Are Donuts Vegan? Here Is Everything You Need To Know

In the U.S alone, 10 billion donuts are made every year, which isn’t surprising considering there are fast-food chains dedicated to their production. In fact, when I think about donuts, I think of Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Hortons, and how their wonderful ring-shaped, glaze-covered delicacies look.

Unfortunately, most donuts are not vegan as they are usually made using animal ingredients such as milk or eggs. However, it’s possible to have vegan donuts. In the United States, you’re able to find vegan donut shops at some locations. If they’re not accessible from where you live, then you can also opt for making them at home without necessarily having chef-caliber skills.

In this article, I will go into more detail about how donuts are made, and why they’re generally not suitable for vegans. Additionally, I will also provide you with a few suggestions, namely of vegan donut shops that you might be able to visit, as well as vegan donut recipes you can make at home.

How Are Donuts Made?

A donut is basically a fried ring or a ball of sweet dough that is either yeast leavened or chemically leavened. The dough is mixed and shaped, dropped into hot oil to be fried, and glazed afterward.

While the recipe may vary depending on whether the dough is yeast or chemically leavened, the ingredients remain pretty much the same, except for the leavening agent:

  • Flour
  • Baking powder or yeast (leavening agent)
  • Shortening
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Eggs (or egg whites)
  • Artificial or natural flavors

The glazing or frostings that are added once the dough is fried are a combination of flour, sugar, flavoring, and sometimes shortening, which isn’t vegan since shortening is basically dairy-based butter. 

Oftentimes, places like grocery stores, bakeries, or franchises use pre-packaged mixes that contain the ingredients above, but they also have to include fresh ingredients like water, milk, and eggs mid-confection.

To illustrate, here’s a cool video by Tasty showing how Krispy Kreme Donuts are made (they use a pre-packaged mix):

Besides the milk and the eggs, you’ll also obviously find ingredients like sugar and sometimes palm oil, which are regarded within the vegan community as being very questionable ingredients.

Even though they are clearly plant-based ingredients, things become complicated when you investigate further.

Why Sugar May Not Be Vegan

Sugar can come from two sources: sugarcane and sugar beets.

The sugar derived from sugar beets is ALWAYS vegan, but the one derived from sugarcane might not be.

When refining the sugar derived from sugarcane, the sugarcanes are crushed and the juice is separated from the pulp.

Unfortunately, in some cases, that juice is filtered, processed, and bleached with a decolorizing agent called bone char, which is essentially a carbon-like property obtained by incinerating the bones of cattle.


According to PETA, the bones used to create bone char comes from cattle in countries such as Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. The bones are sold to traders in Egypt, Scotland, and Brazil who then resell them to sugar suppliers in the United States to create bone char.

However, it’s important to emphasize that not all cane sugar is processed with bone char, in fact, many suppliers are adopting plant-based alternatives such as granular carbon or ion-exchange resins. Still, it’s often difficult to trace which type of sugar is being used, since a lot of companies use a mixed pool of suppliers.

For that reason, sugar may not always be considered vegan.

Palm Oil Is Bad For The Environment

Palm oil is also a plant-based ingredient. However, to create palm oil plantations, acres of forests are decimated, which includes entire ecosystems and natural habitats.

palm oil deforestation

Because of this, we have a lot of species that are now endangered. One excruciating example is orangutans.

According to research available on Cell, between 1999 and 2015, palm oil production has led to the demise of 100,000 orangutans.

With that being said, palm oil isn’t an ingredient that most vegans avoid. The same goes for sugar, and perhaps any other ingredient that is deemed “questionable”. What I want to say is that eating or avoiding these ingredients comes down to each individual’s own definition of veganism.

In end, the decision is yours, but I don’t think you should be judged regardless of it.

Where To Find Vegan Donuts

Fortunately, there are many places in which you can enjoy vegan donuts.

One Green Planet has written an article where they list out their favorite places to eat vegan-friendly donuts in the United States. Here are the options they’ve listed:

  • Voodoo Doughnuts (seven locations available, including Portland, Eugene, Austin, Denver, and Hollywood)
  • Donut Friend (Available in Los Angeles, California)
  • Mighty-O Donuts (Seattle, Washington)
  • The Donuttery (Huntington Beach, California)
  • Beet Box Bakery (Denver, Colorado)
  • Sticky Fingers (Washington DC)
  • Vegan Treats (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)
  • Le Cave’s Bakery (Tuscon, Arizona)
  • Ronald’s Donuts (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Union Square Donuts (Boston, Massachusetts)

Keep in mind that most of these locations are not 100% vegan, so you’ll find non-vegan options as well. So if you’re strict about cross-contamination, be sure to inquire the store about it.

How Are Vegan Donuts Made?

Like regular donuts, you’ll find ingredients like all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt. However, many of the vegan donut recipes you’ll find emphasize the different plant-based alternatives you can use.

To substitute the milk you can choose plant-based alternatives like soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk.

To replace the eggs, you can choose any of the following options:

  • Applesauce
  • Mashed Banna
  • Flaxseeds or Chia seeds
  • Vegan egg replacers
  • Aquafaba (the leftover liquid from boiled chickpeas)

These alternatives work very similarly to eggs in a recipe.

However, I’m not sure how the aforementioned vegan-friendly donut shops confection their donuts, but they may use some of these alternatives. I know, for a fact, that mashed banana is great to add moisture and a bit of sweetness, and flax seeds work well as a binding agent the hold the flour together.

If you want to learn how to use these ingredients to make your own vegan donuts, feel free to read the next section, as I’ll share with you 5 amazing vegan donut recipes.

5 Vegan Donut Recipes To Make At Home

1 – Vegan Doughnuts (Shop-Style)

shop-style donuts

This recipe by Connoisseurusveg is different than most of the recipes you’ll find. Want your vegan donuts to taste as if they have just come out of a donut shop? Then this is one you should try making.

2 – Blueberry Baked Donuts

blueberry baked donuts

This recipe by Chocolate Covered Katie is amazing! It feels like a fat, blueberry muffin, but it’s actually a blueberry donut that melts as soon as you take a bite.

3 – Easy Baked Chocolate Donuts

vegan chocolate donuts

This recipe by the Minimalist Baker is for people who absolutely love chocolate, even when it’s dripping. It’s not only vegan but also cruelty-free.

4 –  Vegan Brioche Donuts

vegan brioche donuts

Want a beautifully glazed donut that will melt in your mouth? I don’t know how Vaishali did it, but this recipe will have you feeling in paradise.

5 – Cinnamon Vegan Doughnuts

cinnamon donuts

If you don’t like fried donuts, this recipe by Nora Taylor (the person behind Nora Cooks) is more than ideal. Plus, it only takes 20 minutes to make! Who doesn’t have 20 minutes? Just kidding. 🙂

Summary: Most Donuts Are Not Vegan

Indeed, unfortunately, most of the regular donuts you will find in places like Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, or Tim Hortons are not vegan because ingredients like milk, eggs, and shortening (or butter) are used.

However, that is no reason to feel disappointed. You can still eat vegan donuts!

In this blog post, we’ve shared some alternatives, including donut joints that sell vegan-friendly donuts (the most popular one being Voodoo Doughnuts), and we’ve also shared amazing vegan donut recipes by amazing chefs.

What’s more, their recipes can be done by anyone as they’re very simple.

Anyway, thank you very much for reading, and feel free to share this blog post with your friends or someone that may find this information helpful.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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