Chicago donuts taste test: We try (almost) every donut

Now that we have a wealth of donut shops, the time has come to taste test which donuts in Chicago are worth your...dough.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
1/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsButtermilk cake doughnut from Dat DonutTasting notes: This one left a bad, shortening-like taste in our mouths, and several tasters noted "off" flavors.
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2/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsChocolate doughnut from Dat DonutTasting notes: Nice crunch, but dry.
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3/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsChocolate raised doughnut from Dat Donut
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4/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsToasted-coconut doughnut from Dat DonutTasting notes: Faint coconut flavor from flakes sprinkled on the frosting.
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5/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsPineapple glazed doughnut from Dat DonutTasting notes: Are you sure this is pineapple? (No.)
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6/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsSprinkles doughnut from Dat Donut
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7/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsStrawberry glazed doughnut from Dat DonutTasting notes: Though basically identical to the Old Fashioned Donuts version, this strawberry-glazed was a touch lighter.
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8/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsStrawberry filled doughnut from Dat DonutTasting notes: Eep. Under-fried and doughy.
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9/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsStrawberry sugar doughnut from Dat DonutTasting notes: Though no one was wild about the synthetic strawberry flavor, this one was slightly superior to its nearly identical competitor, the strawberry-filled sugar-dusted doughnut from Old Fashioned Donuts.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
10/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Glazed doughnut from Dat DonutTasting notes: Flawless. An exemplar of the form. Yeast flavors shine through. Superlight. Like God.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
11/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsChocolate Chocolate Old Fashioned doughnut from Do-Rite DonutsTasting notes: Heavy on the frosting, this was like eating a doughnut-shaped cake.
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12/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Chocolate Old Fashioned doughnut from Do-Rite DonutsTasting notes: Incredible crunch, just enough chocolate, pure satifsaction.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
13/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFruit Fritter from Do-Rite DonutsTasting notes: Love the halved fresh strawberries.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
14/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCandied maple bacon doughnut from Do-Rite DonutsTasting notes: Not only are all bacon doughnuts wrong, but even sans bacon, this doughnut is overly soft.
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15/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK:Pistachio passion fruit doughnut from Glazed & InfusedTasting notes: The tart passion-fruit flavor was a delightful reprieve from a sea of sweet doughnuts.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
16/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsPistachio Meyer lemon doughnut from Do-Rite DonutsTasting notes: The crumbly, cakey doughnut doesn't come together with the big chunks of pistachio and sweet icing.
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17/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsValrhona chocolate glazed cake doughnut from Do-Rite Donuts
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18/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Vanilla bean-glazed cinnamon crunch doughnut from Do-Rite DonutsTasting notes: Love the layer of cinnamon woven into the dough, love the crackly glaze, love the pronounced cinnamon flavor, love this doughnut.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
19/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsVanilla bean glazed doughnut from Do-Rite DonutsTasting notes: So light. Almost too light. LIke sugared brioche, passed off as a doughnut.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
20/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsVanilla glazed doughnut from Doughnut VaultTasting notes: Performed surprisingly poorly in the taste test. Tasters loved the texture but felt the strong flavor of the glaze was a detriment to overall doughnut bliss.
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21/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Chestnut glazed doughnut from Doughnut VaultTasting notes: Nutty, puffy and with absurdly flaky icing, this is doughnut perfection.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
22/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsChocolate glazed doughnut from Doughnut VaultTasting notes: Very subtle, delicate chocolate flavor.
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23/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsGingerbread stack from Doughnut VaultTasting notes: Strong, dark ginger flavor.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
24/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Old Fashioned doughnut from Doughnut VaultTasting notes: With a more moist interior than its competitors, this specimen is our pick for best Old Fashioned in Chicago.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
25/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Grape jelly-filled doughnut from Doughnut VaultTasting notes: The jelly doughnut to end all jelly doughnuts. Inspired.
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26/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsPistachio Old Fashioned doughnut from Doughnut VaultTasting notes: Spunky combination of pistachio and coconut.
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27/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Bacon butterscotch doughnut from EndgrainTasting notes: Enoch Simpson is the only person who understands how you properly put bacon on a doughnut. He does so minimally, subtly and with a nutty butterscotch foil that makes the whole thing taste like caramel corn-not like a skillet.
