Jelly donuts

Donuts are one of life’s most irresistible foods. Put a box of donuts in a room filled with people, and at some point, they will be devoured and an empty box flecked with crumbs and remnants of sugar will soon be the case, the speed with which it appeared a testament to the donuts’ goodness. Even those who might cringe at the calories involved with eating fried or baked dough that’s been enhanced with frostings, glazes, fillings, and toppings will probably have enjoyed themselves.

Jellied pastries are one facet of the vast realm of donuts available. Whether the jelly, or sometimes jam, filling is stuffed inside or residing on the top of a donut, for many, a goopy glob of jelly intertwined with baked or fried dough is the only way to go. Common flavors include lemon, blueberry, and strawberry, and every donut shop maintains a signature style. Depending on where they’re made, these doughy delights vary in shape, ingredients, and — most importantly — taste. Here, we rank several popular jelly donuts, from worst to best.

11. Katz Gluten Free Mini Jelly Donuts

Katz donuts mini jelly filled

The best thing about these diminutive jelly donuts from Katz Gluten Free (not to be confused with Kat’z, the famous deli) is that they can be enjoyed by those following a gluten-free diet. Not only are they minus gluten, but these small bites are also free of a few ingredients found in other donuts: dairy, nuts, and soy. Does that make them free of flavor, too? Not completely.

They are powdery on the outside, and between that sugary dusting and the jelly inside, the sweet-factor is definitely present. However, Katz’s minis are just not going to give you the same experience that comes along with any fresh-baked donut. The bite is a bit harder and more comparable to a Russian tea cookie. Katz mini jelly donuts are also store-bought and meant to be frozen until they’re consumed, so to get any warmth or softness, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands: a few seconds (per package instructions) in the microwave or a dunk in a hot cup of java after thawing and voila, there’s some of the sponginess a traditional donut offers.

10. Tim Hortons Strawberry Vanilla Filled jelly donut

Tim Hortons jelly donuts strawberry vanilla

The union of strawberry and vanilla is nothing new. That combination has long been found in sweet treats, from cake to ice cream. Tim Hortons is the Canadian chain that attempted their first spread into the United States in the ’70s and then more successfully in the ’80s, achieving the staying power that’s made them a donut destination in Eastern and Midwestern American cities. Maybe that the brand has tackled the strawberry and vanilla combo into donut form is behind some of its staying power.

It’s expected that a donut is going to be sweet. Unless it’s somehow noted, that’s a standard and reasonable expectation. This one from Tim Horton’s, however, should come with a warning about its overwhelming sugariness. The strawberry and vanilla flavors are both present and extreme versions of both with a sugar and sprinkle-based icing to top things off, ramping up the sweet factor even more. If getting those flavors in a pastry defines your decision, eating it with a tea or a coffee could help cut the sweetness a bit.

9. Yum Yum Donuts Apple Jelly with Cinnamon Crumb donut

Donuts from Yum Yum Donuts

Apple jelly is a flavor we don’t hear enough of. Go to most places for breakfast or brunch, and the offerings generally consist of strawberry, mixed berry, and the classic grape. While apple butter is more prominent and easier to find, apple jelly does exist in jar form for those who don’t want to tackle a homemade jelly recipe.

Yum Yum Donuts started in the early ’70s with one donut shop in Highland Park, California. That location is still open and has been joined by dozens more all around the state. These spots are a place you can find apple jelly, because at Yum Yum, it’s one of their filled donut options.

This apple jelly donut at Yum Yum finds itself covered in a cinnamon crumb, which makes sense considering this mix is often what brings an apple dessert to life. But at this donut spot, it’s just okay. Yum Yum has some more dynamic choices, like a cherry iced and a pineapple fritter, that would probably be a better choice. The apple jelly donut is by no means offensive, but it’s more just an easy fix when a spiced apple is on your mind than excellent jelly donut.

8. Dunkin’ Jelly Donut

Jelly donuts from Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin’ – which was previously referred to as Dunkin’ Donuts – calls itself "America’s favorite." While that’s subjective, the ubiquitous chain — with locations around the globe — certainly has cemented its presence as a go-to for fried pastries and, of course, for their coffees. When a social media influencer like Charli D’Amelio has her own specialty drink, you know a place is dominating the market.

One area where Dunkin’ could stand some improvement is in their jelly donut selection. Their jelly-filled donut doesn’t boast a particular fruit ingredient, and it turns out that a berry of any sort might not be involved in the blend. Instead, it’s a mix of sweeteners and apple juice that gives it a jelly-like taste.

For a spot that has some real donut stars, like the glazed blueberry and the toasted coconut, it seems like they could up their jelly donut game by getting a nice jammy fruit involved in the situation and trying to add some variety. The chain doesn’t lean on tradition, often jazzing up their ad campaigns or adding new items, so giving this classic some new twists doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

7. Winchell’s Donut House Lemon Jelly with Donut Sugar donut

Winchell's Donut House

Another old-school donut shop that has international presence, Winchell’s consistently good donuts keep people coming back. Winchell’s was actually purchased by Yum Yum Donuts but still does business under their original name while maintaining the original brand.

Dependable is what Winchell’s Donut House is, with no-frills pastries that scratch the donut itch. Their Lemon Jelly with Donut Sugar option is also a standout.

Dependable is what Winchell’s Donut House is: a go-to for no-frills pastries that scratch the donut itch. Their Lemon Jelly with Donut Sugar donut is reliable and tasty, with a sweet and tangy filling that inspires a bit of a pucker. But this one does pose a question: What is donut sugar? It’s the powdered sugar used on donuts, because it’s formulated to not dissolve or melt on baked items. It’s also known as ‘snow,’ and that name is fitting considering how it indeed doesn’t melt but ends up covering our hands and clothes instead.

