Beyond Funnel Cake: 6 Doughnuts You Had No Idea Existed

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s fried dough…

Rosettes are deep-fried pastries made using intricately designed irons.

In Brazil, doughnuts are referred to as sonho, which literally translates to the word “dream.” We couldn’t agree more with that translation. In fact, with so many varieties of doughnuts around the world, there are more than a handful that look less like doughnuts and more like the stuff of wild dreams. Really: there are doughnuts that are bright, translucent orange. There are doughnuts that float in syrup. There are dreamlike doughnuts made right here in America that most Americans don’t even know about.

We’re not talking about one-of-a-kind doughnuts you didn’t know existed, like the one stuffed with bacon mac and cheese or the bacon hot dog with a Krispy Kreme bun. Rather, we’re rounding up doughnuts that are pretty normal to eat in other countries. So let’s take a look outside the boxes of our most beloved doughnut chains and see how the rest of the world interprets fried dough.

Brown Bobby (USA)

Not to be confused with the musician Bobby Brown, a Brown Bobby is a triangular doughnut that was manufactured in Chicago during the 1920s. This depression-era treat is packed with lard and can only be made with an antiquated Brown Bobby Machine that sells for as high as $800.

Zulbiā (Iran)

Similar to the jalebi in India, Iranian zulbiā is made by deep-frying wheat flour batter in scribbly masses. They get their bright orange coloring from turmeric and saffron.

Rosettes (Sweden)

Rosettes are often described as cookies, but make no mistake: they are deep-fried pastries made using intricately designed irons. They are usually served at Christmastime, and their edges are sometimes dipped in frosting or sugar.

Sel Roti (Nepal)

Nepalese sel roti are both a breakfast food and special-occasion treat enjoyed during Nepali religious festivals of Dashain and Tihaar.  These ring-shaped donuts are made with rice flour and fried thin and crispy.

Koeksister (South Africa)

This syrup-coated doughnut either comes in a sweet, braided shape (the Afrikaner version) or as a spicy treat topped off with coconut (the Cape Malay version). They are named after the Afrikaans term meaning “polite gossiping among spinsters.”

Jin deui (China)


Unlike the Brazilian word for doughnuts, which means “dream,” jin deui, a small sphere of glutinous rice flour, translates to the less elegant “fried pile.” When cooked, a hollow forms inside the ball, which is then filled with lotus or sweet black bean paste. Coated in sesame seeds, jin deui is a common dim sum treat.