Doughnuts: America’s Sweet Addiction – Why’re They So Popular?

Fried to perfection and perfectly versatile, doughnuts are one of the most sought-after treats in America. It’s no secret that Americans are ‘sweet’ on doughnuts. The US has many thousand doughnut shops and makes billions of doughnuts every year!

Doughnuts are an integral part of American culture. The sweet pastries that we know as doughnuts today were developed and popularized in America. Besides, doughnuts are also a highly convenient food, and they taste amazing!

Are you ready to learn why doughnuts are so popular in the United States? Great! Read on.

1. A Comfort Breakfast

The Spanish have their churros, and the French have their croissants. In America, coffee and doughnuts are classical breakfast food items. It’s a super way to start your day feeling good. Also, it’s an energizing and fulfilling choice of breakfast. They taste amazing and help you start your day with lots of motivation and positivity.

2. It’s Fast and Convenient

America is an active, restless nation with busy people. It’s the land of fast food, where people tend to find something quick and accessible to fill their stomachs while going to work or during a coffee break. Doughnuts are the perfect American “fast and easy” food that matches the American lifestyle – they can be eaten while driving the car, in the subway, and almost anywhere!

3. The Doughnut Comes To American Shores

People around the world from various countries and cultures have always enjoyed desserts made from fried dough. Archeologists have often unearthed fossilized bits of food that resemble doughnuts from prehistoric Native American settlements. However, the Americanized doughnuts are credited to the Dutch settlers who introduced olykoeks to the American palate when they arrived in New York.

Olykoeks translates to “oily cakes” because you would take balls of cake, drop it in pork fat, and fry it up! Unfortunately, the center of the dough would not cook as fast as the outside. As a result, many cooks stuffed the insides with nuts and other fillings that did not need to be cooked. Although the name didn’t sound so healthy, these “oily cakes” tasted great, and Americans loved them from day one!

4. About The ‘Nut’ in ‘Doughnuts’

The reason why doughnuts are called what they are is debatable. Some people joke that the name originated during World War I when millions of homesick “doughboys” (foot soldiers) went nuts for the treats brought to them in French trenches by female volunteers.

However, others credit the name to the traditional olykoeks, sometimes shaped as knots, giving birth to the word “dough knots.” On the other hand, some believe that the name originated when a cook threw in some nuts into the dough before frying them. During the mid 19th century, Elizabeth Gregory, a New England ship captain’s mother, stuffed walnuts and hazelnuts in the enters of fried dough, calling the treats “doughnuts.” She would send these pastries with her son Gregory Hanson during his long voyages to provide resistance against scurvy and colds. 

5. The Story of the Doughnut Hole

Mrs. Gregory’s doughnuts were undoubtedly good, but Captain Hanson Gregory came up with an idea to make it even better. Instead of stuffing the doughnut with nuts to make up for the uncooked doughy center, Gregory punched out a hole in the middle of the dough before frying it. This brilliant idea allowed the doughnuts to cook through evenly!

In an interview with the Boston Post, Gregory Hanson is known to have explained how he cut into the middle of a doughnut using the top of a round tin pepper box, producing “the first doughnut hole ever seen by mortal eyes.”

Some people love to make funny stories, such as Captain Gregory’s modification of the doughnut so that he could hang it on the ship’s wheel and use both hands to steer during a storm!

6. Doughnut Machines

The first doughnut machine in the entire planet’s history was set up in New York City during the 1920s by Adolph Levitt, a Russian refugee and baker. Before that, doughnuts were made entirely by hand. Adolph Levitt used to sell doughnuts in his bakery in New York City’s theater district. To keep up with the crowd’s hungry demands, Levitt had to develop a gadget that could churn out doughnuts faster than he could.

The result was a machine that dropped dough rings into a vat of simmering hot oil, circulated, flipped over, emerged from the liquid, traveled down a moving ramp, and tumbled into an outgoing basket. Even today, many contemporary doughnut companies make their doughnuts in this same way.

Machine-made doughnuts quickly became a sensation, and at the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, they were hailed as the “food hit of the Century of Progress.” People could now watch doughnuts automatically floating down a river of oil, and they indeed appeared like a glimpse of the future. 

