Hot take: donut shops to LA are what delis are to New York.
Sure, it’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges, donuts to sandwiches. But in terms of day to day function, it’s a parallel in a way. While New Yorkers walk into their favorite deli on their commute to kick off the morning with a bagel, Angelenos can be known to do a quick drive by whichever donut shop is most convenient in a particular day’s traffic to pick up a pink box of donuts to bring into work.
LA’s love for donuts runs deep. And the irony isn’t lost on any of us that this contradicts directly with the “healthy” reputation of this city. But in LA, there’s a donut for everyone. Even the gluten free pilates moms. From trendy over-the-top compositions displayed in cases that rival patisserie to no-fuss classics in nondescript strip malls, from Santa Monica to Highland Park, you never have to travel far to fulfill a sweet craving (but many are worth a trip).
The culture of donuts in this city is intrinsically tied to the histories of Cambodian refugees and immigrants. Back in the 90s, a man named Ted Ngoy built up a network of donut businesses to help sponsor Cambodian refugees and survive in this country. There was a point when over 80% of donut shops in LA were owned and operated by Cambodians, and while the demographics have shifted over the past few decades, there remains a strong heritage of Cambodian-owned donut shops, some of which have been handed off to the next generation.
Plus, nothing is more quintessential LA than driving onto a movie lot with a pink box on the passenger seat.
Below are some top favorites for all your donut dreams, vaguely organized from west to east.
I mean, the epitome of LA is having a donut shop that is Hollywood famous, located far away from Hollywood (or any of the studios for that matter). Randy’s iconic giant, 32 foot donut sign at its Inglewood flagship has starred in many movies and is quite literally world famous. It’s been around since the 60s and has since, like all things in LA (nothing is sacred in this damn city) has in recent years become an Instagram destination. But you have to give it to them, their giant donut pre-dates the age of murals and Instagram-museums by decades (and even the most primitive versions of an internet).
This second generation family-owned cash only donut shop is a destination in itself. Open 24/7, they churn out donuts around the clock to keep the cases stocked. People flock from near and far to ogle at the 100+ variations of donuts that look even more beautiful the later it gets at night.
This Costa Mesa-born shop is worthy of the added consonants, because these are fancy, fresh, artisanal doughnuts. They operate on the other end of the spectrum from other places on this list, focusing on a few select seasonal flavors each day and often sold out well before closing time. Showing up to brunch (or a morning meeting) with a stack will earn you many brownie points.
This no-fuss family-operated donut shop is in a pretty random part of Sawtelle, sure, but that’s what makes it one of those IYKYK kind of establishments. They specialize in buttermilk donuts and have been doing it since the 50s. These aren’t the prettiest or fanciest or most varied donuts in town, but they know what they’re doing and they do it well. Also, they’re expanding to Westwood – in the former location (RIP).
SK’s is also a mom & pop donut shop located in an unassuming strip mall, but this one is conveniently located in the mid-Wilshire area, making it a popular place to stop by for anyone commuting straight through the city.
Gluten free and vegan baked donuts might not sound appealing, but Fonut’s has managed to convert skeptics over the years. Their earl grey blueberry fonut is alone worth a detour.
Another family-owned establishment operating window-service out of a cramped strip mall in Koreatown. It’s open 24/7 and their donuts may as well be marketed with an Instagram double-tap guarantee.
First there were tacos, a venture by Danny Trejo that against all odds actually took off for a successful pivot into the food world. And then came donuts. Bright magenta pink, occupying a small, standalone building in the parking lot of a strip mall at the corner of Santa Monica and Highland, Trejo’s came in strong, but quickly established a foothold in the always surprising Hollywood neighborhood.
Located within Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo, Café Dulce has over its decade of existence become a must-stop in the neighborhood. The small shop displays their donuts in neat rows alongside other Japanese-style breads, featuring fun toppings like fruity pebbles and bacon. A perfect treat to grab while you peruse one of the few neighborhoods where it’s socially acceptable to be walking around on foot.
This Highland Park original has been a fan favorite for years with their highly photogenic spreads and creative signature and limited edition flavors to the likes of “angry samoa” and “hot rosewater music.” In fact, they’ve been so successful they’ve opened a second location in DTLA and most recently an ice cream forward shop right on Sunset in Silver Lake (& if you can make it on , you can make it anywhere).
For the longest time, the Donut Man was practically a legend. Located far enough away for it to be out of reach for most Angelenos, the Donut Man’s loaded strawberry donuts were foodie magnets even before the age of social media, back when people would describe it verbally to each other. What could make a donut even better than to fill it with fresh California strawberries? The family owned shop in Glendora continues to churn out fresh donuts 24/7 as they’ve done since the 70s, but now they also have a shiny new location in , fulfilling many cravings with a much shorter commute.