If you live in Oregon, Colorado, Texas, California, or Florida, there’s a good chance you’ve been to Voodoo Doughnut. If you live anywhere else, there’s just as good a chance visiting one of the chain’s locations is on your bucket list. The bubblegum-pink shop was unleashed on the world by friends Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson and Tres Shannon. "They decided on doughnuts, primarily because of the lack of doughnut shops in downtown Portland, and also to go on a crusade to get ‘doughnuts’ spelled correctly," Voodoo’s "Executive Wrangler" Sara Heise told Cool Material. "Doughnuts made from dough, not ‘do.’"
Lines formed around the block almost immediately and never went away. Voodoo caters to nightlife fans with its 24-hour operation and risque doughnut themes (via Fast Company), but the brand’s wacky decor, voodoo-doll mascot, and highly imaginative flavors mesmerize all ages. Back in 2013, Tres Shannon shared the secret behind Voodoo’s famously unique menu, which currently features everything from a cayenne pepper-dusted, chili-topped doughnut to a classic old-fashioned (reportedly Cat Daddy’s favorite) to the popular bacon maple bar (via Voodoo Doughnut).
"We always went into the business trying to figure out how to make crazy doughnuts, but lots of those decisions were probably just based on being tired," Shannon told Fast Company. "We were so exhausted after working 16 hours […] So we’d walk through the grocery aisles and say, ‘Why not put cereal on a doughnut?"
You may know the scary-cute voodoo mascot, the pink everything, and the candy-covered doughnuts, but do you know the whole Voodoo Doughnut story?
Voodoo Doughnut’s mascot is an important Voodoo figure
Covered in chocolate and filled with raspberry jelly, Voodoo Doughnut’s mascot is more than just the chain’s physical embodiment of the theme. He’s Baron Samedi, according to the Oregon Encyclopedia, or "Voodoo Loa of the Dead." As explained by Britannica, Voodoo, or Vodou, is an Afro-Haitian religion and worldview believing that everything is a spirit, including humans living in the world. Baron Samedi is considered the father of the spirits of the dead.
"Our logo is Baron Samedi, […] who leads the parade in Mardi Gras," Tres Shannon told Con Safos Magazine. "[H]e’s the guy who shows you heaven or hell when you die. And if you see him, on the earth when you’re alive, you’re suppose to adorn him with sweets, so the story goes that when he sees you at the gates or whatever, if he remembers that you adorned him with sweets, then you’ll be sent the right way."
Shannon also acknowledged that some people have called this logo cultural appropriation, but explained that he and his co-founder are simply linking up the connection of voodoo and sweets and that at the end of the day, "it’s just a doughnut shop with the name voodoo."
Not all Voodoo Doughnut flavors are a hit
With a doughnut selection pleasing purists, traditionalists, and adventurers, Voodoo Doughnut seems like a guaranteed hit machine. However, not every creation has been a winner. When you’re inventing this many different flavor combos and setting out to be a little edgy, you might have some flops. One specific fail from Voodoo was an experiment in the pharmacy. According to TODAY, the brand stirred up a little controversy when it made Nyquil and Pepto Bismol doughnuts. The Nyquil pastry was indeed made with the actual cough syrup, and the Pepto doughnut was truly dipped in Pepto and sprinkled with Tums.
"It’s not like you were getting buzzed off the NyQuil; you would have had to eat 50 donuts to get high off it," Shannon told Fast Company. Still, the FDA informed Voodoo they could not actually sell medicine with their food.
Other, non-flu-treating failures? "We also tried out a Jäger Bomb doughnut, which was a raised yeast doughnut filled with Jäger-infused guava jelly," Sara Heise confessed to Cool Material, "and an oyster doughnut, which featured a freshly shucked oyster on a plain cake with cocktail sauce, that didn’t turn out too well."
More guaranteed sensations come from Voodoo’s quarterly campaign to introduce a different doughnut, proceeds of which benefitting a different cause. The program has raised $55,136 in addition to $23,968 from other fundraising (via Voodoo). Feeling as good as it tastes, the current offering is the Strawberry Go-Tart, for the HERA Ovarian Foundation, writes Bake Mag.
You can tie the knot at Voodoo Doughnut
With doughnuts like these, who needs a wedding cake? Turning their brand of marching to the beat of a different drummer into an entire lifestyle, Voodoo Doughnut goes beyond creating snack memories to creating most-special-day memories. That’s right, you can get married, legally, at Voodoo.
There are several different packages depending on your matrimonial needs, and of course, all of them include custom doughnuts and refreshments, explains Atlas Obscura. On its own website, Voodoo says it does weddings at all of its locations; "The Whole Shebang" package includes airfare and hotel so you can say "I do" at the original Portland spot. According to HuffPost, Shannon told Brides in an interview that’s no longer live: "Cat Daddy and I […] were universal life ministers before we went into the doughnut business. And we felt pretty much since day one that we should have a ceremony [option]."
As noted on Insider, a desire for a quirky, individualistic ceremony and a shared love of doughnuts aren’t the only reasons to say your vows at a Voodoo location. Voodoo wedding packages start at just $300, compared to the national average cost of a wedding in 2021: $22,500, according to The Knot.
You can drink Voodoo Doughnut flavors in beer form
In another nod to nightlife culture, as well as to Portland’s trendsetting craft beer scene, Voodoo Doughnut found another form of indulgence to wow crowds with: its own brew. It all started when the president of Oregon’s Rogue Ales & Spirits called Shannon and Pogson to express his fandom, according to Departures. Inspired by Voodoo’s bacon maple bar, Rogue and the doughnut chain debuted a Bacon Maple Ale in September of 2011.
The reaction was mixed, reports Inside Hook. The initial news of the trendy collaboration went viral, but when beer lovers actually took a sip, many hated the brew, itself. For all the negative reviews from beer geeks, though, the general public was entranced by the overall gimmick and the beer release garnered long lines and high resell prices.
"We’re not big beer guys honestly," Shannon told Inside Hook, shrugging off the criticism. "Rogue was great, though and we were glad they had such a fanatical base." The sales were so good, in fact, that Rogue and Voodoo decided to forge on with more brews, zeroing in on flavor profiles to make more successful offerings. There was, for example, the Mango Astronaut Ale in 2015 (via Chilled) and the Grape Guerilla Ale in 2016 (via Craft Beer). The series has since ended, but its first brew is credited with helping launch the popular pastry beer subgenre, notes The Brewer Magazine.
Voodoo Doughnut has its own record label
Music may not immediately seem like a natural product for a doughnut maker to start churning out, but it’s actually pretty in line with Voodoo’s ethos and background. Not only is the chain’s aesthetic, vibe, and doughnut inspiration considerably punk rock, but co-founder Shannon worked in music before opening the shop, booking seminal bands at revered Portland venue X-Ray Cafe, writes The Oregonian.
Shannon and Pogson added a record label to their business in January of 2014, according to Willamette Week. Their launch was true to form: after asking artists and bands from all genres to submit specifically doughnut-related music, the label’s first release was a collection of singles dedicated to the beloved treat (via MyRecipes). Since then, Shannon and Pogson have welcomed everything from rock to spoken word.
For Shannon, the label has been a fun blast from the past, bringing his X-Ray Cafe days to his Voodoo Doughnut present. "It’s fun to reconnect with a lot of these people who we met at a club in 1992, and talking to them in 2016 about releasing a recording that was made 20 years ago," he told MyRecipes. Calling itself "The World’s Leading Doughnut-Based Recording Company"—no argument there—Voodoo Doughnuts’s vinyls can be found at Voodoo Doughnut Recordings.