13 Creative Uses For Store-Bought Donuts

yellow iced donuts with sprinkles
yellow iced donuts with sprinkles - Amax Photo/Getty Images

Donuts are one of the most flawless treats that money can buy. Sugary, rich, readily available, and appropriate at any time of day (yes, they count as breakfast), it's hard not to take some home when you see them giving you come-hither looks at the grocery store or coffee shop. The Dutch immigrant history of donuts dates back to the 17th century, long before the U.S. counted itself as a country. You could say that these bready rings of fried, sugary dough are baked into our national culture, so it's no wonder there are so many food chains that revolve around them. Whether you favor Dunkin', Krispy Kreme, or Shipley and prefer them cakey, airy, filled, or glazed, there's a donut (or doughnut) variation to suit every taste.

Regardless of how much you love donuts, you've probably found yourself with leftovers at some point. You might've purchased them while hungry and gotten more than you could stomach, or brought them to a party only to discover that several other people had done the same. Luckily, there are many ways to repurpose this all-American treat so you won't have to put its shelf-life to the test. Instead of freezing or (perish the thought) giving them away, here are 13 creative options that will give you an even greater appreciation of donuts.

Read more: 13 Store-Bought Ice Cream Bars Ranked From Worst To Best

Cover Them In Melted Ice Cream

melted ice cream cone
melted ice cream cone - Cagkan Sayin/Shutterstock

What does Chef David Chang identify as the best thing he's eaten? The founder of Michelin-starred restaurant Momofuku Ko and star of "Ugly Delicious" revealed in an episode of the Netflix series "Dinner Time Live" that a simple combination of melted ice cream and Krispy Kreme donuts was "the best thing I've ever had in my life".

As you might expect from a chef with his credentials, Chang isn't simply talking about transferring a donut directly from the box into a bowl of ice cream. Still, contrary to what you might fear, he isn't talking about a lengthy, fiddly process that takes multiple steps and a few years in culinary school to master. The recipe requires a grand total of three ingredients and about six minutes. All you have to do is pan-fry a Krispy Kreme donut in a skillet coated in butter until the donut is brown and caramelized. Transfer it to a bowl and drizzle it with melted vanilla ice cream, then add another scoop of ice cream to the center of the donut for good measure.

It's hard to think of a recipe simpler than this one, and yet, Chang has practically made it his signature dessert. It even appears in his cookbook "Cooking at Home" under the heading "The Only Dessert I'll Cook at Home ... a.k.a., The Best Dessert in the World."

Make A Trifle

individual trifles with strawberries
individual trifles with strawberries - Lilechka75/Getty Images

Trifles are like the casseroles of dessert -- you can make them with pretty much whatever ingredients you have lying around. Leftover angel food cake? Throw it into the glass dish. Strawberries? Blueberries? Canned pineapple? Layer them in. As long as you have cream or custard, a sweet baked item, and some fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned), you've got the makings of a trifle. This flexibility is one of the main ways modern trifles differ from the original recipe. In the 1700s, the British made the dessert with stale cake soaked in liquor and layered with custard. While you can still follow this blueprint, there are many more options nowadays, including swapping the stale cake with stale donuts.

Start by scouring your fridge for fruit and whipped cream or the ingredients for custard (our vanilla custard recipe calls for whole milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, and cornflour). Then, you can decide whether to shred the donuts into small pieces to absorb more liquid or leave them whole to give each serving more structure. Layer the ingredients into a large glass dish where each tier can be appreciated. Let the trifle sit for at least several hours before serving so the donuts absorb more flavor.

Make Donut Waffles

stacked waffles with icing
stacked waffles with icing - Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

We all know donuts count as a breakfast food, and this recipe proves it categorically. What food could be more strongly associated with breakfast than waffles? Donut waffles are even easier to make than traditional waffles. As long as you have a waffle maker and some spare donuts, you can have breakfast on the table in a matter of minutes.

To make donut waffles, heat your waffle maker, place a donut inside, close the maker, and let the donut cook for about two minutes. Since one almost certainly won't be enough, repeat these steps until you have the desired amount. Store-bought glazed donuts like Krispy Kremes are the best option for this recipe. Instead of burning and sticking to the griddle, the glaze melts and caramelizes to create a buttery, slightly chewy coating. For stale donuts, this recipe is a no-brainer, transforming an increasingly cardboard-like texture into a warm, caramel-y one. Serve your waffles with maple syrup, sliced fruit, butter, whipped cream, or on their own. In fact, you might eat them so quickly that they don't even make it to the plate.

Use Them To Make Bread Pudding

rhubarb bread pudding in dish
rhubarb bread pudding in dish - Bartosz Luczak/Getty Images

Made by soaking and baking stale bread in custard, bread pudding has always been an outlet for using leftovers. You could stick with a standard loaf of white bread for the recipe, but failing to experiment with other options is the biggest mistake to avoid when baking a classic bread pudding. With their sweet, yeasty flavor, donuts are the perfect match for creamy custard.

