How To Store Donuts: The Best Way To Keep Fresh Longer

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Donuts need no introduction and are loved all over the world. There are lots of ways to make them and all kinds of wonderful fillings and toppings to choose from.

A donut on a counter with sprinkles.
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Whether you are buying a package of donuts or you want to make your own, it's a good idea to find out how to store donuts so you can keep them fresh, moist, and truly delicious for longer. 

Leftover donuts can be stored for up to several days but it's important you know exactly how to store them and what to avoid. Whether you're enjoying them hot from the fryer or at room temperature, there's nothing quite like the taste of a fresh donut. No wonder they are so well-loved!

If you love Boston cream donuts as much as I do, you have to try this Boston cream pie recipe - it's like a huge donut for sharing!

Donuts can be as plain or as fancy as you want. I always take a long time to choose which one I want at a donut stand. They all look amazing and it's hard to pick just one! And I don't think I ever met a donut I didn't like.

Fruit-filled donuts are always good, as are cream-filled ones. Chocolate glazed donuts with colorful chocolate sprinkles are always appealing, and then there are donut-like treats such as apple fritters, churros, bear claws, crullers, and more, which use very similar ingredients and cooking techniques.

What are Donuts?

These delicious fried treats have been around for a long time. In fact, archeologists have found remains of fried dough in several ancient cultures including the ancient Romans and Greeks. Dutch settlers introduced them into the United States, calling them "olykoeks" or oil cakes. 

A ship captain from New England called Hanson Gregory apparently came up with their shape. According to legend, he wanted to steer the ship and hold his donut at the same time, so he removed all the centers. And yes, that's apparently where the idea for "donut holes" came from too!

Although they were considered to be a luxury food at one point, and were only found at high-end bakeries, they became far more accessible to everyone in the early 1900s when the donut-making machine was invented by a man called Adolph Levitt.

The delicious donut is known as a doughnut in the UK and a jam donut or jam ball in Australia. In the early days, donuts were a breakfast item but these days they are just as popular as a snack, dessert, or sweet treat. Any reason is a good excuse for a donut!

Donuts come in plenty of types including yeast donuts, cake donuts, glazed donuts, filled donuts, and many more variations. Churros are the Spanish and Portuguese versions of donuts. If you can't find those, try this churro cheesecake recipe for a very similar flavor.

They aren't just a sweet treat though. Donut-based dishes include donut grilled cheese, donut breakfast sandwiches, and donut burgers if you are curious about a treat that's both sweet and savory. 

In Japan, donuts are often served with tuna, seaweed, or salmon, and in the Philippines, there is a snack known as "balut" which is a boiled duck egg coated in donut batter and fried. Now, call me old-fashioned but I prefer mine dipped in sugar and perhaps filled with jam or custard!

How to Choose Donuts

Whether you're at the donut stand, grocery store, donut shop, or bakery, it's a good idea to know how to pick only the very best donuts. Try to ensure you're buying them as fresh as possible. The more recently they came out of the fryer the better! 

Another type of donut is the kind that's factory-made. These can be kept for days or even weeks and will be vacuum-packed and have an expiration date. Those will do at a pinch, but nothing beats the taste of freshly cooked ones which are still warm!

Donuts in box on a counter.

How to Store Donuts

Fresh donuts can be stored for a few days but over time they do tend to dry out. Whether you're buying Krispy Kreme donuts, another brand, or making your own, you will want to know how to store donuts if you have leftovers or if you've bought a lot and you know you won't be serving them all on the same day.

  • The boxes that donuts come in are handy but not airtight, so you need to keep them in a sealed container to prolong their shelf life.
  • Plain donuts, non-dairy glazed, or cake donuts should be kept in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature and eaten by the next day.
  • Some cake donuts might still be edible after 3-4 days but this depends on the exact donut recipe and storage conditions.
  • If you're using a Ziploc bag or similar storage bag, squeeze out the excess air carefully so you don't damage the donuts.
  • Unglazed or unfrosted donuts can be stacked on top of one another for easier storage, but don't do this with sticky or iced ones.
  • Keep them out of direct sunlight and in a cool and dry place.
  • You can keep them for up to 5 days if you let them cool completely and then keep them in an air-tight container or bag in the fridge.
  • Cream-filled donuts, ones with dairy-based fillings, and those with dairy toppings should always be refrigerated.
  • Make sure your fridge is running cool enough, or else the glaze or icing can melt on a leftover donut and be absorbed. If that happens, you'll be left with a soggy donut!
  • Another option is freezing donuts for up to 6 months, but cream-filled ones aren't good for freezing.
  • The best way to freeze them is to wrap each one in parchment paper, plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put them all in an airtight container or freezer bag. The parchment paper stops them from sticking together in the freezer.
  • Another method is to flash freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet and then transfer them into a freezer bag.
  • Thaw frozen donuts overnight at room temperature or microwave for 15 seconds or until the centers are no longer icy.

