Papa John’s introduced donut holes in time for National Donut Day last month. A Moreauvian future of wrapping a slice around a donut, creating a fried, sugary, tomatoey, cheesy, carb-loaded dream, really arouses my GERD.
Donut 🍩lover rejoice: Papa John's all new Donut Holes are here for a limited time only! Try our new dessert starting today, National Donut Day, when you can get a free order of our Donut Holes with any online pizza 🍕 purchase. While supplies last. pic.twitter.com/KXO1iMTpdk
— PapaJohnsSanDiego (@PJSanDiego) June 1, 2018
It may not shock you to hear that a pizza chain failed to produce a tasty donut-inspired dessert. You should have known when you read that a pizza chain created a donut-inspired dessert. That the press release brags donut holes “are made with quality ingredients and contain no artificial flavors or synthetic colors” should have tipped you off. No company should brag, especially above-the-fold, about how natural a donut product is. No one walks into a donut shop seeking the freshest ingredients—“Excuse me, does this fritter have cage-free apples?”
Papa John’s CEO doubled down on this in the press release, proclaiming that they’re “excited to be the first national pizza brand in the U.S. offering caramel cream filled Donut Holes with no artificial flavors or synthetic colors.” That sure is an awfully specific prize you’re awarding yourself for winning a race no one else knew about, chief.
It matters little, ultimately, because the donut holes are “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in dessert form. They’re not so bad that I want to spit a bite out, but I have no desire for more. I don’t think they’re fried on-site, which makes them little more than warmed-over balls of dough with a smidge of caramel cream (not “caramel” or “caramel sauce,” mind).
Not even the icing I bought from Domino’s could salvage them. If you’ve had Taco Bell’s Cinnabon Delights, the gold standard for this sort of thing, you’ll be supremely disappointed. At least your disappointment will be coated in quality ingredients.
Should you need a Papa John’s Donut Holes-inspired palate cleanse, head over to Dunkin Donuts for their Donut Fries. Dunkin’s latest concoction debuted nationwide this month after a test run in Boston and subsequent mild eruption on social media. They should have called them “donut fingers” and created a Mr. Bill-esque ad campaign to promote them, but that’s another matter.
brb, donut fries pic.twitter.com/CA8h2hzldu
— Dunkin' (@dunkindonuts) July 5, 2018
I find almost all of Dunkin’s offerings uninspiring, aside from the occasional limited-time donut (like the cookie dough donut). But they nailed the donut fries. The press release, which thankfully does not mention “quality ingredients,” describes the donut fries as “delicious, buttery croissant style donut dough that are tossed in cinnamon sugar and served warm.”
I’ve seen them compared to churros, which is mostly accurate. But I’d say they’re a fresher, lither version of French toast sticks from the freezer aisle. They’re crispy enough on the outside without being crunchy, fluffy inside without being gooey. I don’t know if they’re actually fried on-site, but they tasted like they were.
At $2, they’re slightly more expensive than a Dunkin donut, though they’re more satisfying. My only complaint is that they’re crying out for a complementary dipping sauce. Dunkin should offer a side of caramel, icing, or syrup. I used the leftover Domino’s icing from my Papa John’s tasting, but not everyone will have the foresight to visit one pizza chain to buy icing before going to another pizza chain and a donut shop.