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I Tried the Glazed Donuts From 5 Popular Chains & the Best Had Extra Body and Fluff

Every doughnut shop offers its take on the classic glazed ring, but which chain does it best?
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Is there anything better than a helping of fried dough and sugar for breakfast? Doughnuts may not be the most nutritious way to start your day, but their sweet promises can drag kids and adults out of their beds. Not to mention, they have the power to turn groggy morning frowns into smiles and office enemies into friends—at least for the day.

When you're on the hunt for a dozen, where do you set your sights? Some sweet tooths prefer mom-and-pop shops, while others head to the bakery section of their nearest market. Others choose the convenience and dependability of an established chain.

From venerable Krispy Kreme to relative newcomer Duck Donuts, each of these bakeries has its own quirks and claims to fame. Which one will prevail when it comes down to the ultimate equalizer: the glazed doughnut? I grabbed an icing-covered ring from five chains around my Columbus, Ohio, area to find out. Grab your coffee and buckle up. There's no sugarcoating these results.

Tim Hortons

two glazed donuts on a plate with a tim horton's bag.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut):
Calories: 190
Fat: 6 g (Saturated Fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 210 mg
Carbs: 31 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 11 g)
Protein: 4 g

It's been noted that Canada eats more doughnuts per capita than any other country. I didn't think anyone could top our doughnut obsession in the U.S., but I guess the Canadians have done it, eh? Tim Hortons is at the helm of satisfying sugar-coated cravings in the Great White North, and the company's reach has reached America to boost our doughnut diversity.

The chain carries Boston cream, chocolate dip, Canadian maple, vanilla dip with sprinkles, old fashioned, and apple fritter varieties. Of course, there's the classic glazed doughnut, which the chain calls the Honey Dip. One doughnut costs $1.49. I decided to double-dip for good measure.

The look: A bit dry. The icing appears to be applied in a razor-thin and insufficient layer. These doughnuts are plump, though—the largest of my taste-testing bunch—and come in a yellow-tinted shade of tan.

The taste: With an unrelenting density, it took me some time to chew down each bite of this doughnut. As I took the time to gnaw, the realization hit me: It tastes like a yeast dinner roll. The icing and sweetness are scanty, and the dough is thick as all get out, leading me to believe these would be better served in a basket alongside a hearty meal rather than breakfast pastries. Maybe they do doughnuts differently in Canada, but this roll-like recipe isn't for me.

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two glazed donuts ona plate with a dunkin bag.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut):
Calories: 240
Fat: 11 g (Saturated Fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 270 mg
Carbs: 33 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 13 g)
Protein: 4 g

America runs on Dunkin'—it's the kind of run that inevitably leads to a crash and maybe even a nap, thanks to those sugary doughnuts. Each of the company's 13,000-plus locations carries quite a selection, from jelly- and cream-filled to chocolate and sprinkled. Don't forget about the poppable, almost-too-cute-to-eat Munchkins doughnut holes. There's a flavor for every person and every mood at the world-renowned doughnut shop. For those days when piles of caked-on frosting and other excessive toppings don't seem as shiny, good ol' glazed doughnuts stand as a simple and pure beacon of hope. One is $1.69.

The look: The coloring, shape, and size are all flawless, making them look more like plastic fake food donuts rather than something edible.

The taste: Pretty tasty—in the way that most doughnuts are pretty tasty and not in a way that's groundbreaking or overly impressive. It lands between soft and dense, with a demeanor similar to that of a generic store-bought doughnut. It has more icing than Tim Hortons' ring-shaped treat–which isn't saying much. However, it leaves you with an unusual sour or even biting taste at the back of your throat. It's not a bad doughnut, but I also have a sneaky feeling that this flavor is consistently the last one sitting in the box when a variety pack is brought home or to the office–one of those "I guess I'll eat it because it's there" confections.