You can freshen up slightly stale donuts by giving them 5 or 10 seconds in the microwave. You can also refresh these sweet treats in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. This softens them a bit and makes them taste fresher. 

If you're heating up donuts with a jam filling, be very careful when taking a bite because the microwave tends to cook from the inside out and the jam inside might be quite hot. 

Cake-type donuts stay fresh for longer than yeast-raised ones because they're made with a dense batter and have more moisture in them which takes longer to dry out. 

How to Tell if Donuts Are Bad

​Mold is never a good sign and if you see visible mold or your donut looks a little fuzzy, it belongs in the trash and not in your belly. A bad smell is another indicator of spoiled donuts. 

Throw out any cream-filled donuts that have been in the refrigerator for over 5 days because they would be risky to eat. Even if they look and smell fine, the cream inside might be bad.

Common Questions

What can you do with stale donuts?

Obviously, if your donuts are moldy, rock-hard, or otherwise clearly spoiled, the only place for them is the trashcan. But if they're a bit stale you can still use them. Try making a donut shake with them or else chop them into pieces and serve with ice cream or whipped cream. I'd also add some chocolate sauce and chopped nuts! 

What are the most popular kinds of donuts?

There are so many different ways to make donuts, as well as fill and/or glaze them. It can be hard to pick just one favorite! One of the most common types is the yeast donut. These are fluffy and light and most have a hole in the middle. Another name for these is yeast-raised donuts or just-raised donuts, as they use yeast as a leavener. These are often dusted with cinnamon or either powdered or granulated sugar. Some might be frosted. You'll find these in any donut shop

Cake donuts are another popular type among donut aficionados. These use baking powder rather than yeast for leavening. They're denser than the yeast kind and are a little drier in texture. These come in different flavors and are topped with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar.

Glazed donuts have a sweet glaze on top. My favorite is a chocolate glaze! Sugar donuts are also really good and these are the ones most typically enjoyed at breakfast. They're topped with white sugar and completely irresistible with a cup of coffee first thing. Something similar is the powder donut and these are rolled in powdered sugar rather than the granulated kind.

Should you fry or bake donuts?

Deep-fried donuts are perhaps more traditional but baked donuts can also be really good. You can buy donut pans with ring-shaped holes you fill with donut batter before baking them until they're springy. Fried donuts are crispier than baked ones. They also cook faster because the hot oil surrounds them to ensure even, speedy cooking. The texture of fried donuts also allows them to better absorb toppings or sugar.

So does your choice of heat source really make much of a difference? The drawback of using a deep fryer is this can be a messy process. However, the donuts can overcook if you take your eyes off them. Baked donuts are usually lower in fat but they can also burn if you don't keep a close eye on them. They also don't crisp up as much as the deep-fried ones.

So choosing which cooking method to use is down to your personal preferences. Perhaps you already know you want a crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, luxurious treat, or it could be that you want to try a reduced-fat option and are wondering how good baked donuts can be.

Deep-fried ones are crisper as well as a little greasier, and are often served hot. Baked donuts aren't as crisp but are less greasy, lower in fat and calories, and are typically served warm or at room temperature. If you aren't sure, try making them both ways and see which texture and flavor you find the most appealing.

Stacked donuts and one with a bite out showing the centre.

Fun Facts

  • National Donut Day in the United States falls on the first Friday in June and was created by the Salvation Army in 1938 in memory of those who served donuts to the soldiers in World War I.
  • The biggest ever donut weighed more than 3000 pounds and was more than 16 feet wide. It was made in 1993 in Utica, New York.
  • Donuts are the official food of Los Angeles as well as Massachusetts' official state dessert.

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