A tour of the hottest vegan donuts in London

Unless you've been in a deep, deep hole (or are not a London resident), then you can't have missed that London has been witnessing an explosion of vegan donuts (or doughnuts, if you'd rather). Mainstream doughnut (or donut, if you'd prefer) sellers like Crosstown and Doughnut time have been selling vegan versions of the circular treat, and the capital has even got a handful of entirely herbivorous donut/doughnut shops. (While I reckon it should be spelled 'doughnut' not 'donut', I'm going to save myself typing out a few characters and go for 'donut' from here on in. My fingers aren't getting any younger, you know.)

Now, before we go any further, I feel like I should declare that I really am not much of a donut fan. When I was a kid, my ma would do the weekly shop every Friday and buy one box of donuts from the local supermarket. They'd always be chewy and sweaty, the sugary dust long since turned into glucose-water. As a result, donuts were never really near the top of my love list.

That said, whenever I see a new vegan version of something - even something I never loved in its pregan incarnation - I feel duty bound as a herbivore to try it. And that's exactly what happened with London's vegan explosion: in order to support the plant based revolution, I decided to try every vegan donut I could lay my hands on. Perhaps one would be enough to overturn my previous donut aversion...

Firstly, Doughnut Time, the Aussie chain that now has six locations in and around London. Its known for donuts that are bright, cheerful, creative, and daftly named. I tried the Cornelius Fudge a while back, a great whacking chocolate donut with brownie pieces on top.

Here's half of it, because I'd eaten the other half:

It was such a long time ago, by the time I got around to writing about it, I couldn't remember whether I liked the Cornelius Fudge or not, so I hauled arse back to Doughnut Time's little truck in Stratford, fought my way through the Instagramming hordes, and picked up a couple more donuts to refresh my memory.

This time, it was the Houston, We Have Biscoff, and the Hotline Ring. Both were Insta-pretty fist-sized lumps of donut, both didn't really sway me to donut love. Sorry, Doughnut Time - they felt a bit of style over substance. The dough was fine, but the whole donutty affair was way too sweet. After eating one, I got the sugar sweats and felt distinctly bilious for a while. As an accomplished cake fiend of longstanding, I can assure you the sugar levels on these fellas are no joke. If you're going for a Doughnut Time, may I suggest taking a friend and splitting one between you? Otherwise you're facing a sugar high that latests til lunchtime, and while it might sound fun, it really wasn't.  I ate two over two separate days and the same unpleasantness occurred over both days.

Equally large, but not quite as sweet, donuts can be found at Dough Society. Tucked down a little side road in Hackney, Dough Society is an all vegan joint with a few long benches, a whole heap of donut flavours and coffee to wash them all down.

I stopped in for breakfast a while back and did this:

That's right - I ordered a coffee with my coffee donut. What can I say? I like coffee. (Though had they had a tea flavoured donut, I would have chosen that first. Tea is life.)

Because I dropped in at stupid o clock in order to get a donut before heading off to my placement, I managed to be the first person in. The staff were still setting up, and I was there badgering them for donuts before they'd got settled in. So, I can't give you a feel of the place, but it felt like a good spot to linger with a book and a donut.

I much preferred the taste and texture of Dough Society to Doughnut Time, but I wasn't yet completely swayed to the donut cause. I think because both Dough Society's and Doughnut Time's donuts are so huge, and I am frankly unable to stop eating any baked good until it is entirely gone, I felt a bit queasy when I finished both. I don't want to be unnecessarily controversial, but maybe smaller donuts wouldn't be a bad idea for folk like me with eyes bigger than their stomach?

My third donut of my London Vegan Donut Challenge was from Ruby's of London. Ruby's has been selling cakes, donuts and brownies from a stall in Greenwich market since forever, but recently a deal with Leon means you can get your hands on Ruby's cupcakes and donuts at various London branches of the sandwich-and-hot-meal mega chain.

There were a couple of flavours when I stopped by one Leon, including this beautiful beast, which was lightly rosed flavoured:

Unlike the other donuts I've mentioned, Ruby's was baked rather than fried, and also gluten free. That gave it a lighter texture, and that faint taste that can be characteristic of some gluten-free bakes. It was also noticeably smaller than the other two donuts. It didn't bear a huge resemblance to what most people would think of as a donut, bar its shape, but it was an enjoyable eat. Ruby's bakes are always beautiful to look at, but unlike Doughnut Time, I didn't feel like the taste was secondary to the look - the rose not only gave it a lovely look, but a beautifully subtle floral flavour too. I didn't feel overstuffed or over-sugared after I'd finished either, so big thumbs up there.

To finish up, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my favourite donut of the bunch: Crosstown Doughnuts! The last time I tried them was about a year ago. Back then, you could only get one, maybe two, vegan options at a couple of Crosstown's branches, and then only on the weekend. Now, not only can you can vegan options at all branches on any day of the week, the company has opened a vegan-only outlet in Marylebone.

When I tried Crosstown's vegan offerings, I thought they were fine, but not amazing. I didn't go back until recently, when I had the idea of writing this vegan tour of London's donuts in mind.

And when I did, I found this:

It's a very pretty coconut and lime donut. The dough is green because there's spirulina in there, apparently. You can't taste it, but it does give the donut a delightfully Kermit hue.

This is the Goldilocks of donuts: it's just the right size, just the right level of sugaryness, and just the right texture. Plus, it's the only one with a creamy centre. Check this out:

That coconut cream is something else. I could eat a bowl of that on its own, but wrap it in a perfect donut dough and top with a sharp crumble for contrast, and I am sold. Crosstown Doughnuts has made a donut believer out of me. After I tried the first one of these, I went back for an encore two days later. I'm officially a donut convert.

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  1. Ooh, thank you for this. I am going to London tomorrow for 3 days, mainly to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the V and A but I will def be hitting up Dough Society. It's pretty near my friends house that I am staying with. She is not vegan but is a major sugar fiend so I think we might be having breakfast here!

  2. So strange to see that donut time is in the UK still as they went into receivership in Australia where they started (and apparently did not treat their staff well. Their doughnuts looked great but I still love the old fashioned hot jam doughnuts because they taste amazing. That spirulina doughnut looks pretty amazing.

  3. I was so excited to get to spend some time in London eating doughnuts when I got back to the UK but alas I didn't do anywhere near as well as you. I only managed Crosstown (London had a lot of other desserts that needed eating!) which seems like the right choice. I did eat quite a few Doughnut Time doughnuts in Australia though.I had the apple pie and a lemon thyme with beet dough from Crosstown which were both excellent. I really like that Ruby's donut too and for a second I got VERY EXCITED about the partnership with Leon because there's one about 100 metres from my friends flat in Brighton (where I'm sitting right now) but then I read London only so I guess I'm gonna have to make my own doughnuts!

  4. I know what you mean - I am not a big fan of doughnuts but always feel driven to try new vegan anything, and new vegan doughnuts make that list. Thanks for the helpful round up so I can direct my doughnut attention appropriately! Thus far I've only had the Ruby's ones, and agree they're not very doughnutty, but I like them a lot. I suspect I'll enjoy the Crosstown variety too.

  5. Just recently, my husband said we should go back to London as it's been so long since we were there. It wouldn't be doughnuts that make me come, but if there are that many vegan doughnut places, the vegan restaurant explosion must be extreme! Wow.

  6. I'm on the exact same page about doughnuts. It's not something I usually crave, but when I have the option to get one, it's a pretty special event! I just don't usually think of them because it's so far to get a truly great one, I think. Options like this would definitely change my perspective... But maybe that's not such a good thing, for the sake of my stomach!


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