How To Store Fresh Donuts To Slow Down Staling

Ordering a dozen donuts may be an easy choice, but donuts themselves are by no means low-maintenance. As far as baked goods and breakfast options go, donuts are on the more demanding side in terms of staying fresh. 

The process of deep-frying that makes a donut so delicious is precisely what makes its shelf life so finicky, as it infuses the donut with oil, which tends to go bad fast. At the same time, just like with any baked good, exposure to air can dry out the donut. Eat it immediately and be rewarded with a crisp exterior and fluffy interior, but leave it a while and find yourself with a stale shell of what it once was — unless you take care to properly store your leftover donuts.

There are plenty of different types of donuts, and some may hold up better than others — for instance, the filling inside filled donuts can also go stale. But whether you're looking to stall staling for a plain old-fashioned donut or for a batch of special sufganiyot left over from Hanukkah, the universal key to freshness is to store them in an airtight container.

Tips and tricks for avoiding stale donuts

If you're not going to eat a whole batch of donuts soon after getting your hands on them, your best move is to transfer them from their original bag or box into a well-sealed, airtight container. Any container that you would normally use for leftover foods should work just fine, so long as it limits air flow, as air exposure is what makes donuts stale. Place your airtight container in a pantry or another space in your kitchen where it is safe from sources of sunlight, heat, and humidity, which can also cause the donuts to become dry or moldy.

When properly stored, you can keep most donuts for about one or two days at room temperature. Donuts filled with dairy or jelly, however, should be moved into the refrigerator, where they can last for a few additional days. If you are interested in preserving your donuts long-term, opt for the freezer instead, where they can be stored for up to three months.

Give slightly stale donuts new life

Minimizing exposure to air is your best chance at preserving the perfection that is a fresh donut, but there's only so much you can do. In a relatively short period of time, the starch molecules in the donut will crystallize, altering the gluten structure so that what once was fluffy and moist becomes hard and dry. If you do end up with stale donuts, there are a couple ways to give them new life.

While you can soften a stale donut in the microwave, there's another piece of kitchen equipment that is more successful at restoring its original crispy exterior: the air fryer. Pop a donut into the machine and heat it up with the air frying function, and a few minutes later, your donut will be nearly as good as it was fresh from the fryer. You can also experiment with transforming your donuts into other sweet treats. To counteract the rigid texture of a donut that has seen better days, soak it overnight in milk and use that sugary milk to make ice cream, or make donut French toast for breakfast. A quick soak in a custard mixture will cover up the dryness of the donut.