Donut pudding is just as easy to make as bread pudding. In fact, you can even use our recipe for classic bread pudding with only a few tweaks. Break the donuts into 1-inch pieces and spread them into an empty casserole dish. Make the custard by heating cream, cinnamon, sugar, butter, and vanilla in a saucepan. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before whisking in the eggs. Pour the custard over the donuts and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to allow the donuts to absorb the liquid. Bake the dish for 35 to 40 minutes.

There are plenty of ways to upgrade this recipe. You can add raisins or sprinkle the ingredients with brown sugar and pecans before putting the dish in the oven. If you're a fan of classic donut flavors, make a chocolate sauce and drizzle it over the baked pudding, or mimic the concept of glazed donuts by pouring a butter and sugar glaze over top.

Grill Them

flaming grill
flaming grill - Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

You might not think that grilling donuts could have a transformative effect on their flavor and texture, but when you consider how much this particular cooking method transforms meat and vegetables, it makes sense. It also happens to be incredibly quick and easy and calls for a grand total of one ingredient. Simply fire up your grill and let the donuts cook for about one minute on each side. If you're planning to cook meat as well, avoid doing it on the same part of the grill or you'll end up with donuts that taste a bit like meat or meat that tastes a bit like sugar depending on the order. Additionally, make sure you don't cook the donuts above the meat or the glaze will melt onto it.

If you don't have a grill, a panini press or grill pan will work just as well. Let the donuts cook for about two minutes until they are golden with dark grill marks. If you're using one of these options, avoid using cakey donuts. With a more delicate texture, they are likely to crumble and fall apart when grilled in a panini press or grill pan.

Make Ice Cream Sandwiches

ice cream sandwiches
ice cream sandwiches - Gmvozd/Getty Images

If you think about it, donuts could be seen as sweet, fried bagels. Most bagels are sliced horizontally and stuffed with various fillings, so it stands to reason that donuts should be too. Swap the lox for ice cream and you have a winning dessert. Ice cream sandwiches are one of the great treats of childhood summers, and there's no reason not to continue enjoying them as an adult. Swapping the traditional cookie layers with a donut is a simple yet transformative hack, creating a dense, doughy texture and caramel flavor.

Making ice cream sandwiches is all about timing. Ice cream has a habit of melting, and you need it to have different consistencies at different stages in the recipe. In the beginning, it needs to be soft. Before you start assembling the sandwiches, remove the ice cream from the freezer and wait for it to become pliable enough to spread with a spatula. Slice the donuts horizontally and spread a thick layer of ice cream on the surface, then top it with the other half of the donut. Once all your sandwiches are assembled, transfer them to the freezer and let them harden for at least four hours before serving. This step is particularly crucial for donut ice cream sandwiches because donuts have holes. The moment the ice cream starts to melt, you might as well be funneling it into your lap.

Make A Luther Burger

Luther burger on paper wrapping
Luther burger on paper wrapping - Colin Dewar/Shutterstock

R&B singer and record producer Luther Vandross had no shortage of accolades. With his trademark velvety voice, he garnered 11 consecutive platinum albums, won eight Grammy Awards, and collaborated with everyone from David Bowie to Beyoncé. But of all his many accomplishments and claims to fame, one will always stand out as both an outlier and a stroke of genius -- the eponymous Luther Burger. It's unclear whether Vandross invented the Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger or if it was simply named after him, but the R&B icon is forever associated with the quintessentially American creation.

To make it, you'll need bacon, a hamburger patty, American cheese, and of course, a Krispy Kreme donut. Cook the bacon, and then pan-fry the cut sides of the donut until they're buttery and crispy. Cook the burger, then place it onto one half of the donut. Cover it with a slice of cheese, add bacon, and top it with the other donut half. You could, in theory, add your go-to fixings, but this burger is pretty perfect as-is.

Make A Sweet Panzanella Salad

fruit salad with fried bread
fruit salad with fried bread - Nattanun Sustanon/Shutterstock

Panzanella is a traditionally savory salad from Tuscany that was born out of the need to use up stale bread. Instead of turning it into a sugary concoction like bread pudding, the classic recipe calls for toasting the bread and mixing it with summery ingredients like fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and shallots. Our recipe for panzanella salad calls for radicchio, fennel, and oranges, adding even more sophisticated flavors to the classic Mediterranean dish.

Savory accompaniments aside, panzanella salad is, first and foremost, a way of using up leftover bread. When you have donuts inching towards staleness, you can turn them into a version of the dish. Forget the olive oil and garlic and embrace sweet summer delicacies like raspberries and peaches. Instead of toasting bread in oil and salt, toast the cubes of donuts in a mixture of melted butter and sugar. As with savory panzanella, you can get creative with this recipe. Whipped cream, fresh mint, and even a splash of liquor might be just the right ingredients to take things to the next level.

Use Them As A Cobbler Topping

peach cobbler on plate
peach cobbler on plate - Kendra Reeder/Shutterstock

Cobblers are the best kind of dessert. Sugary but not cloying, soft on the inside and crispy on top, easy to make compared to pie, and suited to seasonal ingredients, they are one of the most beloved sweet dishes for a reason. Most recipes call for a biscuit-style batter for the topping, but there is plenty of wiggle room. For example, it could be the perfect opportunity to use up those leftover donuts you haven't gotten around to eating. Depending on how many donuts you have, you might want to make a classic Southern-style cobbler, which has both a top and a bottom layer of dough.

