You’ve got up at the crack of dawn to visit your favorite donut shop. Those donuts taste delicious, but you can’t possibly eat them all at once. So do you resign yourself to throwing them in the garbage when they get hard and stale? Absolutely not!
With the right storage, you can keep your donuts fresh and fluffy for at least 24 hours, and often far longer. And if you’re wondering how to achieve that, you’ve come to the right place!
We’re going to look at the best way to store donuts. And we’ll give you some different options to keep them as fresh as possible until you’re ready to yum them up.
Ready? Let’s get stuck in!
Why do donuts go stale?
To start with, let’s look at why donuts generally don’t stay fresh for very long. Not surprisingly, it’s all to do with the ingredients.
Most donuts contain butter or other kinds of oil. Those can quickly become stale. And if the donut is uncovered, the moisture inside can rapidly be lost to the air.
There’s actually been scientific research into this! It found that donuts developed a hard crumb, and became denser and less porous over time. In other words, you’ll be left with a dry, hard donut. And that’s not what anyone wants!
How long your donuts last will also depend on things like the filling. While filled donuts (or at least, the part of the donut next to the filling) may stay moist for longer, that filling can also go stale.
And glazes and icing can be absorbed into the donut over time, making the whole thing sticky and unpleasant. They can also “sweat” as the glaze melts – and who wants to eat sweaty food?!
Your donut storage options
There are three different ways to store donuts – at room temperature, in the refrigerator, and in the freezer. Note, though, that not all of these methods will work well for all kinds of donuts. We’ll explain more about that under each option.
1. Room temperature
Keeping your donuts at room temperature is fine if you plan to eat them within the next day or two. The key here is to do as much as you can to keep your donut from coming into contact with the air.
There’s one important caveat here, though: if your donut contains fresh cream, this isn’t a good option. That cream needs to be kept chilled, or all kinds of bacteria will start to grow in it. That’s a recipe for an upset stomach!
But as long as your donuts don’t contain fresh cream, all you need for this method is an airtight container. Either storage bags or Tupperware containers will work fine.
If you’re using a storage bag, squeeze out as much air as possible before you seal it. That will help your donuts stay fresher for longer. It can be a good idea to use one bag per donut for the same reason. With more than one donut, you may find it harder to get rid of the excess air between them.
The downside to using a bag is that the plastic may rest on top of the donut. (And if you’ve successfully removed all the air, it certainly will do!) That may mean you lose some of your topping when you take the donut out.
With a rigid container, on the other hand, there’s not much you can do about the air that’s trapped inside. But you won’t have to worry about the lid smearing your glaze or dislodging your M&Ms!
If you want to give your donut extra protection, you can also wrap it in plastic wrap or greaseproof paper before putting it in the bag or box. With plastic wrap in particular, though, you’ll find glaze or toppings will stick to it.
With your donut safely inside its airtight receptacle, you now need the right place to store it. You want somewhere that’s both cool and dark.
Warmth will speed up the chemical reactions that cause food to go stale. Light usually goes alongside heat – and even when it doesn’t, light alone can also cause food to degrade.
A cool, dark cupboard is ideal. When you’re ready to eat your donuts, you could also pop them in the microwave for about five seconds. That will be just enough to soften them up, without melting any glaze or icing.
2. In the refrigerator
We’ve already seen that keeping cream-filled donuts chilled is essential. But putting other donuts in the refrigerator can also be a good way to keep them edible a little longer.
As with keeping your pastries at room temperature, your first step is to protect them from the air. If you have strong smelling foods in your fridge, you’ll also want to prevent the odors spoiling the taste of your donut. No-one wants their chocolate frosting to end up tasting like blue cheese!
Plastic wrap or baking parchment, then an airtight bag or Tupperware container is perfect. Silicone bags can work too, but note that the silicone will be a bit heavier and will rest on the donut. So if you have a glazed or iced donut, be prepared to lose some of the topping to the sides of the bag.
If your donuts are filled with cream, they’ll be okay in the fridge for a day or two. If they’re freshly baked and don’t contain cream, they can last for up to a week.
When you’re ready to eat them, a quick blast in the microwave is again a good idea. But as your donuts will be starting at a lower temperature, heat them in longer bursts. 15 seconds at a time will usually work well.
But take care not to overheat them! That will be the kiss of death for any glaze or icing. And take care if you’re heating filled donuts. That jelly can get molten very quickly! You don’t want to burn your mouth.
3. In the freezer
You can put pretty much any kind of powdered or plain donut into the freezer. But with frosted donuts, you may find the frosting melts when you come to defrost them.
