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12 Store-Bought Donut Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

store-bought donut brands
store-bought donut brands - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Donuts are one of life's simple pleasures. But, they are also a wonderful excuse for a touch of indulgence in the morning, just like cinnamon rolls or pancakes with syrup. Of course, I can think of no better way to enjoy the sugary rings than a local hole-in-the-wall bakery. A place where donuts are the one and only thing that graces the menu board — with coffee or milk as the only tolerable acceptions — and where the sweet smells of fried batter, icing, and chocolate all but knock you over as you cross through the threshold.

However, when those late-night cravings hit or when you simply can't fit a visit to the patisserie into your morning schedule, store-bought donuts make for a welcome stopgap. They may look a little different than donut shop confections, with many available in mini forms and often missing extravagant toppings. But, there's still plenty to love including both cake and yeast donuts and a wide range of classic flavors from glazed donuts and frosted chocolate to powered and cinnamon.

Names like Hostess, Entenmann's, and Little Debbie receive the most attention in this off-the-shelf donut market. But, is it justified? Or, do other lesser-known brands offer superior and far more delicious products hidden in plain sight? I rounded up different bags and boxes to answer these exact questions, and finally get to the bottom of which ready-made sweet treat is best. This is one taste test you donut want to miss.

Read more: 25 Best Ice Cream Brands Ranked

12. Snack Planet Mini Donuts

Snack Planet cinnamon mini donuts
Snack Planet cinnamon mini donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Perusing the baked goods aisle at Walmart, I stumbled upon this rare donut find. Its brand name and space-themed packaging immediately reminded me of the fictitious Pizza Planet from Toy Story, and I wondered how this celestial snack never entered my orbit before.

The donuts are actually a product of Aunt Millie's Bakery, and they come in what can only be described as a clear plastic sack. Powdered sugar and cinnamon mini donuts appear to be the brand's bread and butter. But, unfortunately, the cinnamon donuts' flavor is not out of this world. Each bite is doughy to the point of no return, tasting almost raw and uncooked at the center. But, the biggest issue has to do with the explosion of spice which plagues each donut. I would compare the experience to completing the viral cinnamon challenge — maybe not to that level of extreme, but you get the idea.

It seems that another spice is also present; I felt the strong taste of nutmeg on my tongue. This mystery taste couldn't be found on the ingredient list. But, its presence in congruence with the cinnamon, made me think I was munching on something like potpourri, which is meant just for smelling and not for eating. For these reasons, Snack Planet immediately fell to the bottom of my ranking, and I would be on board with sending them back to whatever galaxy they hail from.

11. Little Debbie Mini Donuts

Little Debbie mini frosted donuts
Little Debbie mini frosted donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Little Debbie is the queen of packaged snacks. From Swiss Rolls to Zebra Cakes to Cosmic Brownies, the brand delivers icon after sweet icon. But, regrettably, its Frosted Mini Donuts don't follow suit.

They are described as "mini cake donuts frosted with fudge" and are meant to "take care of those early morning sweet cravings". But, the largest problem with that, is that the sweetness is actually quite subdued. The cake part is airy but inconceivably dry and drab. And, on the outside, the chocolate layer is too thin to make a noticeable difference. All this begs the question: Where is all that sugar going exactly? Because with 17 added grams per every four donuts, you better believe I expect them to make their presence known.

Another significant problem with these Little Debbie treats is that they are chock full of synthetic food additives like Yellow 6 Lake and Blue 2 Lake. All are technically approved by the FDA. But, this knowledge just helps to prove that the donuts' bright yellow insides are far from natural.

10. Hostess Mini Donuts

Hostess powdered mini donuts
Hostess powdered mini donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

When you think of store-bought donuts, Hostess' white bags are likely one of the first images that come to mind. The brand prides itself on being "America's #1 Donut" — ironic, since its mini versions of the pastry are actually referred to as Donettes — and its products are sold in nearly every major retailer.

As a brand that truly needs no introduction (though I gave it one anyway), I figured it would be a shoo-in for one of the podium spots. But, boy was I wrong. The single-sleeve of powdered Donettes I grabbed was the most artificial-tasting donut I tried. Each small ring is well-coated with a cloud of white dust. But, instead of a subtle sweetness, this sugar layer absorbs the flavor of the packaging, making me wonder how long they had really been marinating on the store shelf. Adding insult to injury, the porous yellow substance inside is also subpar with a texture that teeters on stale.

I would like to believe that this was just a fluke and I simply received a bad batch. Maybe the larger white bags are a safer bet. Or, perhaps another Hostess snack flavor like glazed or the new honeybun would be more likely to tickle my taste buds. But, based on this taste test, I can't justify advancing America's No. 1 donut past the bottom three.

