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I Tried the Chocolate Frosted Donut From 5 Popular Chains & One Was Unbeatable

From Dunkin' to Tim Hortons, our writer tasted chocolaty rounds from all the big chains to find the best one.

Americans love their doughnutsconsuming more than 10 billion every year, according to the BBC. Few probably ever stop to think about the origin of these tasty rounds and, more specifically, how they acquired their iconic ring-like shape.

I, for one, am embarrassed to say that I've never given the sweet subject much thought and recently took to Google for the scoop. Apparently, the empty space in the middle is a practical design that allows for quicker and more even cooking in the oil—the same reason that bagels take on a similar form. I'm also sad to tell you that most shops don't actually make doughnut holes from that missing hunk in the middle. That's often a completely separate bakery side hustle.

No matter their shape, doughnuts are verifiably delicious and beloved for their range of flavors and tastes. There is no lack of variety, from sprinkled and crumb cake to crullers and cream-filled. And, of course, there are the trusty classics found at nearly every doughnut shop you visit, including the basic glazed and the highly revered chocolate frosted–aka chocolate dipped or chocolate iced.

I recently visited five popular doughnut chains, including Daylight Donuts, Duck Donuts, Dunkin', Krispy Kreme, and Tim Hortons, to assess their simple glazed doughnut creations—eventually crowning Daylight the winner. But what happens when these shops pour a little more sugar on it to produce perhaps the country's second-favorite doughnut flavor? Would Daylight triumph again or would another chain roll away with the title of best chocolate-frosted doughnut? Let's find out.

Here's how each chain fared, ranked in descending order from my least favorite to the best chocolate-covered round of the bunch.

Tim Hortons

tim horton's chocolate frosted donut on a plate next to a bag
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut)
Calories: 190
Fat: 7 g (Saturated Fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 210 mg
Carbs: 29 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 8 g)
Protein: 5 g

Temperatures in Canada can get pretty darn cold–so cold that it makes winters here in Ohio look like a walk in the park. But, people certainly find ways to stay warm, and one of the most favorable methods is to take a trip to the country's largest restaurant chain, Tim Horton's. The chain estimates that 80% of Canadians visit one of its locations at least once a month to enjoy the always-steaming-hot Original Blend coffees served Double Double (with two shots of cream and two sugar packets), the always-adorable Timbits doughnut holes, and other fresh foods and beverages.

The best part, though, is that Canada was nice enough to share this national treasure with us here in The States, and U.S. locations stock essentially all of the same tasty treats. This includes a doughnut wall featuring some of the most highly sought-after varieties like Honey Dip and, of course, a glossy Chocolate Dip. The latter is a yeast-based donut and just one cost me $1.49 at the drive-thru.

The look: Pumped up and standing tall at over an inch and a half thick. The chocolate dip layer is lustrous but in a deep cocoa-colored shade of brown. It's also slightly blemished thanks to its brief stint in the bag.

The taste: Woefully dry and too bready. The base is predictably similar to that of the chain's Honey Dip glazed doughnut. It's excessively thick and lacks any kind of sweetness whatsoever, leaving the chocolate to do all the heavy lifting on the sugar side. The icing layer itself tastes like it leans more dark chocolate rather than milk, leaving a bit of bitterness on your tongue. And, with its concentrated yet gooey texture, funnily enough, it reminded me of fudge. All in all, if you're someone with a very subdued sweet tooth, this might be the doughnut for you. I would also recommend it to anyone looking to get the best bang for your buck as it's definitely filling and weighty. Otherwise, I think you can do better.

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a chocolate frosted donut from dunkin on a plate next to a box
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut)
Calories: 260
Fat: 11 g (Saturated Fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 290 mg
Carbs: 34 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 13 g)
Protein: 4 g

I'll admit it: Dunkin' has never been one of my go-to breakfast joints. But, I certainly have a great deal of respect for its dependable global presence and the cult-like following it's spawned. Most of the chain's loyal, caffeine-obsessed fans have their own trusty drink they order at every visit such as a Frozen Coffee or Signature Latte. Many inevitably have a favorite doughnut as well, which they select from the shop's hefty lineup. While sugary choices like the Watermelon Burst or Cherry Blossom doughnut are more seasonal and obscure, there are also permanent idols on the menu like the classic Chocolate Frosted. It's exactly what it sounds like, straight up with no frills, and comes at a cost of $1.69.

The look: Dunkin' has an amazing talent for making its doughnuts look like they belong in a display case. The fried ring is coated in a generous layer of smooth chocolate frosting and is near perfect in every way possible—appearance-wise, anyway.

The taste: Not necessarily a slam dunk(in')–sorry! But, I wouldn't turn it away on a desperate morning. The yeast donut is on the same level as Tim Horton's in terms of density and chewiness. However, it carries significantly more moisture and flavor. Rich and not overly sweet, the chocolate icing is also a step up, helping to crank up the sugar levels of the entire confection without tipping the scale. If you told me it was the same kind of icing you can buy from Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines at the store, though, I would believe you. And, for that reason alone, I can't justify calling it anything other than a mediocre doughnut.

