Best Cheap Doughnuts

A blind tasting of four doughnut varieties from Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Tim Hortons, and Entenmann's.

Our Top Pick

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Review

Buy at for  $9.98

The overall favorite on the strength of two standouts -- glazed and jelly-filled -- Krispy Kreme doughnuts wowed tasters with, respectively, a soft and fluffy texture and an authentic taste. Reviewers thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate and iced/sprinkled samples, as well.

Our Picks
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

During our Krispy Kreme review with a panel of tasters, this doughnut purveyor was acclaimed overall best in show. The Original Glazed -- the doughnut that started it all -- garnered seven out of 10 votes, beating entries by Dunkin' Donuts, Tim Hortons, and Entenmann's. Testers declared the glazed doughnut to be "light, fluffy, and delicious" with the "perfect amount of thick glaze." The jelly doughnut scored a landslide win on the strength of comments like "perfect light dough with a good raspberry-flavor jelly." Our panelists offered nary a critique about the four varieties sampled (additionally, sprinkled and chocolate).

This enthusiasm is echoed in Krispy Kreme reviews at Yelp, where consumers write about becoming addicted to the "transcendental" original even as others extol the virtues of the rest of the lineup, including chocolate iced with sprinkles. One dissent in the swooning crowd of Krispy Kreme reviews at TripAdvisor simply declares they're so sweet and gooey that they hurt his jaw.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts (available on Amazon) are the priciest on our list. The Original Glazed falls just under our $1 price ceiling while the jelly doughnuts cost $1.09 each. Our order of one dozen doughnuts totaled $8.49. In terms of nutrition, the Original Glazed weighs in at 190 calories and 11 grams of fat, while the jelly doughnut hit 340 calories and 21 grams of fat.

The oldest doughnut chain among those we reviewed, Krispy Kreme opened its first store in 1937 and today operates roughly 1,000 outlets worldwide. It makes 40 kinds of doughnuts (along with a few limited-time options), as well as a small selection of breakfast items (e.g., bagels and oatmeal), ice cream cones, sundaes, and milkshakes. A good chunk of the menu is devoted to beverages: more than 30 types of coffee and coffee drinks and 10 different blended frozen drinks called Chillers. Krispy Kreme-brand doughnuts, pies, honey buns, and coffee are available in some grocery stores around the country.

A good doughnut is a sweet treat worthy of the occasional indulgence. If you're willing to spend a few pennies more, our tasters have declared Krispy Kreme is the way to go.

Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts Review

The Dunkin' Donuts review yielded an unexpected result: Only one of the four varieties we sampled earned the top score during a blind tasting. In the iced/sprinkled category, four of the seven panelists still in tasting mode favored this entry over others. They liked the "crunchy" and "sweet" sprinkles that imparted "good taste, good flavor" to the chocolate-iced, raised doughnut. They awarded Dunkin' Donuts' chocolate (cake) confection with two votes, on par with all but the winning Entenmann's, while the jelly and glazed doughnuts sank in reviewers' estimation. Krispy Kreme cleaned up in the jelly-filled category and ruled for glazed, another category in which Dunkin' Donuts fell into oblivion. One taster described this sample as dry and lacking sufficient glaze although the overall taste was OK.

Online reviews at TripAdvisor were kinder, generally extolling the sweet and moist qualities of varieties like glazed, jelly, custard, and chocolate frosted sprinkles. One tourist from the United Kingdom laments the chain has no presence at home and another reviewer prefers the toned-down sweetness of the glazed doughnut to that bearing the Krispy Kreme name. On the other hand, complaints about freshness pop up in reviews of a New York City outpost that appeared on Yelp.

The widely recognized slogan "America runs on Dunkin'" is, in a way, accurate considering that in 2012 the restaurant chain had the fourth highest sales totals in the U.S. Our blind taste test, however, suggests that the tagline may be a bit hyperbolic. Our reviewers seem to run only on iced/sprinkled Dunkin' Donuts, which contain 290 calories and 16 grams of fat. Prices start at 95 cents per doughnut, and a box of 12 is a deal at $8.49.

Dunkin' Donuts dates back to 1950 when the first location opened in Quincy, Mass. The chain had spread into 41 states and 36 countries with a total of more than 11,300 stores that serve more than 3 million customers a day. The fare includes 52 types of doughnuts, a variety of breakfast and bakery sandwiches, muffins and other baked goods, and at least 12 coffee drinks. Dunkin' Donuts also sells ground coffee, creamers, and K-cups in supermarkets; many gas stations host a Dunkin' Donuts counter.