9. Aldi Bake Shop Mini Donuts

Aldi Bake Shop chocolate frosted mini donuts
Aldi Bake Shop chocolate frosted mini donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Going into this taste test, I worried I may mix up Little Debbie and Aldi Bake Shop's selections. They are both chocolate-frosted mini donuts after all and clock in at nearly the same size. But, as soon as I pulled both from their respective packages, their differences became abundantly clear.

Aldi's donuts are an estimated three shades darker than Little Debbie's, coming across as more of a dark rather than milk chocolate product. This cocoa-filled coating is also laid on much thicker, resulting in a bolder, more sumptuous taste. Of course, these mini donuts aren't completely devoid of flaws. The cake portion is just a small step above lifeless, and they leave you with a hint of oil in the aftertaste. But, at a cost of just $3.15 for a pack of over 20 chocolatey loops, I can't complain. And, despite these setbacks, they still held my attention longer than big-league brands like Hostess and Little Debbie.

8. Entenmann's Donuts

Entenmann's variety donut pack
Entenmann's variety donut pack - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Entenmann's puts its best foot forward with variety packs featuring its most prominent and classic donuts. But, while I appreciate the diversity, I found three of the four included flavors to be wildly mediocre.

Starting out with old fashioned, it's as boring and dry as it looks with hardly any moisture behind its dense, cakey texture. Then, it finishes off with a surprise lemon essence, completely throwing you off guard. This same taste is copied and pasted into Entenmann's glazed donuts, as well. But here, each donut is much lighter in consistency and contains twice as much sugar thanks to its crusty icing coat. Meanwhile, the crumb-topped loop is coffee cake masquerading as a donut, and its "crumbs" are more like small pellets of cinnamon paste. It's not necessarily bad, but nothing special either.

Then, just when you think all hope is lost, the chocolate frosted donut saves the day. It's nostalgic and unbelievably fresh for a store-bought confection. Just the right amount of rich hardened chocolate encases the yellow cake layer underneath, protecting its soft yet concentrated makeup. This drop of chocolate heaven single-handedly pulled Entenmanns up to a more middle-of-the-road ranking. A word to the other Entenmann's donuts: Some thanks are in order.

7. Favorite Day Bakery Donuts

Favorite Day bakery donuts
Favorite Day bakery donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Target's Favorite Day store brand is not only aesthetic with persuasive packaging that will have you mindlessly adding products to your cart. Its various sweets and snacks also tend to be exceedingly quality — a trait I hoped carried into its bakery donuts.

As I shopped, I glided right by the brand's glazed rendition and instead turned my attention to an assorted pack of sour cream and chocolate cake donuts which Target explains come "in an old-fashioned style, with a slightly crisp outer, a moist, cakey inner and a sweet glaze." I agree with most of this description, except for the term "a sweet glaze," which I find to be a bit of an understatement. The sour cream donut especially is so cloyingly sweet that I think I acquired a cavity on impact. The wave of sugar made it feel like I was spooning an entire jar of frosting into my mouth at once.

Somehow, the chocolate version is more approachable. Plus, both are moist as promised and so thick they're almost chewy. So, despite their sweet snafu, the Favorite Day offering still managed to rank rather well.

6. Kroger Bakery Fresh Donuts

Kroger glazed donuts
Kroger glazed donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Kroger carries a wide range of packaged donuts — one of the largest grocery store collections I came across. And, alongside household names like Hostess and Entenmann's, the store also offers its very own breed of donuts under both its generic store brand and Bakery Fresh Goodness line.

The yeast-raised glazed donuts from this Bakery Fresh lot have received a bad rap in the past, according to reviews on the Kroger website. But, I found them to be quite palatable. The frosting is vanilla-esque and sheathes the entire donut from front to back without becoming overwhelming. Due to their chunky nature — much larger than Entenmann's or even Krispy Kreme's full-sized offerings — they also give you more bang for your buck, coming in at just about 75 cents each.

Since they are on the bulkier and firmer side, though, I can see how they can come off a little dry. But, I still think they have been judged too harshly. They won't win any awards, but they are still perfectly adequate glazed donuts.

5. Tastykake Mini Donuts

Tastykake Frost Bite mini donuts
Tastykake Frost Bite mini donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Here, I have a classic case of judging a book by its cover. I picked up this Tastykake flavor purely because of the adorable penguin that resides on the front of the packaging. But, the seasonal Frost Bites the aquatic bird is slinging don't look so bad themselves. And, as a powdered chocolate donut option, they're unlike anything else I tried.

This air of uniqueness sets Tastykake apart. It's also the best brand of mini donuts I've had thus far. Each one sports an extra rich and thick chocolate interior and a powdered sugar overlay that doesn't taste fake or old — a win in and of itself. So, it's confirmed. The Frost Bites are as tasty as they are cute, and the only complaint they elicit is the powder particles they leave behind on your fingers and clothes after going to town. While there is nothing inherently wrong with Tastykake's offering, there are just a couple other donuts coming up that impressed us that much more.

