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Who doesn’t love a good doughnut? There is little wonder why this sweet fried confection is loved by both children and adults across the planet. But can people who eat a plant-based diet likewise enjoy doughnuts? Or are they out of the question for vegans?
That is precisely what we wanted to find out. So we decided to investigate these classic favorites to determine once and for all, are doughnuts vegan?
What Are Doughnuts?
Doughnuts — or donuts, depending on who you ask — are a longstanding favorite that’s been around for ages. Made of eggs, yeast dough, butter, and spices, doughnuts are deep-fried little cakes whose history spans several centuries.
They were first introduced to the United States as “oliekoecken” (which means fried cakes or oil cakes) by the Dutch. Back then, the sweetness of doughnuts came from both fruit and sugar. Moreover, the dough was rather sticky, as the use of extra flour served to toughen it up.
The dough was then dripped into the hot rapeseed oil from the end of a spoon. The resulting “doughnuts” came in the form of balls rather than the unique circles we have today. The Dutch typically enjoyed doughnuts during the Christmas season and on special events throughout the rest of the year.
Even the ancient Greeks and Romans were no strangers to doughnuts. However, their preparation was quite a bit different compared to the Dutch. Strips of dough were still fried, but they would be topped with either honey or, believe it or not, fish sauce.
During the 15th century, Germania (Germany, today) had its own version of doughnuts, vastly different as they were. Because sugar wasn’t widely available at the time, the people of Germania would stuff their doughnuts with the likes of mushrooms and various meats.
Of course, today’s doughnuts share little with those of yesteryear. Now, doughnuts famously have a hole in the middle. And those that don’t are filled with custard, cream, or fruit preserves, rather than meaty fillings.
It’s rather interesting how the holes in doughnuts came about. After egg yolks were added to the ingredients, it didn’t take long to realize that even after frying, the centers remained raw. Thus, the centers were simply eliminated to achieve the doughnuts we all know and love today.
Although it was the Dutch who introduced them to Americans, the doughnut has gone on to become a distinct American treat. And due to their wild popularity in the States, many vegans are curious as to whether they can enjoy doughnuts without interfering with their strict diets.
What we found may surprise you, so keep reading to learn more about doughnuts and if they are vegan-friendly.
So, Are Doughnuts Vegan?
We have good news for you — some doughnuts are indeed vegan. However, there’s some bad news, too, and that is that many doughnuts are non-vegan. The issue comes with the many animal-derived ingredients that often get put into either the dough, fillings, toppings, or a combination of the three.
Presently, you may have a hard time finding doughnuts that are vegan-friendly. And those that you do find might not be the best quality. There are some doughnut brands you can find in your grocer’s freezer that are vegan, but they weren’t intentionally made that way.
What’s more, it’s hard for us to recommend those products as being vegan-friendly due to the high number of additives injected into them. Thankfully, you might be able to find fresh-made vegan doughnuts at some bakeries, how ever limited they may be.
As we mentioned earlier, the main issue with doughnuts and vegans is that the dough contains eggs and other animal products. Since the vast majority of doughnut shops use these kinds of ingredients in their doughnut selections, you may find that it’s easier to make your own.
There are plenty of plant-based alternatives for eggs, milk, and butter. And you can find vegan sugar that doesn’t use bone char in its filtering processes.
Sometimes, yeast gets brought up when discussing doughnuts and vegans, as it’s an ingredient in the dough. But yeast is actually part of the fungus family and thus doesn’t pose a problem for vegans.
It’s important to consider the fillings in doughnuts, too. Today, there are many possible fillings for doughnuts. The two most common are jam (usually vegan) and custard (usually not vegan). There are some exceptions to each: occasionally jams that contain gelatin and vegan-friendly custard that doesn’t use cream, eggs, or milk.
Nowadays, donuts may have many other fillings, from chocolate (which can be vegan) to cream (can also be vegan) to fruits (vegan). Basically, you can fill doughnuts with whatever you desire, especially if you’re making them for yourself.
But if you buy your doughnuts from a third party, always double-check the ingredients or ask the baker or manufacturer personally to learn what kind of ingredients are used in the doughnuts.
The same is true for toppings. If you are making your own doughnuts, there is any number of toppings that you can use. Some of the most popular are:
- Powdered sugar
Everything listed above has a vegan option, so you can enjoy traditional-tasting doughnuts without issue. Icing, for example, is simply a mixture of water and sugar. It’s easy to find vegan sugar, so you should have no problem there.
The same holds true for chocolate, butter, and the rest of the toppings. As long as you check the ingredients, you’ll be in good shape.
Are Doughnuts a Good Choice for Vegans?
Not typically. The vast majority of doughnuts that you come across are not going to be a good choice for vegans. Only when you take the time to make them yourself, or if you find specialty shops or brands, can you rest assured that you’re getting vegan-friendly doughnuts.
If those aren’t options for you, be sure to check out our list of foods that are pro-vegan. We detail various brands and restaurants and discuss whether they have vegan offerings.