Ask yourself: What, exactly, is a donut? At The Daily Meal, we define a donut as an item that you would expect to see in a donut shop: the familiar ones we know and love (of both the raised and cake varieties), like crullers, apple fritters, and other donut-shop classics — you know them when you see them.
So, in order to assemble our most-recent ranking of the 25 best in the country, we more than doubled the number on the previous list from the year before. We stuck to strict criteria in looking for the best individual donuts in America: Freshness is key; are these legendary donuts — ones that inspire cultish devotion to the shop that sells them? We considered both plain glazed and extravagantly topped creations, but there must be a balance between all the components, be it bacon or blueberry jelly. Most importantly, these donuts need to be almost too good: fresh, soft, gooey, perfectly proportioned, and intended to leave you wanting just one more bite. There were over two dozen we believed deserved to be included on our list, and as it turns out, four can be found in California.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning, a handful of donuts in several varieties are fried up at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro before it opens for lunch and are served (very quickly) at his next-door bakery. At about $3 each, they’re certainly not cheap, but the rich confections of brioche-like, buttery dough filled with fresh-made, seasonal preserves demonstrate creative ingenuity and an adherence to only fresh, seasonal ingredients, and the end result is something the country’s most renowned chef can be proud to tack his name to.
They’re so good, they made it all the way to #4 on our national list, beating out the peanut butter, banana, and chocolate chips donut at Stan’s Donuts in L.A. (#5); the blueberry cake donut at Danny’s Donuts in Vista (#6); and the fresh peach and strawberry donut at The Donut Man in Glendora (#10) This means that chef Keller’s seasonal jelly donut is not only the fourth-best donut in the country, it’s also the title winner of the best donut in California.