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It seems fitting that the hometown of Simpsons creator Matt Groening is best known for his star character’s favorite food: the small but mighty donut. Even though neighborhood mom-and-pop shops have been satisfying sweet tooths in Portland, OR, since the 1980s, it was Voodoo Doughnut’s pink boxes and left-field flavors—which started with wild, now-discontinued varieties like a much-mythologized NyQuil donut, and have become only slightly tamer with time—that put Portland on the map as a donut destination in the early aughts. At Voodoo, the simple donut was reimagined as a canvas for experimentation. These “nonconformist doughnuts,” as Anthony Bourdain once called them, struck a chord in this capital of all things quirky, and have been our city’s most recognizable culinary marker ever since.
While the much-talked-and-written-about Voodoo may have been many people’s intro to the Portland donut scene, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. These days, locals and visitors alike have a wide variety of donut shops and styles to choose from. The best donuts in the city include made-to-order minis, vegan-friendly donuts that rival the best milk-and-egg-based options out there, and pillowy brioche.
Donuts largely fit into two categories: yeast-raised and cake donuts. The classic yeast-raised donut, which you’ll find glazed and stuffed throughout Portland, is known for its soft, fluffy texture and delicate, golden fry. Cake donuts, like the old-fashioned with its tapered ridges and cracks, are made with sweet cake dough and baking soda or baking powder, then oil-fried or baked for a crunchy shell; they boast a denser, chewier, and more crumbly texture. But as you eat your way through Portland, you’ll see these are far from the only two styles on offer.
The last few years of the pandemic have not been easy for Portland’s donut shops, with some truly beloved spots closing (we miss you, NOLA Doughnuts, and your flaky, laminated la’ssants). But a new set of shops are bringing exciting options to the city. A donut-tasting odyssey should encompass it all, from humble, neighborhood shops that have been quietly churning out delicious fried-dough treats for years, to innovative new entrants to Portland’s donut scene, like springy mochi donuts that pay tribute to the city’s diverse food culture.
Here are the eight best spots in Portland to grab a donut—or a dozen.
Pip's Original Doughnuts & Chai
There’s nearly always a line outside this cozy, two-room doughnut shop on NE Fremont Street in Northeast Portland—You’ll understand why as soon as you pop one of the bite-sized donuts into your mouth. Husband-wife duo Nate and Jamie Snell opened the shop in 2013, and their take on the fried-dough staple comes in the form of compact state fair-style cake donuts that are made to order.
The donuts at Pip’s are fried hot and fast for a slightly crunchy exterior and chewy interior. Some are rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture, others drizzled with raw honey or Nutella and sprinkled with sea salt. My favorite is the Candied Bacon Maple, which features a sugary, chewy mound of maple syrup-candied bacon bits piled into a donut's center and dusted with confectioners' sugar. Another menu mainstay is the Reggie Lee, named after the actor who played a significant role in the Portland-based fantasy series Grimm. Bringing together three of Pip’s signature flavors, the donut is rolled in cinnamon sugar and then drizzled with Nutella and honey for the best of all worlds.
Pip’s is equally well-known for its housemade chai in flavors like the Smokey Robinson (cocoa, cinnamon, and clove) or the zesty Ginger Rogers, featuring spicy ginger and sun-dried Thai chili. As a chai lover, I constantly go back and forth about which is my favorite. I recommend first-timers get the chai flight to go with their donuts.
After picking up your order, try to grab a table in the nearly-always-packed dining area, where string lights dangle and Jamie has painted the walls with fluffy clouds. A just-opened new location in nearby Beaverton alleviates some of the wait time and spreads Pip’s warm, welcoming, and community-centered message further through the Portland area.
Order: An assorted dozen with two of every flavor, so you can try all the classics as well as the seasonal specialty. Plus the chai flight.
Blue Star Donuts
From its inventive flavors to its high-quality dough, Blue Star Donuts is a serious contender for the fanciest donuts in Portland. Entering any of its clean and contemporary outposts, the donuts stand out with their neat shapes, beautiful colors, and varied textures—from glossy glazes to crumbly coatings. Decorations are simple but striking, like the eye-catching purple and black-specked glaze of the Blueberry Bourbon Basil or the sugar-like spiced olive oil powder on the popular Orange Olive Oil donut.
