San Diego

The 9 Best Donut Shops in San Diego

Say “I do” to these rings.

Donuts may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to must-try San Diego foods, but we’re here to make a case for these ring-shaped pastries. Within the county limits there are long-standing community favorites that have been slinging out donuts for more than 50 years and newer ones adding their own spin to this hole-in-one dessert. And with Mardi Gras this week, these crullers are the closest you’ll find to a King Cake. From Escondido to Imperial Beach, here are the very best donut shops in San Diego County worth seeking out.

Photo courtesy of V.G. Donut & Bakery

VG Donut & Bakery

Encinitas
Established in 1969, VG (short for “very good”) is a Cardiff institution churning out a variety of pastries, cakes, and breads made in-house daily. Don’t leave the shop without grabbing a few freshly fried pastries, including the Shoe donut, a VG speciality that’s a cross between a glazed and buttermilk donut, covered in a classic glaze or chocolate.
How to order: Call the shop in advance at 760-753-2400 for easy pick up without waiting in line; walk-ins available.

Donut Panic

Grantville
This Grantville shop specializes in vegan and non-vegan donuts that taste like they were pulled fresh out of a grandmother’s oven. The secret ingredient is fresh mashed potato flakes instead of egg, yielding a pastry with crisp edges and a satisfying chew. Order up the shop’s maple bacon, a vegan take on the popular flavor combination using house-made smoked coconut in place of bacon. Or go for the popular rose cardamom, an homage to the owner’s Iranian background.
How to order: Online for pickup or delivery; walk-ins available.

nomad donuts
Photo by Ellen Wright for Thrillist

Nomad Donuts

North Park
Ube may be big now, but it was just a twinkle in the food world when Nomad introduced this Filipino flavor back in 2014. As the name suggests, Nomad specializes in globally inspired breakfast staples like donuts, bagels, and coffee, all made from scratch daily. Other international flavors include banana miso and tumeric coconut milk alongside the more traditional maple and chocolate, plus a variety of vegan offerings.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome or place an order online before midnight for next day pickup; pickup and delivery Postmates

Peterson’s Donut Corner

Escondido
The sheer size of Peterson’s Texas-sized donuts make this shop worth a visit on their own, but the rest of the menu is equally impressive. The selection is diverse, covering almost every imaginable classic style, filling, and icing, including their take on the cronut. When in doubt, get an assorted dozen, or whatever’s fresh out of the oven. 
How to order: Call 760-745-7774 to place special orders; the walk-up window is open 24 hours a day except on Tuesdays. 

Mary’s Donuts

El Cajon, Santee, and Lakeside
Led by former Winchell’s bakers Mary and Don Hennesy, Mary’s Donuts is known for baking their rings fresh all day long. As proof of the shop’s popularity, the longtime Santee favorite recently expanded into El Cajon and Lakeside, where they’ve continued churning out sandwiches and donuts at the same rate as their original location. Both spots feature longtime favorites like classic glazed and buttermilk bars as well as a rotating selection of fruit-filled fritters.
How to order: Call the Lakeside shop at 619-334-5272 for delivery; all shops open for walk-ins.

Sidecar Doughnuts

Del Mar
When this LA and OC donut chain graced Del Mar with its presence, it brought an ardent fan base familiar with its addictively savory and sweet butter and salt and sublime huckleberry doughnuts.The donuts are made fresh in small batches throughout the day, and based on the shop’s still-soaring popularity—customers can taste the difference. 
How to order: Walk-ins welcome or order online.

The Goods

Carlsbad
Visiting this Carlsbad bakeshop is like stepping into a high-end boutique. Velvet, cobalt-hued booths tempt diners to get cozy, while artisanal donuts are displayed behind glass shelves like delicious jewels you can eat. The shop’s standard flavors include strawberry cheesecake and Tahitian vanilla, but monthly specials incorporating seasonal fruits are equally popular. Gluten and vegan options are also available.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome or call 760-994-0458 to place an order for pickup.

stardust donuts
Photo by Darlene Alilain-Horn for Thrillist

Stardust Donut Shop

Imperial Beach
This Imperial Beach shop has been slinging out hot pastries for more than 50 years and its original sea salt-crusted signage reflects its staying power in the community. The menu hasn’t changed much either, but that’s what makes this shop so beloved. Choose between classic glazed, chocolate iced, German chocolate, peanut butter, and raspberry-filled donuts made by hand daily. 
How to order: The walk-up window is cash-only and open from 8:30 am until they sell out, usually around noon. 

Copper Top Coffee and Donuts

Hillcrest
 The small but mighty menu at this shop only features nine cake donuts but everything is made from scratch every half hour, meaning your order is always hot and ultra fresh. Classic cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted holes are equally delicious as the store’s version of the bear claw featuring honey and almonds, but don’t sleep on the cinnamon rolls either! 
How to order: Order directly at the walk-up window or Postmates for pickup and delivery.

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Darlene Horn grew up in South Bay San Diego eating paletas at Oasis Ice Cream. You can find her perusing frozen food confections when she isn’t playing with her dog, Doctor. Find her on Twitter as @DarleneEats.
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