Donuts score a hole in one like no other comfort food. They’re both a sweet way to start the day and a tantalizing treat anytime. We’ve found the best donut shops in the city, where you can go sink your teeth into a sugar rush of fried dough topped with everything from classic glaze to maple bacon. We even found gluten-free and vegan donuts to enjoy! Read on for the goods.
Sidecar Donuts & Coffee
Featuring daily flavors like butterscotch crunch and raspberry balsamic alongside seasonal flavors like Valentine's cake and red wine chocolate, everyone finds a donut they favor here. Donuts are made fresh from scratch with yummy touches like infused glazes, hand crushed compotes, flavored custards and cream fillings. Bring the crew and down a few!
Our Fave: Butterscotch crunch
The Digs: A grab-and-go donut shop. The only seating is one table outside. The inside is light and contemporary and you get great views of the donuts.
Sweet Tip: If you feel like a more savory donut, opt for the basil eggs Benedict. It's a perfectly poached egg and hollandaise sauce inside a donut. Served at breakfast time.
Carmel Valley Neighborhood
Del Mar Highlands Town Center
3435 Del Mar Highlands Rd.
San Diego, CA 92130
You'll find creative and delectable donuts at The Goods in Carlsbad. From flavors like key lime pie, s'mores and salted caramel to strawberry cheesecake and Nutella, everyone is happy with their choices. Even more, they serve gluten-free donuts on Tuesdays and Thursdays and vegan donuts on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pick your day and enjoy your donut!
Our Fave: S'mores donut
The Digs: Cute inside with tables and booths along the wall. Nice spot for a photo-op against a white wall that says 'Glaze and Grind.' There are bar stools with a table that faces the street for people watching.
Sweet Tip: The Goods opens at 7 a.m. (Tues.-Sun.) until the donuts are sold out. Arrive early to snag your fave!
2965 State St.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Warm, delicious and made to order. Yep, that's right, they make it right in front of you. Each donut comes hot from the fryer, then you get to pick the toppings and drizzle. Whether it's a vanilla coating with hot fudge drizzle with rainbow and chocolate sprinkles or peanut butter icing with vanilla drizzle, everyone feels like a kid in a donut store.
Our Fave: Chocolate icing with toffee crunch and caramel drizzle donut
The Digs: There's not a lot of seating in the store (it's more of a take-out) donut shop.
Sweet Tip: Go online and order before you head out to pick up your sweet treat! You'll avoid the line.
1452 Encinitas Blvd.
This is not your typical donut shop! Donut Bar is famous for their artisan donuts with a menu that changes daily. The flavors include strawberries and cream split donut, Nutella, Oreo donut and Birthday, just to name a few. Donut Bar posts the next day’s menu every afternoon on their Facebook page (where they also note when the donuts are sold out). We love that kids receive a free themed-donut on Saturdays. A recent kid-friendly favorite: the Big Poppa Tart Donut that's an over-sized, unbeatable fusion of a strawberry Poptart and a donut.
Our Fave: Big Poppa Tart Donut
The Digs: Donut Bar has an upstairs with limited seating, chalkboards to keep the kiddos busy and tables. The downstairs is pretty small, which is why the line is always out the door.
Sweet Tip: If you’re determined to get a donut, be sure to arrive early. Donut Bar closes once the donuts are gone, which tends to happen around four hours after opening. Their donuts are a little pricier than your average donut shop, but we think you’ll love what you get.
631 B St.
San Diego, CA
This spot has been family-owned and operated since 1969 and they offer all the traditional donuts – from sprinkle-topped cake donuts to maple bars – and many others in between. VG Donut and Bakery also offers pastries and bread and they make killer special occasion cakes.
Our Fave: Buttermilk bar
The Digs: VG Donut and Bakery is located in a small strip mall and the bakery does not have table seating. But it’s located across the street from the beach. We suggest you take your donuts and stroll along the sand.
Sweet Tip: VG bakes their donuts twice daily, at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. So if you miss the morning rush, stop by in the late afternoon to satisfy your donut cravings.
106 Aberdeen Dr.
Cardiff by the Sea, CA
These gourmet donuts are from the guys behind Kettner Exchange, so expect to get a great donut that's high on the foodie factor. You won't find any fancy combinations or crazy presentations at Devil's. Instead, it's all about the classic donuts done really well. Nutella hazelnut (above), cinnamon sugar, chocolate, churros, donut holes, and Madagascar vanilla bean fly out the door. Also, for the littles Fruity Pebbles, Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch go over way better than a bowl of cereal!