Freezing is a great option if you’re not sure when you’re going to eat your pastries. At a temperature of 0 degrees Celsius, freshly baked donuts that don’t contain cream will keep indefinitely. But to enjoy them at their best, you really want to eat them within two to three months.
Freezing is fine for cream-filled donuts too. But because cream is more perishable, we wouldn’t recommend eating them after longer than two to three months in the freezer.
To store your donuts in the freezer, it’s a good idea to use a rigid container. That will protect them from being squashed by that bag of frozen French fries!
And if you’re freezing more than one donut, layer them with sheets of wax paper. That will prevent them from sticking together, allowing you to defrost one at time if you wish.
Put the lid on the container and make sure it’s firmly in place. Then put the whole container inside a freezer bag. This might seem like overkill – but trust us! It will stop any pesky ice crystals from forming inside the container and interfering with the flavor and texture of your donuts.
When it comes to defrosting them, there are a couple of options. The simplest is just to leave them at room temperature. Most donuts will thaw out completely in about 15 minutes, although some denser cake donuts may take longer.
But note – if you choose this approach, keep your donuts uncovered! Any cover will trap moisture and risks leaving you with a soggy pastry.
If 15 minutes is just too long – we’ve all had those kinds of donut cravings! – the microwave is your friend. Pop your donut on a microwaveable plate and heat it in 15 second blasts. Check after every 15 seconds to see how it’s coming along – you don’t want to overdo it.
And just as with donuts stored at room temperature or chilled, the microwave can give you that just-baked taste. Keep heating your pastry until its slightly warm, and it will taste almost as good as the day you bought it.
- If you’re regularly going to be storing larger quantities of donuts, invest in some Tupperware storage boxes with shelves. They’ll keep your donuts safe, without wasting space in your refrigerator or freezer. And the shelves will keep any glaze or icing safe from damage.
- If you want to freeze frosted donuts but don’t have much space – or boxes with shelves – don’t despair. There is a way you can stack them!
Pop as many as you can in a single layer in the freezer. Give them 10 minutes or so, and you’ll find that the frosting has frozen. You can then add a layer of wax paper and put more donuts on top.
- If you’re making your own filled donuts (we’re impressed!) take a tip from the best donut shops. Keep the filling separate until you’re ready to serve up the donut. That will prevent the filling from seeping down and making the bottom of your donut soggy.
- And if your donuts are fresh from the fryer, let them cool before refrigerating or freezing them. Hot food will raise the temperature in your fridge or freezer and can lead to other food going off.
- An airtight seal around your donuts is important to keep them fresh. But if you want a more environmentally sustainable option than plastic wrap, try aluminum foil. That works just as well, and it can be recycled when you’ve finished with it.
- Another more sustainable alternative to plastic containers is a baking sheet. Line it with wax paper, place your donuts on top, then cover them in aluminum foil.
Tuck the foil in carefully around the edges – and make sure you don’t break it with a fingernail. Hey presto – you have an airtight container!
- Another good reason to use aluminum foil is that, unlike plastic, you won’t have to worry about condensation. That can help you avoid the dreaded soggy donut.
- If you’ve bought your donuts at a shop, chances are they’ll come in a cardboard box. Don’t be tempted to leave them in that box if you’re not planning to eat them in the next couple of hours. The boxes aren’t airtight, and donuts go stale all too quickly.
- Either transfer them to Tupperware container or seal the box in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. That will prevent the air getting in and will keep your donuts fresher for longer.
- While good storage will prolong the life of your donut, it can’t work miracles! If the donut you put in the freezer is already stale, it’s going to have the same problem when it comes out.
If it’s just a little firm, warming it in the microwave will probably make it soft enough to still be enjoyable. But once your donut is rock hard, sadly there’s no saving it.
- If you don’t have a microwave, an oven or toaster can be used as an alternative. These tend to dry out the donut more, though, so use them with care. With a toaster in particular, the heat is very strong – so don’t use it for more than a few seconds a time.
- However carefully you’ve stored your donuts, things can sometimes go wrong. Before eating them, take a good look at them – and give them a sniff too! If you spot any mold or anything smells off, don’t eat them.
The joy of longer lasting donuts!
That brings us to the end of our look at the best way to store donuts. Whether your donuts are filled or frosted, plain or sprinkled, there’s a way to make them last longer.
Just take care to make sure that your method matches your donut. And in particular, watch out for donuts with fresh cream fillings. They need to be kept chilled, or you can end up with a nasty dose of food poisoning.
And whatever kind of donut you’re storing, the golden rule is to check it before you eat. If anything looks or smells off, don’t risk it.
But with the right storage, you can enjoy your donuts days, or even months, after purchase. Bon appetit!