How Long Do Donuts Last and How to Store Them?

Donuts aren’t exactly known for their shelf life. Whenever I buy some, I grab only as many as I want to eat that day. But if you’ve purchased a bunch for a birthday party, there will be leftovers.

That begs the question: how do you keep donuts fresh for longer than a day?

Donuts are notoriously difficult to store, and sometimes even if you do your best, they will degrade in quality quite quickly.

Nevertheless, knowing a thing or two about storage, shelf life, and going bad of this tasty dessert is always useful.

Donut overhead shot

How Long Do Donuts Last?

Regular donuts, including plain, powdered, glazed, and topped, keep fresh for one to two days on the counter if well wrapped, and up to a week in the fridge. Cream-filled donuts require refrigeration and stay good for 3 to 5 days.

That said, it’s impossible to tell precisely what’s the shelf life of a donut. All I can give you are estimates, but in some instances, those can be wildly off.

In other words, don’t hold on to them, and if your donut is already stale or bad, discard it.

Donuts Shelf Life

CounterFridge
Donuts (not cream-filled)2 days5 to 7 days
Cream-filled donuts3 to 5 days
Donut sprinkles on top
Donut: sprinkles on top

How To Store Donuts To Keep Them Fresh

Place donuts in an airtight container or freezer bag. If they’re glazed or frosted, stick with a single layer so that they don’t stick together. Then place that container or bag in a cupboard or in the fridge. If your donuts are cream-filled, the refrigerator is the only option.

First are foremost, donuts with access to fresh air dry out quite quickly, just like bread does. That’s why it’s vital to seal them tightly if you want to keep them fresh for a bit longer than the usual day or so.

An airtight container is the best way to go about that. Resealable bags indeed take less space, but donuts often come topped and storing one in a bag usually ends up in a mess.

If you have plain (not even glazed) donuts or sprinkled ones, feel free to go with the bag, but otherwise, it’s best to stick with the container.

Donut in an airtight bag
Donut in an airtight bag

Should You Refrigerate Donuts?

The short answer to that is if your doughnut is cream-filled or has dairy-based topping or frosting, you should keep it in the fridge. Otherwise, it’s okay to leave it at room temperature.

If you leave the container with donuts on the counter, make sure it doesn’t sit in sunlight or near any sources of heat. Frosting doesn’t like direct sunlight, and neither do sprinkles.

Related: Do sprinkles expire?

If your donut doesn’t require refrigeration, it can still benefit from being chilled in the fridge. As long as it’s properly sealed, it should last a couple more days in there than it would at room temp.

However, refrigerator temperature can cause the glaze or icing to melt, and end up being absorbed by the donuts. As you can probably tell, that results in a soggy donut that nobody likes.

Two donuts in paper bags
Two donuts in paper bags

In short, plain and powdered donuts keep well in the fridge, while glazed and topped ones not necessarily so. Cream-filled ones have to be refrigerated, so you don’t have much of a choice here.

Tip

If you’re planning to buy a bunch of donuts for your child’s birthday, consider running a quick test a couple of days earlier. Buy one or two and see how they hold up in the fridge. If the topping melts and ends up in a mess, you know you should leave the leftovers at room temp.

Can You Freeze Donuts?

There isn’t a simple yes or no answer to this question; it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Plain and powdered donuts freeze well. Perhaps not as good as bread, but overall the results you get are quite good. That’s because this variety of donuts doesn’t contain anything that the freezing or thawing process can mess up in terms of texture or taste.

Second in line are glazed and topped donuts. For them, the only issue is that the topping can melt, and things become messy when you defrost them. Basically, the same thing that can happen if you keep them in the fridge. It’s worth trying to freeze those, but I cannot guarantee the results.

Two donuts on a plate
Two donuts on a plate

Last are cream-filled donuts. As you probably know, heavy cream doesn’t freeze all that well, and the same thing goes for most cream-based fillings. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if yours freezes alright, or if you end up with a separated filling that’s just gross. You have to find it out on your own on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to the freezing process, here’s how to goes:

  1. Package the donuts. Use containers or freezer bags. If they are of the glazed or with topping variety, and you want to be able to defrost only one at a time, separate them. Use aluminum foil or wax paper to do so.
  2. Put them into the freezer.

As you know, the faster you eat them, the better the quality. Nevertheless, the donuts should keep well for a month or two.

When it comes to defrosting, it’s a bit different than usual. Instead of the fridge, leave them to thaw on the counter for 15 to 30 minutes. And make sure the donut stays uncovered, so all the moisture evaporates instead of being absorbed. This way, you won’t end up with a soggy donut.

Eating a donut

How To Tell If Donuts Are Bad?

When it comes to donuts being spoiled, the usual suspects you should look for are:

  • Mold. If you notice any suspicious activity on the surface, like discolorations or any fuzzy situation, your dessert plans are canceled.
  • Off smell. I’ve never had a donut that smelled bad, but if yours does, you know it’s done for.
  • Bad taste. We gorge on donuts to be delighted by their taste. If the one you’re munching on doesn’t make you feel that way, there’s no reason to continue. Even if the donut isn’t spoiled, finishing it makes little sense.

Stale donuts aren’t technically spoiled, but if they don’t feel good when you eat them, then what’s the point? I’ll leave it up to you on whether or not you can want to continue on that old and dry donut.

Warning

When it comes to cream-filled donuts and the like, discard them if they sit in the fridge for more than five days. They might look okay on the outside, but you have no idea what’s going on in that filling. Because of that, it’s best to stay on the safe side and let them go.