Wide variety and convenient locations are two major attractions of Dunkin' Donuts. But according to our panel's collective palate, not all the doughnuts are created equal. Be selective in your choices and you'll be rewarded.

Entenmann's Doughnuts

Entenmann's fell short on variety during our review, but the doughnuts our panelists tasted were a hit. We were able to sample only two doughnut types: glazed and chocolate. Of the former, one taster detected a hint of citrus and described the confection as "very refreshing and good." This doughnut attracted two votes away from the category leader Krispy Kreme. The chocolate won support from three panelists -- enough to claim the title here -- for what they deemed a "richer taste" and a "sweeter, more flavored chocolate" than the competition.

In online reviews of other Entenmann's doughnuts, points are awarded for providing a quick sugar hit. But a handful of reviews at Amazon protest what they allege are recipe changes that have undermined the doughnuts' former goodness. One says they seem smaller than before and another bemoans the waxy taste of the chocolate icing and the dryness of the cake doughnut.

What started in 1898 as a single bakery has grown into a mega producer of baked goods, including loaf cakes, Little Bites Snacks, cookies, muffins, cakes, danishes, and pies, that are sold through supermarkets and convenience stores. Entenmann's doughnuts are prepackaged, in sets of eight, and sell for rock-bottom prices. (Each pack costs about $5.29, which translates to just 66 cents per doughnut.) A glazed doughnut contains 260 calories and 13 grams of fat; the chocolate cake doughnut boasts 290 calories with 19 grams of fat.

The Entenmann's doughnut selection is certainly limited compared with the doughnut chains, and definitely restrictive compared with going into a bakery and ordering the particular doughnuts you crave. But if you're hankering for a good chocolate or glazed doughnut or feeding a sugar-starved crowd on a budget, look no further than your local grocery store.

Tim Hortons Doughnuts

Tim Hortons Doughnuts Review

Our Tim Hortons review panel was not smitten with the doughnuts wrought by this Canada-based chain. The brand failed to take a single category win in our four-way blind taste test. Panelists were disappointed with each of the varieties we tasted, stating in any number of ways that the doughnuts were dry and bland. About the chocolate (cake) doughnut, one termed it "almost bitter, not enough sugar." The icing on the sprinkled doughnut was deemed "very dry" and the pastry itself "almost stale"; one reviewer concluded that the "sprinkles have more flavor than anything else." Tim Hortons' glazed and jelly doughnuts suffered the same review fate.

The few posts we found on Yelp submitted by residents of the lower 48 grouse about lack of freshness. One consumer asserted they harden quickly and urged caution when biting in, but added that they're quite good when totally fresh.

In terms of nutrition, Tim Hortons holds a slight lead over the competition. The glazed doughnut hits 190 calories but only 6 grams of total fat while the chocolate glazed doughnut rings in at 280 calories and 14 grams of total fat. As for prices, doughnuts cost 99 cents each or $7.79 a dozen.

Tim Hortons first opened its doors in 1964 and made its way to the United States some 20 years later. It merged with Burger King in 2014 and now operates about 4,600 restaurants in Canada, the Gulf region, and the U.S., where outlets are confined to just 11 states. For locations, Tim Hortons favors spots like malls, hospitals, universities, and highway pit stops. It mounts the widest variety of menu options among the brands we sampled. There is a full breakfast menu of sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, bagels, baked goods, aside from doughnuts and the lunch/dinner menu includes sandwiches, wraps, paninis, soups, macaroni and cheese, and chili. While doughnuts are a big draw, many consumers say the coffee is what Tim Hortons is really about and it is sold in some supermarkets.

Tim Hortons may be a favorite north of the border, but not with our tasters. The next time you drive by a Tim Hortons, you may want to stick with the coffee and pick up a doughnut elsewhere.

Buying Guide

Doughnut Taste Test

At the outset, our panel members were asked to name their favorite doughnut shop, and many responded with Krispy Kreme. The end results confirmed this predisposition: Krispy Kreme came out tops in two categories (glazed and jelly). But many tasters were surprised to learn that they preferred the Entenmann's chocolate doughnut to the others. Dunkin' Donuts held the lead in the iced/sprinkled doughnuts grouping, and Tim Hortons fell short in all departments.