4. Nickles Donut Fair Glazed Twists

Nickles Donut Fair glazed twirl donuts
Nickles Donut Fair glazed twirl donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

You might recognize the name Nickles from the bread aisle where it stocks a wide variety of freshly baked loaves, rolls, and buns. But, the brand also dabbles in the pastry game with a select few bags of powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, and Donut Fair glazed twirl donuts.

The latter are essentially crullers with dough so fluffy and tender they all but crumble and melt in your mouth. I'd venture to guess the vegetable shortening probably has something to do with this elevated texture, and I'll ignore the fact that it's likely also responsible for the donuts' higher fat content. Nickles' glaze is also classic, sticky, and sugary, covering every bit of the rings' fried outer edge.

All things considered, these twisted treats live up to their Donut Fair name. They're just sweet enough to stave off those sugar cravings and are something I would happily gobble down during a long day at an outdoor festival or amusement park.

3. Katz Frozen Gluten-Free Donuts

Katz gluten-free glazed donuts
Katz gluten-free glazed donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

When it came time to get this taste test underway, Katz was almost left behind. Why? Because it is the only store-bought donut brand that must be stored in the freezer. And, you know how it goes: Out of sight, out of mind.

But, after tasting them, it's safe to say I won't be forgetting these donuts again any time soon. Katz knocks it out of the park with its glazed donuts — one of the world's most popular flavors. After just a 25-second trip in the microwave, each halo-shaped treat comes out light and fluffy with an aroma that's to die for. As you take your first bite, the taste is unlike any donut you've had before — but in the best way possible. It's reminiscent of a funnel cake on a summer night, just without the added grease. Plus, I haven't even mentioned the best part. All Katz donuts — ranging from gingerbread and cranberry to mini chocolate and mini jelly donuts — are 100% gluten-free. It's hard not to love both the inclusivity and flavor diversity of this brand, which is why it lands so high on the list.

2. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Krispy Kreme glazed donuts
Krispy Kreme glazed donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

Walking into a Krispy Kreme is like falling into a sugary dream. The sweet aromas hit your nostrils before you even open the door, only getting better as you approach the counter. Then, as you wait for your order, you get to watch the donuts dance on the conveyor belt before being soaked in a glittery glaze.

No store-bought product could ever compete with this all-consuming adventure. But, the company's retail donut packs come pretty close. Though not fresh from the store, they still carry that iconic Krispy Kreme donut taste with an icing coating that's been perfected, skillfully straddling the line between too sweet and too bland. I also appreciate the fact that these are less intimidating than other full-sized donuts. With a larger hole in the middle and a more malleable texture, they're much lighter and easier to tackle in one go.

Ringing up at about $8.99 for a 6-count — about $1.50 per donut — Krispy Kreme is not the cheapest option on the shelf. But, you know the splurge will always be worth it.

1. Trader Joe's Glazed Sour Cream Donuts

Trader Joe's sour cream glazed donuts
Trader Joe's sour cream glazed donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

When it comes to snacks and sweets, Trader Joe's is a true master of its art, doling out legends like Chocolate Lava Cakes, Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches, and Chocolate Croissants. In the midst of all this greatness, I was concerned the quirky store's Glazed Sour Cream Donuts wouldn't have a leg to stand on. But, with one bite, my worries quickly dissolved into pure old-fashioned bliss.

Hailing from a family-owned New England bakery, the donuts first grab your attention with a smooth candied glaze — a taste that permeates every bite but doesn't steal the entire show. Next, thanks to the added sour cream, you get to experience a texture that is both dense and fluffy at the same time and delivers a certain level of sweetness all on its own. Each sugary ring tastes fresh and not at all processed, like something you would pick up at a gourmet donut shop.

Then, just when I thought they couldn't get any better, I had the idea to warm them up in the microwave for just a few seconds — one of the best ideas I've ever had. This simple upgrade gave Trader Joe's sour cream donuts the boost they needed to leapfrog top dog Krispy Kreme with an offering that far surpasses what I thought a store-bought donut could be.

Methodology

12 different kinds of store-bought donuts
12 different kinds of store-bought donuts - Megan Hageman / Tasting Table

I wanted to include an even balance of both name brands and generic store brands in this taste test for a diverse range of both flavors and costs. This quest sent me to a long list of stores around my local Columbus, Ohio area including Aldi, Trader Joe's, Kroger, Target, and Walmart.

Once I made it home with my donut varieties, the judging commenced. I looked for a balanced sweetness in each offering. I also came into it with no proclivity towards either dense cake donuts or lighter yeast-style donuts. But, both moisture and body needed to be present no matter which way they leaned. Products with artificial tastes or hints of staleness didn't fare well, and I also considered price, but as more of an afterthought following overall flavor and quality.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.