Since opening in 2012, Blue Star has rapidly expanded to multiple locations around Portland, and as far afield as Los Angeles. The secret to its gourmet donuts is a signature brioche dough. Flour, butter, and eggs come together before being left to proof. The entire 18-hour production process results in a soft and airy donut. The lovingly crafted brioche is used for classic donuts, thick fritters, and filled doughnuts in flavors like passion fruit-cacao nib, and decadent chocolate almond ganache. Along with its brioche donuts, Blue Star has also expanded to wonderfully dense old-fashioned ones in flavors like lemon poppy seed.
Order: Choose between four, six, or 12 donuts, so you can experience the fluffy texture of the brioche alongside the rich, chewy cake donuts. Highlights include the Cointreau Crème Brûlée and the Orange Olive Oil, whose orange-vanilla cake and olive oil powder coating will transport you to the Amalfi Coast. Wash it all down with a refreshing iced matcha or a nitro cold brew made in collaboration with local Coava Coffee Roasters.
Mikiko Mochi Donuts
Mochi donuts are all the rage in Portland right now, and Mikiko was at the forefront of this chewy wave. Inspired by her family’s mochitsuki mochi-making traditions, Emily Mikiko Strocher and her partner Alex McGillivray started Mikiko as a pop-up in 2020, pivoting to donut deliveries and selling at local stores during the pandemic. In 2022, the pair opened a sun-filled brick-and-mortar near the buzzy Kerns neighborhood in Northeast Portland.
Unlike most mochi donuts, easily identifiable thanks to their shape (small dough balls attached like a string of pearls), Mikiko opts for the classic donut form. Made with rice flour for a gluten-free dough, the donuts are baked as opposed to fried to help keep the texture light and fluffy. The result is wonderfully chewy and springy, with an ASMR-like crackle in your mouth.
The menu offers a mix of classic and filled donuts. For the filled offerings, a dollop of curd or pudding is plopped into the donut’s smaller-than-usual opening rather than piped into the dough. Thick, shiny glazes in soft pastel yellows and pinks come in flavors like black sesame-marionberry jam, and yuzu-vanilla funfetti. New flavors are released often, with a heavy focus on Asian ingredients and flavors like matcha, ube, and Thai tea. Fan favorites, like Horchata Pudding and Passionfruit Curd, are mainstays. The unglazed donut base is also used as the foundation for a ham, egg, and American cheese breakfast sandwich that is not to be missed.
Order: Don’t skip the Passionfruit Curd and Horchata Pudding donuts, along with one of the rotating options. Better yet, go for the donut flight, featuring an assortment of a dozen donuts.
While other spots around town experiment with creative flavors and elaborate toppings, Coco Donuts is focused on the classics. No frills, no crazy flavors, just good donuts served with a healthy dose of nostalgia and comfort. The cakey old-fashioned donuts are dense, with a golden outer layer that contrasts with the cream-colored center. The dough of the classic raised yeast donut is light as air and fabulously fluffy, with crisp glazes that shatter into sugary shards when you bite into them. And luckily for all of us, Coco has seven locations throughout the Portland area.
Along with the handcrafted donuts, Coco has that other quintessential part of the donut run figured out: a cup of coffee. Since 2013, Coco has been roasting its own coffee so customers can have a cup made with the same attention to detail and care as the donuts.
As with any old-school donut establishment, Coco has all the essentials: simple raised and glazed, chewy old-fashioned, and so on. Flavors include rich chocolate, delicate lavender, and filled Bavarian cream. One departure from the standard donut shop model is the shop’s cute, chewy mochi donuts in flavors like matcha and powdery sugar.
Order: Don’t skip the hefty old-fashioned, the oozy filled donut (with either cream or jelly innards), a comforting fritter, and a mochi donut for good measure. Grab a cup of the house-roasted coffee as well.
Since opening in 2017 in Northeast Portland’s Hollywood District, Doe Donuts has been satisfying vegan sweet tooths with its entirely plant-based offerings. But these light, fluffy, and flavorful creations from Carly Sitner and Crystal Wegener are must-tries for all donut fans, vegan or not.
