The Best Designer Doughnuts in Vancouver

By: Amy Watkins

October 15, 2013

Crispy fatty fried doughnuts lovingly rolled in sugar – what childhood fairground memory is complete without them? No longer consigned to nostalgia, designer doughnuts have arrived in Vancouver and the new batch of sugary treats feature everything from unusual ingredients to gluten-free vegan options.

Since the 1960s Canadians have been heading to the home-grown chain Tim Hortons for their morning doughnut fix; chowing down on tiny “˜TimBits’ and classic flavours such as maple dip and sour cream glazed, with a cup of Timmy Ho coffee. Lee’s Donuts, in the heart of Granville Market, has been serving up doughnuts for over 30 years – ever since they opened in the market in the first year of its operation in 1979. Run by third-generation Chinese-Canadian Alan Lee, the small store sells classics such as their warm honey dip, and every October the themed pumpkin doughnuts hit the shelves and sell like, well, hot cakes.

Designer Doughnuts in Vancouver | Cartems

Earl Grey Doughnuts at Cartems © Cartems Donuterie

Doughnuts have also had a trendy makeover in the city. Cartems Donuterie popped up in an edgy part of the Downtown Eastside in February 2012 as a six-month project that ended up staying put. Owner Jordan Cash dreamed of the name and had a vision of designer doughnuts whilst on holiday in Korea: now the doughnuts are baked offsite in East Vancouver and the tiny shop on Carrall Street is open daily until they run out, which is usually late afternoon. Vegan, gluten-free and baked doughnuts offer a healthier alternative to traditional fried delights. Locally-sourced flour, butter and milk are used to create imaginative flavours such as The Earl Grey (a tea infused doughnut covered in rose petals) or a Mexican Mole (chocolate with spices). They’ve just announced they’ll be moving to a permanent location on West Pender Street soon and will be selling coffee, tea and milk on tap alongside their doughnuts.

Designer Doughnuts in Vancouver | 49thParallel

Doughnut Glaze at 49th Parallel © 49th Parallel

Picky eaters or those with allergies are well catered for at Edible Flours – a vegan bakery in Kitsilano – which cooks up classic vanilla, maple and raspberry glazes but also offers gluten-free, wheat-free and sugar-free versions for health-conscious snackers.

Also in Kitsilano is the second outlet of Lucky’s Doughnuts, which opened this year after moving up the street from the original 49th Parallel Café location. The first Lucky’s, a culinary project run by local success story 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, opened on trendy Main Street in June 2012 and heralded the arrival of designer doughnuts in Vancouver. Now both cafes sell the handcrafted treats in favourite flavours such as salted caramel and chocolate old fashioned, as well as more unusual types including French crullers, peanut butter and jelly, coconut bismarks and an apple bacon fritter. Seasonal doughnuts include pumpkin, fig and s’mores for an autumn treat.

Designer Doughnuts in Vancouver | 49thParallel

Pistachio Doughnut at 49th Parallel © 49th Parallel

Vancouver’s food scene is all about eating locally, using produce from near the city and enjoying local flavours. With vegan and gluten-free options, healthier baked versions and fresh, local ingredients – even the designer doughnuts in the city are good for you.

If it all sounds a little too worthy, head to Playland at the PNE – a seasonal amusement park in East Vancouver where you’ll find “˜traditional’ fried doughnuts as well as some other gut-busting snacks from deep-fried Oreos to deep-fried cheesecake. Summer season may be over for this year, but a run of Halloween-themed Frights Nights takes place from 11 October – 2 November. Unforgettable, for sure.

Designer Doughnuts in Vancouver | Cartems

Doughnut Counter at Cartems © Cartems Donuterie

Header photo: Assorted Doughnuts  at 49th Parallel © 49th Parallel

Written by Amy Watkins

Virgin Atlantic operates a direct seasonal service to Vancouver from London Heathrow. Book your flight today.

Have you sampled Vancouver’s designer doughnuts? Where are your favourite places to pick up a sweet treat in the city?


Amy Watkins

Amy Watkins ( is an award-winning British travel journalist who has lived in Vancouver since May 2012. Whilst on assignment for UK newspapers and magazines she has eaten thousand-year-old eggs in Hong Kong, swam with crocodiles in Australia and braved a week in the Caribbean with a celebrity chef.

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