6. Voodoo Doughnut Voodoo Doll jelly donut

Voodoo Doll doughnut from Voodoo Doughnuts

In 2003, the founders of Voodoo Doughnut wanted to cure a problem in downtown Portland: the lack of donut shops. They opened their first location, which also featured diverse live entertainment, and within a month, they started making national news. Food and travel shows were talking about their big, fun donut creations, making it a must-visit Portland attraction. Now, Voodoo Doughnut is in five states.

The donuts at Voodoo have a lot of visual flair – you’ll want to peruse their colorful toppings, like the purple sprinkles and dust that top the Grape Ape. On the other hand, the Dirt donut has vanilla frosting topped with a heap of crumbled Oreo cookies.

The Voodoo Doll is one of their vegan options and looks exactly like its name. The voodoo-doll-shaped pastry is filled with raspberry jelly and topped with a chocolate frosting, and stake-shaped pretzel is jabbed into the doll’s center. And yes, it is as delightful in taste as it is in looks. The jelly and the frosting make a sweet and heady union. It’s truly both cheeky and divine.

5. Top Pot Doughnuts Raspberry Bullseye jelly donut

Top Pot Doughnuts

Having the term ‘bullseye’ in the name of a donut might conjure up images of the pastry hitting the spot after being wolfed down by a hungry patron. While that may be an accurate assumption, in the donut world – the one with jelly, specifically – a bullseye refers to the divot in the top of a donut that holds the filling. Where some donuts are filled by injection, where the filling is pumped into the center of the treat, in this case, it’s loaded into this top indentation where it settles in. In jellies with the filling inside, you may see the internal goopy magic poking out through a tiny hole but here, you see just what you’re getting.

Top Pot’s Raspberry Bullseye is a glazed donut with one of those appealing bullseye centers. In this one, a thick helping of raspberry jam is plopped into that recessed area, challenging you to try and get some of it in your first bite. It’s goopy for sure, and yes, super sweet.

4. LaMar’s Donuts and Coffee Cherry Filled Bizmark donut

LaMar's donuts and coffee

LaMar’s Donuts and Coffee entered into being in 1960, when Ray LaMar started his place in Kansas City, Missouri. Thirty years later, he decided to franchise and now LaMar’s can also be found in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. Recently, the company joined in the efforts to help essential workers during the pandemic. On the eve of National Donut Day, they presented winners of their first Essential Service Awards with a year’s worth of free LaMar’s donuts.

From buttermilk bars to German chocolate knots, LaMar’s has a dizzying list of choices. Their filled creations range from creamy to fruity, and the cherry filled is a straightforward, gooey option. A bright cherry flavored jelly filling squirts out from the center of this old standby. This one falls under LaMar’s Bizmarks category. Bizmarks is a play on Bismarcks, which is a German name for a jelly donut, after chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

3. Trejo’s Donuts and Coffee Da Berry Bomb jelly donut

Da Berry Bomb Trejo's Donuts

Danny Trejo is an actor who overcame a tough past that included criminal behavior and prison time. When he became an actor in the early ’80s, he played a lot of roles that highlighted his hard edges. Via director Robert Rodriguez, Trejo helped to launch several films that cemented his stardom. He’s unique, funny, and a fixture in his hometown of Los Angeles. Not only does he own Trejo’s Tacos, which has eight locations around the city, he’s made Trejo’s Donuts and Coffee another hotspot. In fact, LA Weekly named the place the best donut shop in town in 2019.

The shop offers a selection of raised, filled, and vegan choices and some have fun names, like the Maple Pig, which is, you guessed it, a maple-flavored donut that has candied bacon riding on its surface.

As for Da Berry Bomb, it’s just that. A hearty donut filled with a mixed berry jam combination of raspberry and blueberry. The authentic, fresh fruit puts this donut over the top.

2. Shipley Do-Nuts Lemon Filled jelly donut

Lemon filled donuts from Shipley Do-Nuts

Shipley Do-Nuts started in Houston, Texas in the 1930s and maintains a vintage look and feel to this day. What one family began has expanded majorly, now boasting more than 300 franchises throughout a number of states, including Florida, Alabama, and Colorado.

While most people don’t split hairs about different types of jelly in a donut, when its lemon at the core, that can be polarizing. It’s the tartness that’s hard for some to handle. Lemon lovers, on the other hand, want that bitter tang inherent to the fruit to be part of the taste. If you are in that latter camp, grabbing a lemon-filled donut from Shipley Do-Nuts is just what you want.

Fried without being greasy, this donut has a nice light and puffy feel. The tang of the lemon and the internal dough counter the sugar the lemon filling is mixed with and the glaze that’s brushed on the donut’s exterior. It’s the balance that puts excitement in each bite.

1. Krispy Kreme Powdered Blueberry Filled jelly donut

Krispy Kreme powdered blueberry donut

Krispy Kreme is another donut chain that has been in operation for nearly 100 years. They opened in 1937 in North Carolina and have managed, with some ups and downs over the course of their lifespan, to be a household name when donuts and donut shops are the subject of conversation.

Krispy Kreme’s plain, glazed donuts are their signature item. Shaped like perfect circles, they line up uniformly in a box, creating an appeal via their no-frills nature. From that foundation, this popular donut shop has created a wealth of donuts to choose from — some just as uncomplicated as that original, like a chocolate cake or a glazed cruller.

When it comes to filled donuts, they can get a little extravagant; there’s a New York cheesecake option or a rich, caramel-y dulce de leche. Though you can get into those hearty flavors when you want a stuffed donut, in their jelly arena, the Powdered Blueberry Filled jelly donut is fruity perfection. Powdered sugar coats the outside of this blueberry-filled yeast confection, adding another layer of sweetness to the equation. This one is a real lip-smacker.