The 13 Best Donut Shops in San Diego

From classic crullers to cronuts and specialty rings.

At their most basic, donuts are a sweet, mid-morning snack that are best paired with a hot cup of coffee. But the donut shops in America’s Finest City are taking this fried doughy delight one step further, offering new takes on the classics and artisan rings with their own spin. We’re talking about seasonal offerings and unique ingredients like huckleberry and ube. The classics aren’t too shabby either, with long-standing businesses still going strong with fresh-from-the-fryer favorites like OG glazed rings and crisp crullers. And with Mardi Gras on the horizon, these rings 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.

It’ll take all your restraint not to go overboard with your initial order because everything's made-to-order at this Encinitas shop with more than 40 varieties (plus daily specials) on its menu. Start with a classic like powdered jelly and move on to a shop speciality like the Funky Monkey, a banana-flavored donut with chocolate drizzle that you won’t believe is vegan and gluten-free.

Barrio Donas


Traditional Mexican flavors make a seamless transition at this locally owned and operated shop. Flavors like mazapán, cajeta, chocolate abuelita, and arroz con leche deliciously echo their non-donut counterparts. Don’t miss out on the donut-version of Gansito, a Mexican strawberry and crème-filled snack cake with a chocolate coating—it sells out early for good reason.


Convoy and Encinitas

Ever think your donut could use a bit more chew? Head to Mochinut’s Convoy or Encinitas location where rice flour creates a satisfying texture in every bite and makes them naturally gluten-free. Flavors are equally inventive and include matcha, black sesame, and banana milk, as well as more traditional options like strawberry and churro.

The Mini Donut Company
Photo courtesy of Mini Donuts Company

Bigger doesn’t always mean better and the genius behind this bite-sized concept is that you can try more flavors without filling up on one. Along with everyday flavors like cinnamon and sugar, glazed, and maple, The Mini Donut Company slings out specialty flavors like vanilla or chocolate glazed rings that are topped with crushed cookies or cereal.

This family-owned shop recently sold the business to a long-time employee after 40 years but thankfully there won’t be any big changes to the menu. The walk-up stand is still churning out Texas-sized donuts, plus almost every style of donut under the sun including their take on the cronut. When in doubt, get an assorted dozen, or whatever’s fresh out of the fryer.

Mary's Donuts

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 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.

V.G. Donut & Bakery
Photo courtesy of V.G. Donut & Bakery

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.

Donut Panic


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.

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.

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.

The Goods


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.

Stardust Donut Shop
Photo by Darlene 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.

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! 

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.