We quickly learned during our testing session that several factors affect tasters' opinions of a cheap doughnut. Flavor was an underlying criterion for all the winning entries, regardless whether the confection was jelly-filled, glazed, or sprinkled. Our doughnut tasters were united in the opinion that dryness is not a preferred quality in doughnuts. They gravitated toward those that were comparatively moist rather than those that seemed crumbly or stiff (stale, perhaps?). And while cake-like doughnuts are favored by many consumers, our doughnut panelists fancied the lighter, airier varieties (glazed, jelly-filled, and iced/sprinkled) that they considered more pastry-like over the cakey doughnut (chocolate, in this case) which seemed dense and thick in comparison.

Pricewise, doughnuts are cheap -- at least at the chain stores and in the supermarket. You can get a good cheap doughnut for $1 or less. Specialty doughnuts and those produced by smaller bakeries and cafes easily run to $2 or more.

Among the doughnuts sampled, Krispy Kreme was the most expensive. At 99 cents each, its version of the classic glazed doughnut just barely settled in the Cheapism price niche. Other varieties such as jelly-filled, chocolate, and iced/sprinkled cost $1.09. All the doughnut chains give a discount for buying in bulk. We bought an even dozen (three of each variety) and paid $7.79 at Tim Hortons and $8.49 at Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme. Entenmann's falls into a price category of its own: A prepackaged box of eight doughnuts goes for about $5.29, which translates to 66 cents each. This really counts as cheap, but you don't get much variety. The display at our local market in Columbus, Ohio, showcased an assorted box including cake, glazed, chocolate-covered, and crumb doughnuts.

Glazed Doughnuts.

Krispy Kreme has made a name for itself based on its Original Glazed doughnut. Many of our 10 tasters correctly identified the Krispy Kreme entry in the glazed doughnut crowd. Among the reasons seven of the 10 reviewers named this their favorite was the glaze itself. Testers said the glaze was thick, plentiful, and very sweet. And, one added, it "helped to keep the doughnut very moist." They described the dough as "light, fluffy, and delicious." Entenmann's received two votes for best glazed doughnut in our review, Tim Hortons garnered one nod, and Dunkin' Donuts struck out. Tasters concluded that Dunkin' Donuts' glazed sample was bland, dry, dense, and almost stale. They also said it lacked enough glaze.

Chocolate Doughnuts.

The one cakey variety in the test, the chocolate doughnut samples competed on a more level playing field. Of the nine tasters who participated in the chocolate doughnut review, Dunkin' Donuts, Tim Hortons, and Krispy Kreme each garnered two votes, leaving Entenmann's to take the cake with three. One taster favored Entenmann's chocolate doughnut due to a "richer taste that really hit the spot." Others considered the sweetness level to be just right. All the tasters wanted a dense chocolate flavor but disagreed on which brand provided it. Although Entenmann's won overall, two panelists described Dunkin' Donuts' chocolate treat as dense and yummy, while those that hankered after Tim Hortons described a rich chocolate cake flavor. Testers who chose Krispy Kreme similarly liked the "good chocolatey cake flavor." Despite the two positive votes, Tim Hortons attracted the most negative comments; it was labeled "dry" and "almost bitter." One reviewer said it looked unappealing before even taking a bite.

Doughnuts With Sprinkles.

Doughnuts can't be sprinkled without first being iced, so for this category our review panel sampled raised doughnuts covered with chocolate icing and sprinkles. This is where we really started losing our tasters. Doughnuts are rich to begin with, and not everyone had the stomach to taste all four varieties. Of the seven willing to keep going, four voted Dunkin' Donuts the best. Comments ranged from "good chocolate flavor" to "sweeter" and "good taste." Two votes went to Tim Hortons, largely on the strength of the copious amount of sprinkles. Krispy Kreme earned a vote for "crunchy sprinkles." Entenmann's was out of the running here, as we didn't find a chocolate-frosted doughnut with sprinkles the day we shopped.

Jelly-Filled Doughnuts.

With just six tasters still at the table, we pulled out the jelly doughnuts. The samples from Dunkin' Donuts, Tim Hortons, and Krispy Kreme (again, no Entenmann's) all seemed to be filled with raspberry jelly, although when we bought them, the sales associates at Tim Hortons and Dunkin' Donuts seemed unsure about that technicality. Regardless, Krispy Kreme won hands down. Everyone who participated in this review round voted Krispy Kreme the No. 1 jelly doughnut. As one reviewer opined: "The glaze, jelly, and pastry all work great together. These are the best of the bunch." Others commented on the fresh, sweet flavor of the jelly filling. Flavor was the downfall of the Tim Hortons jelly doughnut. Several panelists found it lacking, and one described the jelly flavor as "fake." Several also found fault with Dunkin' Donuts' filling, saying it just didn't compare to the Krispy Kreme.