Whether you like them covered in toppings or filled with jelly and cream, there's something magical about biting into one of the best donuts in San Francisco. You’ll find a healthy (and not-so-healthy) sprinkling of every kind of donut shop in the city—from 24-hour restaurants to even vegan restaurants. Here’s our pick of the best raised-and-glazed dessert options in San Francisco.
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Best donuts in San Francisco
Dynamo took the city by storm in 2008, introducing the world to Sara Spearin's heavenly little organic round cakes, laced with decidedly 21st-century flavor combos such as chocolate with raspberry balsamic and black pepper glaze; Fleur de Sel caramel-glazed vanilla bean; passion fruit milk chocolate and the over-the-top maple-glazed bacon apple. Tag team your donut with a cup of Four Barrel’s finest hand-roasted brews and your probation period as an official San Franciscan is concluded. Note to those who sleep in: Get there by 11am (especially on weekends) or it’s slim pickins.
A time warp of formica and linoleum, this mom-and-pop shop is the native San Franciscan’s go-to donut place. Open 24 hours a day (and yes, there’s regular 2am traffic), Bob’s offers its famed apple fritters, crumb rings, cinnamon rolls and buttermilk bars fresh from the fryer. There’s even a Bob’s Donuts Twitter feed (@whatsfreshest) that tells you what’s coming out of the fryer and when, so you can get ’em while they’re hot. To truly experience Bob’s though, you need to try—at least once—the Big Donut: a 3-pound raised donut the size of your face. Finish it in 3 minutes and you get a Bob’s t-shirt and your name in their Hall of Fame (and probably a stomach ache).
We’ll take the eye-rolling from Krispy Kreme lovers for having a dedicated vegan organic donut shop, mostly since Pepples are as good as they are good for you. At their Oakland Donut Farm, a rotating array of seasonal rings made entirely without animal ingredients (they’re fried in canola and palm fruit oil) are gobbled up with gusto by ‘vores of all stripes. Among the most popular varieties: blueberry, pumpkin pie spice, whiskey tangerine fig, green apple, persimmon and salted caramel.
“I got baked in San Francisco,” reads the fuchsia neon sign adorning Mr. Holmes. The bakery went from a tiny Tenderloin newcomer to a viral foodie destination with the invention of the cruffin, a cream-filled cross between a croissant and a muffin. Mr. Holmes' donuts are equally enticing, with sweet, pillowy dough surrounding a creamy core filled with rotating flavors like matcha or passionfruit. If you want something more out-of-the-box, look for the cornflake cookie, an addictive concoction made with brown butter, toffee, and cereal.
A fresh take on the traditional donut shop, Twisted offers all the classics—old-fashioned, sprinkles, glazed, bars, crullers—as well as a huge assortment of inventive modern offerings—all made from scratch in-house. Not to be missed: the bacon maple donut, which comes with hunks of hand-torn bacon scattered on top (on weekends they add jalapenos to create the spicy, sweet, salty and utterly addictive Baconpeño). Other specialties include cake-y blueberry donuts, powdered sugar-dusted cream puffs, Oreo cookies-and-cream-topped donuts and chocolate-glazed topped with Nutter Butter cookies.
Think twice before you order donut holes at Trish's, the popular Fisherman's Wharf bakery specializes in bite size, round, perfectly proportioned donuts with a distinctive hole in the center—a.k.a. not donut holes. These tasty miniatures are actually the perfect combination between a donut and a churro—sweet, airy, and topped with cinnamon. A bucket is well-worth the trip to Pier 39 and they'll be gone before you know it.
This 30+ year-old Richmond District shop is the place to go for old-school donuts of the Homer Simpson-pleasing variety—no healthy oils or fancy-scented sugars here. Just deep-fried goodness. Bite into a dense French cruller or a puffy raised glazed and savor the sticky sweetness as you lick (and lick and lick) it off your fingers. Rinse and repeat only if you’ve taken your Lipitor.
When the Bunry family emigrated from Cambodia and opened this Mission District shop 29 years ago, panaderias and mercados were as common in the neighborhood as hand-roasted, pour-over coffee shops are now. The fact that the Jelly Donut has managed not just to survive but to thrive in the rapidly gentrifying Mission (even with competition from the artisanal-hip donut shop down the street) is a credit to both the family and the donuts. This is the place to go when a chili-chocolate-nib-sprinkled thing just doesn’t hit the spot. The old-fashioneds, crullers and glazed confections are traditional, fresh and satisfying. Don’t miss the cinnamon rolls or the “buttermilk”—a bar the size, density and butter-load of a miniature pound cake. The best part: a handful of donut holes usually come gratis with any order.