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28/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCarrot cake doughnut from EndgrainTasting notes: There is actual shredded carrot in here. Ambitious, but...
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29/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsLemon bar doughnut from EndgrainTasting notes: Good move tucking bright, lush lemon curd inside.
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30/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsNutella milk stout doughnut from EndgrainTasting notes: Tastes like a chocolate bagel.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
31/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Coconut cream doughnut from FirecakesTasting notes: Between the crunchy coconut-coated exterior and the perfect proportion of cream filling, this was a surprise stunner.
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32/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Apple fritter from FirecakesTasting notes: Not too sweet, with big chunks of apple. Bonus points for being one of the few apple fritters on the North Side.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
33/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsHoney glazed doughnut from FirecakesTasting notes: Strong flavor left a bad aftertaste.
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34/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMaple glazed pineapple and bacon doughnut from FirecakesTasting notes: The most restrained of the bacon doughnuts, Firecakes' take on the genre was actually too subtle.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
35/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsButtermilk Old Fashioned doughnut from FirecakesTasting notes: Intense flavor and oily texture.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
36/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICK: Peanut-butter cup mini doughnut from FirecakesTasting notes: Mini-doughnuts are the future. Win.
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37/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsValrhona Chocolate iced doughnut from FirecakesTasting notes: Sounded more exciting than it tasted.
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38/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsVanilla bean glazed doughnut from Glazed & InfusedTasting notes: A close runner-up to Dat Donut for best glazed doughnut, but a touch overglazed.
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39/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsBanana cream cheese doughnut from Glazed & InfusedTasting notes: On the one hand, kind of good. On the other hand, actually kind of gross.
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40/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsBismark Special from Glazed & InfusedTasting notes: like having a doughnut with fresh jam on it.
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41/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsBlueberry lemon doughnut from Glazed & InfusedTasting notes: Tart, lively flavors. Almost like eating real food and/or fruit.
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42/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCoffee glazed doughnut from Glazed & InfusedTasting notes: Crumbly texture, deep coffee flavor.
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43/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCRITICS' PICKS: Cr�me br�l�e doughnut from Glazed & InfusedTasting notes: Genius. The glaze is a dead ringer for the crackly top of cr�me br�l�e, which is the best part anyway.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
44/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMaple bacon Long John from Glazed & InfusedTasting notes: Like many G&I doughnuts, this one suffers from an overly heavy hand with the glaze, here coupled with harsh spicing.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
45/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsTerry's Toffee doughnut from Glazed & Infused
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46/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCake doughnut from Old Fashioned DonutsTasting notes: Tastes like oil, feels like a brick.
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47/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCake doughnut with vanilla icing from Old Fashioned Donuts
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48/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCaramel raised doughnut from Old Fashioned Donuts
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49/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCake doughnut with chocolate icing from Old Fashioned Donuts
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50/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsChocolate-glazed, cream-filled doughnut from Old Fashioned Donuts
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51/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsDevil's food cake doughnut from Old Fashioned DonutsTasting notes: One of the stronger doughnuts from OFD, thanks to a pleasantly crunchy chocolate-glazed exterior.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
52/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsGlazed raised doughnut from Old Fashioned DonutsTasting notes: Funky oil taste.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
53/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsStrawberry-glazed raised doughnut from Old Fashioned DonutsTasting notes: Ever-so-slightly heavier than the otherwise identical Dat Donut strawberry-glazed. Neither especially notable.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
54/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsStrawberry-filled doughnut from Old Fashioned DonutsTasting notes: Not wild about the synthetic strawberry flavor.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
55/55
Photograph: Martha WilliamsGlazed raised doughnut from Old Fashioned DonutsTasting notes: Spoiled by a funky oil taste.
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We are living in the golden age of donuts in Chicago. To prove it, we picked up a dozen donuts from the best spots in Chicago—Glazed & Infused, Endgrain, Doughnut Vault, Do-Rite Donuts, Old Fashioned Donuts, Dat Donut and Firecakes—and did a taste test of all of them in one sitting, to determine the standout flavors from each. Check out the slide show to find out the best donuts, the worst donuts and more notes from the tasting.

RECOMMENDED: The best donuts in Chicago

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