Are Donuts Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Donuts

Almost all donuts contain eggs and milk. Is there any hope for a vegan version?

Close up of frosted and powdered donuts. Text Are Donuts Vegan? Treehugger

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Donuts have a giant history: Dating back nearly 600 years and spanning six continents, these leavened and deep-fried doughy treats come in a variety of shapes and flavors. Unfortunately for vegans, they almost always contain animal products.  

Don't get your hopes up if you're searching for a vegan donut (or doughnut—both spellings are accepted today) at a chain donut shop like Dunkin' or Krispy Kreme. Unless you're at a bakery specializing in vegan pastries, nearly all store-brand and bakery donuts have milk, egg, or a combination of both. Donuts also almost always contain sugar, some of which is likely processed using animal-based bone char. 

Find out exactly what's in those sizzling sweets and how to ensure your next dozen is completely plant-based in our guide to vegan donuts. 

Why Most Donuts Are Not Vegan 

Donuts stand out from other fried flour pastries because the dough is leavened, meaning that tiny gas bubbles have expanded inside the dough, giving it a lighter, more airy texture. Classic donuts accomplish this using vegan-friendly yeast, while cake donuts use baking powder, and both donut types include eggs, which not only add fluffiness but work hand in hand with the flour to give donuts their unique bite density. 

Most donuts are fried in plant-based oil in addition to containing oil and/or shortening (generally hydrogenated vegetable oil) to maintain moisture. Dairy, often in the form of powdered milk or whey solids, likewise helps keep the donut moist and fresh. 

The more extensive the donut topping, the higher the likelihood of encountering more eggs, dairy, and other, more discrete non-vegan ingredients like confectioner’s glaze. Here, we’ve compiled a list of common donut ingredients that give both ethical and environmental vegans pause. 


Cinnamon and Sugar Mini Donuts
LauriPatterson / Getty Images

Broadly speaking, any food labeled "sugar" contains a mixture of vegan beet sugar and cane sugar that has been refined using animal byproducts. Unless your cane sugar is 100% USDA-certified organic, it was likely processed with bone char discarded by the meat industry.  

For many vegans following a "practical and possible" lifestyle, sugar—either from sugar beers or sugarcanes—technically meets the definition of plant-based food. But other, more strict vegans avoid sugar altogether so they don't accidentally consume sugar that may have been processed with animal products.


Common donut fillings include custards, which contain eggs and dairy, and creams. Jelly and preserve fillings are also popular and likely contain non-vegan sugar.

Oil and Shortening

Although palm oil and soybean oil are by definition plant-based foods, vegans with environmental concerns often abstain from these oils because their growth and harvest are associated with wildlife habitat destruction and deforestation in some of the world’s most important biomes. 

Natural and Artificial Flavors

According to U.S. law, natural flavors can be derived only from plants, fungi, or animal products that have been heated to extract their essential compounds. Artificial flavors, on the other hand, have been chemically synthesized in a laboratory, sometimes from petroleum. Molecularly speaking, natural and artificial flavors are identical. 

Food Coloring

Environmental vegans may avoid food coloring like Blue 1, Yellow 6, and Red 40 because they are derived from synthetic (and unsustainable) petroleum-based sources.


Commonly called confectioner’s glaze, shellac comes from lac bugs. These scale insects excrete a resin that attaches to the trees in which they live. Harvesting requires the resin to be scraped off, resulting in the death of the insects. Glossy donuts likely contain shellac.

Did You Know?

Many major cities around the world are home to vegan donut shops, including Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and New York. But even in small towns like Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, vegans can find a delicious donut treat.

Store-Brand Vegan Donut Mixes

Close-Up Of Donuts Dough On Table. Preparing donuts
mikroman6 / Getty Images

Donut-craving vegans can get their fill if they can put in a little (completely vegan) elbow grease. Vegan donut recipes abound on the internet, many of which involve either baking or frying. If a completely DIY donut recipe feels too intimidating, these store-brand donut mixes will give you the sweet satisfaction you’re craving.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can vegans eat donuts?

    Those who follow a vegan diet should seek donuts that are specifically labeled "vegan". Without a label, you can assume the donut contains animal products.

  • What is not vegan in donuts?

    Donuts typically contain both milk and eggs, as well as sugar that is processed using animal byproducts.

  • Are Krispy Kreme donuts vegan?

    Krispy Kreme offers vegan flavors abroad (like the vegan caramel iced ring in the U.K.) but has yet to release an all-vegan donut in the U.S.

View Article Sources
  1. "Code of Federal Regulations Title 21". U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  2. Kobylewski, Sarah, and Michael F. Jacobson (2012) "Toxicology of food dyes", International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 18:3, 220-246, DOI: 10.1179/1077352512Z.00000000034