Kristin Robinson
Reading Informational Text
Material Type:
Middle School
Creative Commons Attribution
Media Formats:
Graphics/Photos, Text/HTML

Education Standards




Discover the history around delicious doughnuts.


by Sue Larson Pascoe


Most people have eaten doughnuts. Have you ever wondered where the first doughnuts were made? Who thought up the idea of a fried pastry with a hole in the center?

Photo of round doughnuts with varying textures and colors.
Doughnuts come in many shapes and flavors.

No one knows for sure who made the first doughnuts. Some people think that doughnuts probably began in the 1800s as Dutch “olykoeks” or “oily cakes.” In those days, a cook would not want to waste any scraps of food. Leftover pieces of bread dough were put into hot oil and fried. Olykoeks were tasty on the outside but soggy and uncooked in the center.

Some people say that the mother of a New England sea captain invented the first actual doughnut. Her name was Elizabeth Gregory. She replaced the soggy center with spices and nuts. But, Elizabeth’s son, Captain Gregory, did not like nuts. He punched out the center, and the outcome was the first hole in a doughnut. Others think that Captain Gregory saw holed pastries in Europe and brought the idea back to America with him. That made him the creator of today’s doughnut.

During World War I, homesick American soldiers in Europe were served doughnuts by the Salvation Army. These brave women volunteering for the job were called “Doughnut Girls.” They often worked in dangerous conditions near the soldiers, so the Doughnut Girls wore helmets and uniforms. The women made doughnut cutters out of a large can with a smaller can inside it to cut out the hole. They could set up a kettle of hot oil to fry the dough almost anywhere.

In the 1920s, doughnut machines were invented. Doughnuts were produced faster and easier than ever before. Still, many people preferred to make their favorite doughnut recipes at home.

Today, doughnuts are available at markets, bakeries, and coffee shops. Most people have a favorite type. You might like sugar-glazed doughnuts, doughnuts dipped in chocolate, or doughnuts covered in sprinkles. Perhaps you prefer doughnuts that don’t even have holes, like maple bars, twisted cinnamon, or jelly-filled doughnuts. Then again, when you go to the bakery, you might just like to eat the doughnut holes. Yum!