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, but have you ever wondered where the first doughnuts were made? Who thought up the idea of a fried baked good 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, but some people believe that doughnuts were first invented in the 1800s as Dutch “olykoeks” or “oily cakes.” A cook in those days would want to avoid wasting any food, even scraps, so unused pieces of bread dough were put into hot oil and fried and made into Olykoeks. Olykoeks were tasty on the outside, but less appetizing in the center, where they were soggy and uncooked.

Some people say that the mother of a New England sea captain invented the first genuine doughnut. Elizabeth Gregory substituted the soggy center with a center filled with delicious spices and nuts. However, Elizabeth’s son, Captain Gregory, did not like nuts, and that lead to other ideas of how the first genuine doughnut came about. Captain Gregory, it is said, punched out the center, and the outcome was the first hole in a doughnut. Sound unlikely? Well, others think that Captain Gregory saw holed pastries in Europe and brought the idea back to America with him, making him the inventor of the contemporary 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.” These women often worked in perilous conditions near the fighting, so they 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 metal cooking pot of hot oil to fry the dough almost anywhere. 

In the 1920s, doughnut machines were invented so that, rather than being made by hand, doughnut machines manufactured the tasty pastries 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!