Doe’s donuts are well-risen, with a light, chewy interior, and delicately fried exterior, so you’ll encounter no resistance as you bite down. Light, shattery glazes come in flavors like Portland Fog (Earl Grey topped with fluffy whipped cream; an ode to Portland’s famously gray, cloudy weather) along with seasonal specials like Thai tea with crunchy coconut flakes. And if the shop’s name makes you think of a certain donut-loving cartoon dad’s catchphrase, you’ll be happy to know that Doe offers what it calls the Doe Donut: a classic ring of dough covered in a bright pink strawberry glaze with multi-colored sprinkles. Homer Simpson would love it.
One of the shop’s seasonal specials, the Everything Donut, is an amalgamation of the two best circle-shaped foods: bagels and donuts. Vegan cream cheese is piped into a donut that’s topped with savory everything bagel seasoning and fresh chives. The Breakfast Sando uses an unglazed donut as the base for a sandwich stuffed with Just Egg, sausage, vegan cheddar, arugula, and Sriracha aioli.
Order: Pay tribute to Portland by ordering both the Doe Donut, a la Homer Simpson, and the Portland Fog. Then shake things up with a selection or two (or more) from the seasonal specials. When the Everything Donut is back in season, get it; the unexpected combo works really well.
Another fan favorite of the current mochi donut craze in Portland is HeyDay, which started in May 2020 as a pop-up before getting a home base stall at the Collective Oregon Eateries (CORE) Food Hall along 82nd Ave in Southeast Portland in 2023. Owner Lisa Nguyen’s wheat and rice flour creations—reminiscent of mochi donuts in texture and shape—are both an homage to the traditional Japanese sweet treat and a tribute to the flavors of her Vietnamese culture.
Offerings switch up weekly and seasonally, with flavors like Vietnamese coffee, fruity ube, and baked black sesame. Donuts in glazed shades of purple, pink, and green are as enticing to look at as they are to eat. With a mix of chewy rice flour and wheat, Nguyen’s donuts have the spongy mouthfeel of mochi donuts. HeyDay also turns out cute bear-shaped cake donuts and ample other baked goods like danishes and biscuits.
Order: If they’re available when you visit, order the ube and pandan donuts. Really, it’s impossible to go wrong. The cafe also offers espresso and tea drinks like lusciously green iced pandan lattes to wash down your treat.
Annie’s, which opened in 1988, was one of Portland’s go-tos for light, fluffy donuts, and sugary, shiny glazes long before places like Voodoo came on the scene. If you want to experience one of the OGs of Portland’s donut scene, you’ll find it here in a laid-back, charming cafe setting. Unlike some of the trendy, design-forward spots around Portland, Annie’s is an unpretentious blast from the past.
The interior is a nostalgia-drenched, vintage vision of sunshine-yellow molded plastic booths, lime-green walls, and an old-school glass donut case. Made fresh each morning, the full line-up of tried-and-true favorites fills this case: hand-sized classic yeast donuts; dense, jelly-filled; spiraling twists; maple bars; and topographical old-fashioned cake donuts featuring valleys and peaks that glisten with glaze. The classic raised yeast donuts are lightly fried to a soft, golden hue that embodies the quintessential all-American donut. The devil’s food cake donuts are a favorite too, as are the butterfly donuts, which comprise two conjoined dough “wings” slathered with chocolate and peanut butter.
Order: An assorted dozen featuring whatever captures your eye—though as far as I’m concerned, the devil’s food cake donuts are non-negotiable. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk or a no-frills cup of black coffee.
With a wide range of donuts, a cozy interior with eclectic diner-style decor, and a friendly, welcoming staff, Delicious Donuts has been a Portland staple since it opened in 2005. This family-owned donut spot in the central Southeast Buckman area offers specialties like a popular peanut-maple cake donut along with fluffy classics featuring simple glazes and bright sprinkles. With generous toppings (think Oreo crumbles with ribbons of peanut butter), large donuts, fresh-each-day dough, and a diverse mix of shapes and styles, Delicious Donuts will never go out of fashion.
If you order 24 hours in advance, you can customize your donut: Choose from frostings like clear glaze and chocolate, fillings like Bavarian cream or raspberry, and toppings like rainbow sprinkles. And along with your box of donuts, Delicious also offers a breakfast menu that features, why yes, more donuts. The French toast is made with glazed donuts, while a donut breakfast sando is stacked with a fried egg, two sausage patties, and slices of ham and cheese, for a wonderfully sweet-savory start to the day.
Order: Topped with chunky peanut bits atop a maple glaze, the Peanut Maple Cake is a flavorful and texturally rich delight.
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit
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