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Avid donut-eaters are quick to name their favorite brand, kind, and style. They’re an highly personal subject for the even an average foodie, secondly only, perhaps, to coffee—no wonder these two make such a popular comfort combo!

However, while donuts may give us the warm fuzzies–universally considered the masters of soothing emotions–how often should we really be eating them? And, first and foremost, are donuts vegan? May we indulge, period?

Let’s first take a look at how donuts are made to understand what’s exactly responsible for those soft, gooey goodies so many people know and love.

Quick note: We realize that the old-school spelling of these fried favorites is actually “doughnuts,” a mix of the main ingredient and original round shape. But, ever since Dunkin’ Donuts emerged as a leading producer in 1950, a shorter, more phonetic version, “donut,” has become widely used (check out this article by the Huffington Post to learn more about the great debate).

We’ll use the more recent, slightly condensed spelling for the remainder of this post, but we support you in wielding whichever version you prefer!

Common donut ingredients

Tray of raw donuts ready for deep frying

Ever wondered if there’s a difference between what’s in the donuts we buy in packages versus the kind that’s “freshly baked” at our local coffee joint? Surely, the batch at our mom-and-pop shop is more natural, healthier and better tasting, right? Well, we’re here to shed some light on what’s usually advertised as as a stark distinction.

As always, whether or not a food item is vegan depends upon the ingredients used in its creation. In the case of the donut, whether it’s in a box on the shelf of a mass grocer or the window of a corner bakery, according to a detailed article by MadeHow.com, these ingredients only really vary depending upon how its dough leavened—by using yeast or chemicals (See our piece on the use of yeast in baking to learn more about that ingredient’s vegan status).

However, whether chemically-raised using baking powder (commonly known as a cake donut) or leavened using yeast, both forms of donut production almost always incorporate the following several ingredients:

Flour, milk, eggs or egg whites, shortening, salt, sugar and flavorings.

Even further, from mass producers to small bakeries, donut manufacturers may use pre-packaged mixes that not only include egg and milk products to begin with, but then, force the bakers to add additional wet ingredients, such as milk and eggs, during the baking process.

Watch this episode of “How It’s Made” by The Science Channel for some insight into the donut-making process:

Popular donut brands and styles

Now that we’re pretty sure donuts aren’t vegan (in general)—as it sure sounds like it takes a lot of egg and milk products—let’s get specific.

We’ll now look at a few of the most widely consumed donut brands—as well as a couple popular styles of donut—and see if we can actually somehow include them in our cruelty-free canon of culinary delights.

Are Dunkin’ Donuts donuts vegan?

No. After searching through Dunkin Donuts’ website, we can confirm that every single one of their donuts listed contains both milk and eggs.

 

But! Should you ever find yourself one morning meeting a non-vegan friend for coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, their oatmeal, and their Plain, Cinnamon Raisin, Everything, Multigrain and Sesame Seed bagels are all safe choices! (Hint: See our vegan bagel post for more)

 

What about their donut “holes?”

Nope, sorry! Dunkin’ Donuts’ Munchkins have the same ingredients, just a smaller size.

 

Are Krispy Kreme donuts vegan?

No. The Krispy Kreme website clearly states that their products contain eggs (whites and yolks) and dairy products (milk, butter, yogurt, whey, nonfat milk and nonfat whey…that’s a lot of dairy!).

 

Are glazed donuts vegan?

When we looked at the more detailed nutrition content for Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed Donut, for example, we found that their glaze consists of “sugar, water, corn starch, palm oil, calcium sulfate and/or calcium carbonate, agar, dextrose, natural and artificial flavors, salt, disodium phosphate, locust bean gum, and/or mono and diglycerides…” what a mouthful (pun-intended)!

 

So, while glaze by itself is vegan, it would have to be covering a vegan donut in order for the entire product to be considered vegan.

Does a vegan donut exist?

Thankfully, both small bakeries and large restaurants are beginning to catch on and meet the growing demand for vegan-friendly versions of beloved food items. Check out this list of vegan donut shops provided by PETA to see if one’s close to your town.

Are vegan donuts healthy?

box of artisanal vegan dounuts

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that donuts, even the vegan kind, are more often than not fried and highly refined (hence, the many difficult-to-pronounce food-like substances we found within the glaze, alone). This means they’re best kept off your regular dining menu.

So, how often should you have a donut, might you be asking? We realize this answer is different for everyone based on his or her health goals, lifestyle and nutritional preferences. A great option is to get creative and make your own donuts! This way, you’ll have full control over ingredients, anything that’s added like sugar and sweet toppings, and have the power to concoct that happy balance that works for you.

Here’s a wide variety of killer vegan donut recipes to get you started, and also, a great visual example of how donuts can actually become a sweet-yet-nutritionally dense treat!

We hope you’re now better equipped to enter (or continue to venture through) the world of donuts. Rest assured that, although the major donut companies aren’t vegan-friendly, there are some compassionate places out there… such as your very own kitchen!

Please leave us a comment or feel free to pose any “Are Donuts Vegan?” questions below!

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