Fact: Everybody loves doughnuts. And if they tell you they don’t, they’re lying. These are the best chain doughnut shops in America.
There are few foods that are more a part of the American culinary landscape than doughnuts. From being firmly engrained in pop culture (It is the food Homer Simpson dreams about most, after all), to their role in the running joke about cops being obsessed with them, these simple rounds of fried dough have staked their claim as one of the most beloved snack foods out there.
One of the main reasons for the popularity of doughnuts is the fact that the variations are infinite, and there’s plenty of room for both tradition and innovation. Old-school doughnut shops might specialize in a blueberry cake doughnut that sells out every morning, while New York’s Doughnut Plant has built a reputation for itself around delicious inventions like crème brûlée and peanut butter-and-jelly-filled ones. And just like all of the most revered American foods, there’s no shortage of chains that have sprouted up to spread the doughnut gospel far and wide.
In order to assemble our ranking of the best doughnut chains in America, we started by tracking down several dozen doughnut shops with more than 15 locations across the nation — our definition of a chain. We then ranked each one according to a set of criteria: Are the doughnuts baked fresh throughout the day? Is there a good variety, with seasonal options and a rotating menu? Is the chain beloved by its loyal customers, having earned somewhat of a cult following? And for the top of the list, is a visit (and that first bite) a quasi-religious experience?
In the end, our list included beloved local chains as well as the behemoths, all united by their passion for doughnuts, one of the most delicious and deceptively simple foods in existence. Read on for our ranking.
#9 Dunkin' Donuts
The biggest doughnut chain of them all has done more than anyone else to spread the doughnut gospel all across the world. And while doughnuts have taken a bit of a backseat to their savory options and coffee in recent years, this Massachusetts-based chain still sells undeniably tasty doughnuts, with a West Coast expansion underway. Seasonal offerings like Red Velvet Drizzle and the Pumpkin Pie doughnut keep the menu fresh — and who doesn’t love Munchkins?
#8 Krispy Kreme
Since 1937, Krispy Kreme has been baking fresh doughnuts throughout the day and letting customers know when they’re hot via a neon sign in the window. They come in several dozen varieties (including limited-edition ones like banana pudding), but one bite of a hot Original Glazed and you’ll be hooked.
This was originally published in August 2014.