Understanding The Doughnut vs. Donut Debate

We're more than a little fond of doughnuts. As it happens, we're also quite fond of donuts. Glazed, chocolate covered, sour cream, cake, jelly-filled: Rings of fried dough (or baked, we're good with that, too) is excellent no matter how you spell it. But is there a real difference between doughnut vs donut?

The two spellings are a little confusing. Some doughnuts shops use the full spelling, while others prefer the shorter version. You might see National Doughnut Day written as National Donut Day. Even here on Wide Open Eats, we use both spellings in our recipes. Which is correct? The short answer (the doughnut hole answer, if you will) is both spellings are correct.

doughnut vs donut
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Time to Make the Doughnuts

First, a little doughnut vs donut history. Many cultures have some type of fried dough, but doughnuts, as we know them, got their start with the Dutch as olykoeks (or oily cakes) which were balls of cake deep-fried in oil. Dutch immigrants coming to the United States brought these tasty treats with them, and then an American ship captain named Hansen Gregory came up with the idea to punch a hole in the middle of the dough.

The word doughnut first appeared in print in 1809, when Washington Irving described olykoeks as "an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts" in his "History of New York."

In the late 1800s, doughnut appeared in some printed material as "donut" but the variant of doughnut didn't catch on until well into the 20th century when American doughnut chain Dunkin' Donuts popularized the use of donut.

doughnut vs donut
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When to use Doughnut vs Donut

The AP Stylebook prefers the original spelling of doughnut, but dictionary Merriam-Webster uses both spellings. They note that the use of donut instead of doughnut follows a tradition of phonetic-based spelling reform and that it's so often used in published materials that everyone understands the spelling.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists both spellings, with the note that doughnut is the preferred spelling in British English while donut is more common in American English.

Our verdict is that the correct spelling of doughnut vs donut depends on which doughnut shop you're in. Dunkin', of course, goes with donut, while Krispy Kreme prefers the doughnut spelling.

But whether you go with the old-fashioned spelling or the much easier to write version, we can all agree that doughnuts and donuts are excellent.

Watch: 6 Doughnuts You Should Try At Voodoo Doughnuts

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