America's 25 Best Donuts

There are few treats that are more delicious than a freshly fried doughnut. And from a plain glazed one in Texas that's an essentially perfect representation of the form to a blueberry cake donut in California that has developed a legion of followers, we've tracked down the country's 25 best.

America's 25 Best Donuts (Slideshow)

Before we get to our list, though, there's one important question worth asking, and it's a trickier one than you might think: What, exactly, is a doughnut? It is any sort of sweetened, fried pastry? Well, not exactly. For our purposes, we're defining a doughnut as an item that you would expect to see in a doughnut shop: the familiar ones we know and love (of both the raised and cake varieties), crullers, apple fritters, and other donut-shop classics — you know them when you see them. For this reason, the Cronut, an invention that's really only 50 percent doughnut (the other half is a croissant), and regional specialties like the sopapilla and the beignet, which are completely distinct foods that you don't find in everyday doughnut shops, weren't considered for our ranking. There are plenty of amazing true-to-form doughnuts out there, so we hewed as closely to tradition as possible (while keeping room for wild creativity, of course). As for doughnut shop chains, well, that's a whole other ranking. 

In order to assemble our ranking, we stuck to strict criteria in looking for the best individual doughnuts in America: Freshness is key, as great doughnuts need to be served right out of the fryer. Are these legendary doughnuts that have become things of cultish devotion at the shop that sells them? We considered both plain glazed and extravagantly topped creations, but there needed to be a balance between all the components, be it bacon or blueberry jelly. Most importantly, these doughnuts need to be groan-inducingly good: fresh, soft, gooey, perfectly proportioned, and intended to leave you wanting just one more bite. 

Another quality that makes doughnuts such a wonderful food is the fact that they're usually incredibly inexpensive and democratic: World-class doughnut shops are oftentimes incredibly humble, family-run operations, selling their wares for sometimes less than a dollar. Anyone can experience a world-class doughnut for a handful of coins.

Doughnuts are one of the world's perfect foods, and these ones are about as perfect as a doughnut can be.