Donuts have always been a guilty pleasure–the crisp outer layer from deep-frying with the fluffy inside all topped with a sweet glaze or icing. It’s hard to say no, but sometimes we worry about the donut calories, especially the calories from fat in a donut. Are all donuts really that unhealthy, and how do they compare to cookies with fat content? Here’s our discoveries.

Donut Calories from Fat

For our research, we analyzed our donut mix recipes for the fat content, or calories from fat, compared to the total ingredients and calories. We did the same with a few cookie mixes. We would take the total ingredients compared to egg yolks and butter and divide the two numbers together.

As we predicted, based on our knowledge of how less fat makes for a crisper donut, the donut dough itself was very lean, the fat content taking up a small percentage, leaving the donut nearly fat-free.

The Truth About the Fat Content in Donuts

A fun fact for you: donuts actually rely on the lack of fat to make for a crispy outer shell and a fluffy middle. It isn’t until the donuts are deep-fried, frosted, and/or glazed that those donut calories begin adding up in our favorite sweet treats. In fact, if compared to the fat content in cookies before the oil from deep-frying is added to the donuts, donuts are a relatively guilt-free treat.

Adding More Donut Calories with Deep-Frying

Sadly, donut dough isn’t as tasty, or good for you, as cooked donuts. That’s where the deep-frying and extra calories from fat comes in. Deep frying adds fat to any food. In the case of donuts, frying adds 22% more fat by weight to the donuts. That’s a lot. But if you look at most cookies recipes, you will find a lot of fat there too.

Cookies vs. Donuts

As mentioned before, donuts before the deep-frying are nearly guilt-free treats, or at least just about as guilt-free as cookies are.

Once again, we analyzed several of our cookie mix recipes for the percentage of fat content, and the egg yolks and butter represented 25% on average. So if your donut recipe is low in fat, as most are, then your fried donuts have about the same percentage of fat as most cookie recipes, if not just a bit more.

The Healthier Solution: Baked Donuts

This isn’t to say you need to give up those tasty donuts completely; no one ever claimed that donuts were inherently bad for you. But there is a healthier solution if you’re still feeling a little bit of guilt about always wanting to snack on your favorite treat: baked donuts.

If you make baked donuts, you will avoid a ton of fat. Our baked donut mixes have only a negligible amount of fat because we’re removing all that additional fat from deep-frying. Since each gram of fat has nine calories, this a lot of calories you are avoiding. Instead, you make them in a donut pan or form them into balls of dough and make filled donuts, and they still taste great.

Check out our favorite baked donut mixes now.

(Updated from May 14, 2014)

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