Our Fave: Cinnamon sugar
The Digs: Devils Donut is a cool and hip cafe in the heart of Little Italy. Order your goodies and then pull up a seat on the ground level outdoor tables or head up to the rooftop patio for an awesome view on the harbor.
Sweet Tip: These gourmet donuts have a gourmet price tag attached so it can be a little pricier than your average donut but never fear, it will be worth every penny!
2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
Donut Star is a donut shop you can count on to have fresh, delicious donuts at any time of day. While Donut Star tends to sell more traditional donuts, they do have a few unique favorites, such as the chocolate-glazed red velvet and cream-filled buttermilk. Other reasons we love Donut Star: it’s open 24 hours and they accept credit cards (although there's a 50 cent surcharge and most donuts are priced at around $.80).
Our Fave: Hot glazed donut
The Digs: Donut Star is, quite simply, your old-fashioned donut store. It may not look like much from the outside, but it’s in no way a reflection of the confections inside. They also have a parking lot just outside with lots of spaces.
Sweet Tip: If you’re not in the mood for donuts, Donut Star also has breakfast sandwiches and shaved ice. The icy treat is especially popular on warm San Diego days.
601 W Washington St.
San Diego, CA (Mission Hills)
This North Park shop serves delicious donuts based on the tastes of the world right in the heart of the neighborhood. From blackberry and rosemary, Nutella, root beer and rose water pomegranate, these flavors are adventurous and exotic. Never fear for your pickier donut eater, you'll still be able to find goodies like an old-fashioned vanilla bean, maple or chocolate glazed donut. The menu is updated daily, so be sure to check out their Instagram to see what's on offer.
Our Fave: Nutella
The Digs: Nomad Donut's North Park shop boasts a colorful interior, an open kitchen, and floor to ceiling windows through which passers-by can view Nomad’s bagels being hand-crafted and baked in a wood fire oven. A trio of bright display cases house made-from-scratch donuts, while aqua walls and hardwood accents create the Caribbean feel within the expanded space, where guests can also purchase Nomad’s house-made jams and macarons.
Sweet Tip: Get into Nomad early to be sure you snag your favorite flavor. There is a limited run on each donut so keep in mind that popular flavors run out by mid-morning on the weekends!
3102 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92104
Yes! Finally a shop that offers delicious vegan donut options alongside their traditional donut selections! Donut Panic treats us to vegan donuts on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays after 9 a.m. They also have vegan cupcakes on Fridays––T.G.I.F! If you have a hankering any other day of the week, you can special order vegan donuts with a two dozen minimum. Flavor offerings rotate daily but on a typical day you'll get to dig in to maple 'bacon,' rose cardamom, Thai tea and Earl Grey. Don't miss their vegan, vanilla or chocolate coconut cake donuts!
Our Fave: The Homer––a nod to everyone's fave cartoon dad, is a vanilla bean donut with pink frosting and sprinkles as colorful as his character.
The Digs: Donut Panic has a super casual interior with a couch or tables where you can kick back and eat your donuts––because we're certain you won't be able to wait.
Sweet Tip: If you've got a dream donut idea brewing in your head, email Donut Panic at email@example.com and they'll try to make it a reality!
6171 Mission Gorge Rd. #113
San Diego, CA 92120
Peterson’s Donut Corner
The taste is unbelievable and their donuts have crispiness that you don’t find elsewhere. Their classic donut is the glazed maple bar (which is huge) and the cronuts and apple fritters have also become crowd favorites. Peterson’s Donut Corner also makes delicious eclairs, apple turnovers, cream puffs and filled cannolis. This little joint is open 24 hours for late night cravings.
Our Fave: Glazed maple bacon
The Digs: The exterior of this donut shop is not terribly impressive. But it lights up with all the sweet donuts and treats inside. And little ones will love Peterson’s outdoor seating with tables shaped as hands.
Sweet Tip: Peterson’s does not accept credit cards. So, make sure you have cash in your wallet!
903 S. Escondido Blvd.
––Leah R. Singer, Beth Shea & Nikki Walsh