This article was updated from its original version.
There are doughnuts, as in the convenience store kind, and then there are doughnuts — as in sweet rings of deep-fried dough. Well, doing doughnuts in the Valley just got a lot more fun thanks to an influx of ingenious flavors and doughnut slingers unafraid to think outside the box.
Not that we’re knocking apple fritters (as if!), but with crème brulee and kronuts calling your name, the Valley is raising its doughnut game.
Black and Blue at Short Leash Hotdogs + Rollover Doughnuts4221 North Seventh Street
Owners Brad and Kat Moore don’t make boring doughnuts. Instead of regular old doughnut dough, they use hand-rolled brioche — a richer and sweeter base thanks to extra eggs and butter. Then there’s the lineup. Sure, Short Leash Hotdogs + Rollover Doughnuts has the sprinkle-topped variety, but also Spicy Thai Coconut, Triple Chocolate, and a booze-filled doughnut for the over-21 crowd. But it’s the Black and Blue that left us weak in the knees. That sweet dough paired with the tart punch of the jam filling paired with the gritty crunch of the course, lavender finishing sugar is like an opposites attract attack of taste and texture. Your only defense: Close your eyes and savor the onslaught.
Apple Fritter at Beyond Donuts & Café8110 West Union Hills Drive, #208
You haven’t tried an apple fritter until you’ve tried this apple fritter, a glistening, glorious gem of deep fried perfection. It's created by owner Seath Duk of Beyond Donuts & Café, a true doughnut dude with 20 years experience under his baking apron. This blurb is a love note to you. Your fritter is bomb — all peaks and valleys and glaze for days with just the right tang of apple to cut through the sweet. But it’s the dough we adore with those chewy globs of glazed goodness that somehow get better with each bite. So thank you Fritter Man, and keep the magic coming.
Lemon Basil Kronut at Karl’s Quality Bakery111 East Dunlap Avenue
Kronuts (croissant doughnuts) are no ordinary doughnuts and this one at Karl’s Quality Bakery is no ordinary kronut. Basil-flavored butter and lemon zest are layered into the dough which is then proofed, deep-fried, and rolled in lemon basil sugar. The flaky creation is sliced in half and piped with a lemon curd whipped cream combo. Each component, from the sugar’s flash-baked basil flakes to the filling’s subtle pucker, plays off the other for a sweet, tangy, monster mouthfeel. Pop the lid and lick the filling or eat it sandwich-style — either way you’ll pick up on all the decadent, delicate, nuanced flavors. Köstlich-in good!
Buttermilk at Donut Worry Coffee & Smoothies9115 East Baseline Road, Mesa
No worries, you’ll be very happy after inhaling this doughnut at Donut Worry Coffee & Smoothies. It’s the kind of back-to-basics buttermilk that will make you forget all those hip doughnut dressings that usually involve bacon, so you can get back to an OG doughnut done right. And this one is done right. Slightly tangy, perfectly crispy, all craggy and crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. The fry oil penetrates the dough just enough so it’s simultaneously crunchy, gooey, and oh so sweet. Even day old, this one stands up.
Crème Brulee at The Local Donut3213 North Hayden Road, Scottsdale
Crème brulee is a solid dessert, even sigh-inducing if it’s done right. But this doughnut. This doughnut! By adding deep-fried dough, glazed goodness, and caramelization to the mix, it’s like crème brulee on crack at The Local Donut. Let’s start with the filling — a custardy creation that imbues the already delicious dough with a pudding-like consistency. Not that this doughnut is all ooey gooey. The architecture of the exterior is spongy yet solid with a sugar glaze, slightly torched and topped with what might be the most perfect raspberry (just look at that berry). One bit takes you from hard to soft to oh my gosh.
Coconut Crumb at BoSa DonutsMultiple Locations
Ask your friends their favorite doughnut, and no doubt BoSa Donuts will be brought up with fandom and fury usually reserved for football. We get it. It’s a locally owned chain with a ton of locations, and you can totally go in your PJs at night thanks to 24-hour drive-thru. It’s an absolute institution, but does one flavor stand out from the rest? Yes, it’s the buttermilk … no, wait, it’s the honey cruller. Actually, can we change that to the coconut crumb?
Anything at Donut Parlor1245 West Elliot Road, Tempe
Donut Parlor has a bone to pick with all those ordinary doughnuts out there. You know, the ones so coated with in-your-face sweetness, and all you can taste is grease and sugar. Owner Chhaya Tan’s deep-fried creations are way more nuanced than that. Instead of the usual doughnut dough, Chhaya lets his rise not once, not thrice, but four times to create a barrier so fryer grease doesn’t just soak in and take over. That means real flavors have a chance to sing, from the citrusy hint in the lemon poppy seed to the real blueberries in the jam filling. Choosing just one is like picking a favorite child — near impossible — but when a half-dozen is just $6, thankfully you don’t have to.
Coconut Cream at Dutch Donut Factory1152 North Power Road, Mesa
The “Best Donuts In Town” emblazoned on the window at Dutch Donut Factory is the first sign. Regulars ordering a dozen to go but not getting out the door before downing at least two is the second. Yes, you’re in the store for something special and one bite into their coconut cream proves it. Filled doughnuts can go either way, but balance is the name of the game here. This puffy, light, yeasty delight delivers just the right ratio of toasty topper to chewy dough to glazed sweetness to creamy filling so your taste buds get a textured, tasty treat.
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Maple Pecan Apple Fritter at Welcome Chicken + Donuts1535 East Buckeye Road
Welcome’s doughnuts checks all the cool kid boxes: artisan vanilla (check); infused glazes (check); non-GMO flour (check); organic sugar (check); pistachios (check). The doughnuts are as Instagrammable as the wall-drawn illustrations, but is there substance behind their bacon-topped style? Yes, and this maple pecan apple fritter makes the case. Mounds of intensely chewy yeasted dough are smothered in just the right amount of maple glaze and submitted with a sprinkle of pecans for a doughnut that’s more journey than destination.
Red Velvet at Lucky Donuts2510 West Thunderbird Road
At first glance, this local doughnut hole looks like all the rest. It’s in a strip mall, it deals dozens in pink boxes, and it whips up boba tea. Pretty standard. But look closer and the case is a cut above at Lucky Donuts. The rattle snakes are perfectly coiled, the crullers expertly dipped, and the sprinkles evenly dispersed. But it’s that red velvet that truly stole our heart. It's a cakey cut above, all moist and crumbly with just the right amount of glaze — plain delicious and totally dunkable.