Start by putting together your filling. Whether you're lucky enough to have a bumper crop of blackberries or want to finish the fruit medley that's been twiddling its thumbs in your freezer, use whatever is at your disposal. If you're heading to the store and buying ingredients specifically for the recipe, you can never go wrong with a classic peach cobbler or blueberry cobbler. Shred the donuts and spread a single layer into a casserole dish (if you're opting for a bottom layer). Top it with the fruit filling, then layer the rest of the donut pieces on top. Bake the cobbler for about 20 minutes until the donuts are browned and crispy.

Make Grilled Cheese

stacked grilled cheese on plate
stacked grilled cheese on plate - Olga Miltsova/Shutterstock

There are many ways to upgrade your grilled cheese. You can add veggies and condiments, swap ketchup for raspberry jam, or dip it in ranch dressing. If there's one option that you simply must try at least once, however, it has to be donuts. Swapping your usual bread of choice for a donut split horizontally may change the way you think about and make grilled cheese forever. It's sweet, rich, and maybe a little bit over-the-top, but as an occasional indulgence, its simplicity and flavor cannot be beaten.

If this concoction sounds familiar, you might have seen it featured in Season 4 of "Shark Tank," when entrepreneurs Corey Ward and Trew Quackenbush showed off their version to the judges under their restaurant name Tom + Chee. You can stop by various locations around the country to get your donut-and-melted-cheese fix, or just make it at home. As you might expect, it's pretty straightforward. Slice the donuts in half and pan-fry them cut side down on a butter-greased griddle. Cover one half with cheese, top it with the other donut half, and let it toast until the cheese has melted. Just as you might enjoy a slice of apple with your cheddar cheese or spread some jam on a cracker alongside a bit of brie, the salty, fatty, sugary combination is a match made in heaven.

Add Them To Milkshakes

donut-topped milkshake
donut-topped milkshake - Africa Studio/Shutterstock

What's better than a classic milkshake? A milkshake with donut pieces in it. If this sounds a bit indulgent, trust us, it is, and we mean that as a compliment. The best part is that the sky's the limit. If you just want to make a simple combination of ice cream, milk, and donuts, you'll have a decadent, swoon-worthy dessert. If you want to take things up a notch by adding sprinkles, chocolate syrup, candied pecans, and pieces of butterscotch, there is room for that too.

As a leaping off point, you'll need ice cream, donuts, and milk. Tear the donuts into pieces and put them in the blender with the other two ingredients. Blend them until they reach the desired consistency and pour the mixture into a tall glass. Garnish it with a whole donut (you may as well go all-in, even in this simple version). You can layer on the complexity from here. Coat the rims of the glasses with frosting and sprinkles and add rainbow coloring. Give it a boost with a shot of coffee or a dash of liquor. This recipe is built for excess, so you may as well lean into it.

Make A Sweet And Savory Breakfast Sandwich

donut breakfast sandwich
donut breakfast sandwich - Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

For those who insist that donuts do not belong on the breakfast table, we refer them to this donut breakfast burger. With bacon, eggs, and cheese (plus a burger patty thrown in for good measure), it's difficult to argue that it's anything other than a breakfast food. Our version is surprisingly easy to make. You just need five minutes to prepare the ingredients and 25 minutes to cook and assemble them. Start by cooking the bacon, burger, and eggs, making sure to use the leftover bacon fat to grease the pan. Layer the cheese on top of the burger and sandwich the ingredients inside the donut.

If you favor a different type of breakfast sandwich, like a McDonald's Sausage, Egg, and Cheese McGriddles or a simple bacon, egg, and cheese variation, you can easily adapt the recipes to include donuts. Sweet, salty, savory, and full of deliciously contrasting textures, you might want to make donuts your default breakfast sandwich bread.

Make Donut French Toast

stacked French toast with berries
stacked French toast with berries - Natalia Jakubcova/Shutterstock

Although it is frequently grouped with pancakes and waffles, French toast deserves a category of its own. Made by soaking bread in an egg mixture rather than making a batter, it is crispy on the outside, spongy and moist on the inside, and perfect for absorbing maple syrup. Using this same technique on donuts produces surprisingly novel results. Not quite donuts and not quite French toast, the result will make breakfast your favorite meal of the day with its crispy, eggy, sweetness.

To make it, start with stale donuts. The older they are, the better they will absorb the egg mixture and take on its creamy consistency and vanilla flavor. Slice them in half (like a bagel) and whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract. Dip a donut half into the liquid -- depending on how stale and thick it is, you may need to leave it soaking for close to a minute. If you'd rather the finished product taste more like donuts than French toast, minimize the soaking time so that the middle stays bready. If you want the donut to take on the distinctive texture of French toast, let it soak all the way through. Cook the donuts until they are crispy on both sides and serve them with butter and maple syrup.

Read the original article on Mashed