What is a Doughnut?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A doughnut, also spelled as donut, is a type of sweet deep fried pastry. Variations on doughnuts are popular all over the world, where they are called by a wide variety of names, although the basic incarnation of fried sweet dough remains the same. The doughnut is often sprinkled with sugar or other toppings, and may be frosted or glazed as well. Associated in some nations with breakfast, the doughnut is generally agreed to be a sweet and delicious indulgence. Some countries also consume donut holes, a nod to the missing chunk of pastry in a classical doughnut.

Doughnuts are sweet, fried pastries that are eaten for dessert or breakfast.
Doughnuts are sweet, fried pastries that are eaten for dessert or breakfast.

Doughnuts and other fried pastries have been made for centuries, and are popular treats in many countries. Food historians suspect that the doughnut originated from leftover scraps of dough which needed to be used up. Early doughnuts were often made with fillings of fruit or sweets. Enterprising cooks formed the dough into various shapes, including knots, and the doughnut was formed. In the United States, a Captain Mason Gregory is credited with the invention of the classic round doughnut, which cooks quickly and evenly in a deep fryer.

There are two primary divisions of doughnut: yeast doughnuts and cake doughnuts. The yeast doughnut hails back to the origins of doughnuts as leftover baking scraps, and tends to be lighter and fluffier with a distinctive yeasty flavor which some consumers find quite appealing. Yeast doughnuts are sometimes baked, as this is perceived to be healthier than deep frying. Cake doughnuts are heavier, with a denser cake-like texture to them. Those known as "old fashioned” doughnuts are usually cake doughnuts.

Fried pastries come in many shapes, but the doughnut is usually only recognized as a circular pastry with a hole in the middle. Doughnuts can be filled or glazed, but the basic shape will remain the same. When cooked properly, the doughnut will retain a round shape and a crisp exterior. This means that the oil was hot enough to sear the doughnut so oil would not leach inside, making it heavy and oily in flavor. Doughnuts are relatively easy and fun to make at home, and the flavor is well worth the effort.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I am having trouble getting my donuts to fully cook inside. Any suggestions?


How can we make a good dough when making doughnuts? We need to know because we are doing a project and we can't make a good doughnut. Please help. Another thing: we are making it with kneaded squash. Is this possible?


Hi. i am doing my work on donuts and i was wondering: how come not all donuts have holes?


I've always wondered what was the proper spelling -- doughnut or donut. Actually, as I type this out, my Firefox spell checker is showing doughnut as the wrong spelling. Still, from what I've heard, doughnut is the proper spelling and donut is the shortened, revised spelling. Apparently, donut is more common in the US, and doughnut is more common outside of the US. Makes sense to me. Americans seem to frequently shorten things....

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