucky we can find a version of the beloved donut nearly everywhere we go. There’s no better time to celebrate the donut in all its forms than today, National Donut Day—so we’ve rounded up ten of the most decadent, glazed, filled and sugared doughy pastries the world has to offer.
These golden balls of fluffy dough are best served straight out of the fryer. Drizzled in honey and dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, they’re perfect for indulging your sweet tooth whether you’re wandering through Athens or soaking up the sun in Santorini.
Historically eaten on Fat Tuesday, pączki hold a beloved place in Polish Lenten tradition. These doughy discs can be covered in either dried orange zest, icing or powdered sugar and filled with everything from fruity jams to Bavarian cream.
Sprinkled with granular or powdered sugar and featuring custard, jelly or cannoli-like ricotta fillings, no two zeppole are the same. These sweet treats are also known as St. Joseph’s Day cakes, since they are commonly sold at street fairs and given as gifts during the holiday.
Even though they’re not donuts in the traditional sense, churros are an adaptation of the pastry that still warrant a mention. Made using choux dough that’s been piped through a star-shaped nozzle, these fried sticks are then rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with hot chocolate.
A popular Hanukkah-time staple, these jelly or custard-filled donuts are eaten in remembrance of the Temple oil miracle. What sets these goodies apart is the technique that’s used to make them—instead of injecting the donuts with filling after they’ve been fried, in classic preparation, it’s added before their swim in the hot oil bath.
At a glance, balushahis may look like your typical, everyday ring donuts but up close they’re anything but. Made using maida flour (a variety that’s similar to cake flour) and clarified butter instead of frying oil, these sugary, syrup-dipped confections have a distinct texture and taste.
Though they take their name from the Dutch word koekje, meaning “cookie,” don’t be fooled by their translation—with a honey-like flavor, plaited shape and crisp texture koeksisters are nothing like their rounder, flatter cousins. And the secret behind their sticky exterior? Dunking the freshly fried desserts into a vat of ice cold glaze.
Stuffed with fillings like chocolate, custard, jam and marmalade, then topped with a sprinkling of sugar, these airy yeast donuts are a favorite treat throughout Germany. If you plan to grab one for a snack around April Fool’s Day, though, beware—tricksters tend to fill a select few with mustard as a practical joke.
When New Year’s Eve rolls around, the Dutch start making this holiday favorite by the dozen. With a name that translates directly to “oil balls,” Oliebollen are made from a yeast dough (usually with raisins, currants or other dried fruits mixed in) that’s spooned into hot oil and fried.
Picarones are what you get when you take a sweet potato-based dough, fry it and then douse the piping hot result in molasses syrup topping. Sound delicious? Because it does to us, and it’s no surprise that Peruvians have been eating these ring-shaped treats for hundreds of years.
What kinds of donuts have you tried during your travels? Tell us about your favorites below.