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Daylight Donuts and Cafe

daylight donuts chocolate frosted on a plate next to a bag
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut)
Calories: 157
Fat: 7 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 96 mg
Carbs: 20 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 2 g

Daylight Donuts has been around for a while, having first opened up shop in 1954 in Tulsa, Okla. But, from selling doughnut mix from the trunk of a car to now opening an average of 35 locations per year, the company has come a long way and has expanded its reach across the U.S. and even globally.

Luckily for Ohioans like me, a few of the bakeries have rolled our way and one resides right here in Columbus. It opened about six years ago in 2018 and I presume that its menu is nearly identical to the rest, including a coffee bar, pastries, sweets, breakfast sandwiches, and even lunch. On the doughnut front, there are multiple categories like fancy, premium, filled, cake, and raised donuts. Just like the chain's glazed doughnut, the Chocolate Iced falls into the latter raised grouping and was priced at $1.79.

The look: I've definitely seen better-looking doughnuts. The round itself looks fairly standard, yellow-tinted with a fine sugary varnish. But, the light brown icing appears to have been applied haphazardly with small divots here and there resembling craters on the moon.

The taste: Regrettably stale, but I could tell it had potential. I picked up my order around 11 a.m., so I am assuming I received the tail-end of an earlier baked morning batch. The entire doughnut was a bit firm and crackly rather than soft and pillowy. However, the overall taste was still laudable. With each bite, a small gush of oil emerged coupled with a delicate sweetness from the surrounding glaze. And, as for the chocolate, it's luscious and smooth almost like pudding–I just wish there had been more of it. All things considered, it's not too shabby, just not nearly as good as my prior experience with the shop's glazed donut–I'm still dreaming about it.

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Krispy Kreme

chocolate frosted donut from krispy kreme on a plate next to a bag
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut)
Calories: 240
Fat: 11 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 90 mg
Carbs: 33 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 20 g)
Protein: 3 g

The first image that likely pops into your head when you hear the alliterative brand name Krispy Kreme is a fresh, hot-off-the-conveyor glazed doughnut. The chain's signature creation is undoubtedly iconic, but that's not necessarily where all the magic ends. For some doughnuts, the journey continues after they make their way through the shower of glaze. A select few are later injected with jelly, custard, or even the chain's signature cream filling. A handful are blasted with sprinkles, and others still are simply dipped to morph into the Chocolate Iced Glazed Doughnut. This is the sweet selection I was after, as I rolled up to place my order. It rang up at $2.39 and I applauded myself for not tacking on a glazed just for the heck of it.

The look: About what I expected. Essentially, the chain's original, small-scale glazed doughnut came covered in a reasonably chunky blanket of chocolate icing. Once again, it acquired some defects in the bag. Krispy Kreme should really take to using a small box like Dunkin' does to preserve the aesthetic. (I know it tastes the same either way, but still!)

The taste: Flavorsome but teetering on cloying. A Krispy Kreme original doughnut is already sweet enough, encased in a shell of glaze from top to bottom. Then, you add a film of rich chocolate on top–somewhat reminiscent of Hershey's syrup–and it starts to taste excessive. Of course, I still have to give credit where credit is due and commend the chain yet again on its doughnut-making. Because even with the the overload of sugar, this selection is still pretty dang delicious and I finished it off in just a couple of swift bites—despite the looming threat of cavities.

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Duck Donuts

a chocolate glazed duck donut on a plate with a donut box
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut)
Calories: 260
Fat: 13.5 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 395 mg
Carbs: 37 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 19 g)
Protein: 3 g

Duck Donuts is all about creating your own confection. At the chain, the sky's the limit as you assemble your own single from a choice of coating, toppings, and a drizzle for the pièce de résistance. Of course, as I ordered my chocolate iced loop for $3.50, I wasn't presented with any other superfluous choices, but it's nice I know I have options. Plus, it doesn't stop at just single doughnut design. Patrons are also invited to build their own half dozens and full dozens. Breakfast sandwiches are available with what other than doughnuts used as the buns. And, for extreme sweet tooths, doughnut sundaes are even thrown in just for the heck of it. It really is quite an impressive flock of sweets and goodies.

The look: From the top, this doughnut seems nearly identical to one of those Entenmann's chocolate-frosted doughnuts you buy at the grocery store. It's so heavily coated in a dark black-brown shade of icing that it spills into the middle pit and over the sides. The pastry, though, is a little flat and obviously a cake doughnut.

The taste: I'll be honest. When it comes down to cake vs. yeast donuts, I typically side with the latter. But, Duck had me changing my tune with this compact, crispy, yet perfectly moist delicacy. Plus, don't get me started on the chocolate frosting. First off, the ratio of icing to dough is delicately balanced so that neither one eclipses the other. Although I wouldn't have minded if the chocolate did commandeer the entire experience, it's that richly sweet and delectable. Served warm to the point where it was nearly dripping, it was unbeatable. I would say this chain definitely has its "ducks in a row" when it comes to a classic chocolate frosted doughnut.

Megan Hageman
Megan is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Megan