7. World Wars and Doughnuts

This may sound surprising, but doughnuts have played a role in both the World Wars. During World War I, in the trenches of France, American doughboys, or soldiers, met millions of doughnuts distributed by female volunteers. In these doughnuts, the homesick soldiers would get a taste of home and return home with a natural affection for doughnuts. During World War II, doughnuts enlisted again, as American Red Cross female volunteers served doughnuts in buses called Clubmobiles.

The National Doughnut Day was established by the Salvation Army to remember the brave men and women who served in World War I. Each year, the day is celebrated on the first Monday of June.

8. Krispy Kreme

While Adolph Levitt’s machine was churning away doughnuts in New York City, young Vernon Randolph was able to purchase a secret recipe from a French chef in New Orleans. Then, in the hot summer of 1927, Randolph and two friends borrowed some potatoes, sugar, and milk from a kind grocer and produced a fresh batch of Krispy Kreme to be sold to groceries and passersby. Their popularity grew, and the late 1950s saw a total of 29 Krispy Kreme factories pop up in 12 states.

Many decades later today, the secret recipe is still known only to Krispy Kreme and is locked up in a safe in Winton-Salem, signifying the American art and technology of making doughnuts.

9. Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’, the iconic American brand, has been around since 1948. The first Dunkin’ was initially called Open Kettle, where William Rosenburg served delicious coffee and doughnuts. The original shop is still open today, having been restored to its original glory with a 1950s look. Today, Dunkin’ is one of the largest coffee and doughnut chains globally. 

10. Upscale Doughnut Shops

Americans love their coffee and doughnuts, and doughnut shops are the perfect place to refuel on both. Today, doughnut shops have evolved beyond the glazed doughnuts. Every major city now boasts of savvy doughnut shops with fashionable toppings and expensive price tags. As a result, crowds are quickly drawn towards these creative doughnut shops. 

11. Trendy Flavours

Another reason doughnuts are famous is that there are a ton of available flavors on offer. Doughnuts never get boring in America. A few basic doughnuts are frosted chocolate doughnuts, jelly doughnuts, glazed doughnuts, cream-filled doughnuts, and cinnamon twist doughnuts.

12. It’s Popular Among Teens

Doughnuts are extremely popular among American teenagers – primarily because of their low cost. Teens love doughnuts because they are readily available and convenient while also giving a feeling of fullness. Additionally, teen students eat while on the go, and doughnuts meet their budget and taste perfectly!

13. The Kids Love It

If American adults and teens love doughnuts, you can easily guess that kids love it even more! These sugary and chocolatey doughnuts are a firm favorite amongst American kids. It’s also a popular breakfast and snack item for kids that quickly satisfies their sweet tooth while providing them with plenty of energy.

14. Low Expense, High-Quality

America is a land with all kinds of people from all sorts of backgrounds and social statuses. However, doughnuts are the one food that wins and unites the hearts of every man, woman, and child. Doughnuts can be eaten in motion, conserving time and energy. Additionally, doughnuts have an image of excellence and have risen from a humble pastry to an exotic delicacy found in high-end cafes and doughnut shops. The blend of low expense and high quality makes it an attraction to people of all social statuses. 

15. They Taste Awesome

Doughnuts are popular because they taste amazing. Why else? Research of 1,000 Americans revealed that 96 percent of Americans like donuts. More precisely, about 50 percent proudly claimed they absolutely love donuts, and 40 percent claimed they liked them.

16. They Boost Spirit

Tasty food equals a good mood. Americans eat what makes them happy, and doughnuts rank high on the list. According to a survey, over half of Americans took doughnuts with them to the office. Interestingly, around 55 percent of Americans took donuts to share with their coworkers, and about 50 percent admitted that they think more highly of people who bring donuts to the office. Apparently, doughnuts unite and boost these Americans’ spirits at work!

All in all

Doughnuts have a rich history in America. America has come a long way, and the doughnuts have followed. Americans have always remained faithful to their doughnuts and have watched them evolve and rise from a humble pastry to a beloved and proud symbol of America. Now that you know all about why doughnuts are popular in America, you can grab one and enjoy it as well!

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This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.