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Duck Donuts

a glazed donut on a plate.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut):
Calories: 240
Fat: 12 g (Saturated Fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 390 mg
Carbs: 36 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 18 g)
Protein: 3 g

Named after its birth city of Duck, N.C., in the Outer Banks, Duck Donuts is a chain of more than 100 shops. Most are concentrated in the eastern U.S., but locations can also be found across Texas, Colorado, California, Arizona, and other countries. From the outside, it looks like your average everyday doughnut joint. In reality, it's so much more. Because here, you get to take over as the pastry chef, building your custom doughnut. It starts with a coating where you can choose from a collection of flavored icings and sugars or opt for bare. Next up is a choice of up to two toppings ranging from Oreos and chocolate chips to streusel and bacon. Then, the pièce de résistance is the drizzle on top.

Unfortunately, I didn't experience this Willy Wonka-type thrill as I ordered my humble glazed donut for $3.50. But I will certainly be back.

The look: Flatter and darker than other glazed loops in the test. I immediately guessed it was a cake doughnut, and I was correct. The icing was so plentiful that globs spilled into my small box.

The taste: All it's quacked up to be. It's not your typical doughnut. Instead, it's more of a vanilla cupcake and doughnut mash-up with a moist interior and lightly crisped outer coating. It's sweet all by itself. However, it ascends to another level when submerged in its icing bath–which, by the way, reminds me of the vanilla glaze you find packaged alongside frozen toaster strudels. If cake doughnuts are your end-all, be-all, then these glazed doughnuts will likely top your list. And I certainly think they should be viewed as a feather in the chain's cap. But, there were a few offerings that dazzled me even more.

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Krispy Kreme

two glazed donuts from krispy kreme on a plate with a bag.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut):
Calories: 190
Fat: 11 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 85 mg
Carbs: 22 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 10 g)
Protein: 3 g

As a kid, a trip to Krispy Kreme was one of life's great adventures. This was partly because the visit always ended with a one-way ticket to deep-fried flavor town. But, it was mostly because you watched each doughnut's exciting conveyor belt journey as it made its way from the fryer through the white icing waterfall and finally into a box. There's nothing else quite like it—a mesmerizing phenomenon. And although I now care more about the doughnut reward at the end, the experience still holds a special place in my heart.

To rekindle some of this magic and see if these doughnuts have stood the test of time, I grabbed two of the famed Original Glazed from the chain for $1.99 each.

The look: Since I only asked for two, my order came in a bag rather than an organized box. Pulling them out proved challenging, and sadly, each looked rather squished with an imperfect icing crust. Despite these blemishes, they still managed to look delicious.

The taste: Airy and pillowy to the point that they almost melt in your mouth on impact. Each bite is accompanied by the soft crackling of the glacé finish and is beautifully buttery. Fresh and hot from the shop or even lukewarm hours later, these doughnuts are always delectable and gone too soon. They're light enough for me to justify eating "just one more" and never feeling too guilty about it. We can all agree that a Krispy Kreme donut is undoubtedly one of the great glazed donuts of its time.

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Daylight Donuts and Cafe

two glazed donuts on a plate with a daylight donuts bag.
Photo: Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Doughnut):
Calories: 166
Fat: 7 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 90 mg
Carbs: 22 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 8 g)
Protein: 2 g

Daylight Donuts is one of those break-of-day to early afternoon establishments. So, if you want a doughnut after 2 p.m.—or, in some cases, past noon—you're out of luck. I learned this the hard way.

Once I finally got the timing right, I could glide right into the shop and see what was baking. My nearest location in Hilliard, Ohio, is said to have the best fritters in the city, plus a wide array of cake, filled, raised, premium, and what they call "fancy" doughnuts, like vanilla or lemon long johns. I limited myself to two raised glazed doughnuts for $1.79 each.

The look: Standard size and shape, but unusually pale to the point where they looked as if they weren't cooked all the way through. The icing appears to be in good shape.

The taste: I didn't think anything could top Krispy Kreme. I really didn't. But, holy heaven, these Daylight rounds sure give the multinational chain a run for its money. Its two glazed offerings are similar. I compared them side-by-side—quite literally, with Daylight in one hand and Krispy Kreme in the other—and found both to be equally delectable in dough and icing. The only area where Daylight's glazed pulls ahead is when it comes to texture. It boasts more body and fluff, giving it some extra oomph and giving you, the customer, more to love. For these reasons, the shop won my heart and the title of glazed doughnut gold medalist.

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