You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love These Doughnuts

They're as irresistible as they are animal-product-free.

where to find vegan doughnuts in Maine
By Katy Kelleher
Photographed by Mark Fleming

People don’t always know what they’re getting at Kittery’s Lovebirds Donuts. They’re of course familiar with the concept of the decadent, round, universally beloved pastry. But, co-owner Tamara Monroe says, “A number of our guests have no idea that our doughnuts are vegan until they visit.” Despite not using the usual milk, eggs, and butter, the Lovebirds crew fries up dead ringers for regular doughnuts, to such an extent that it’s almost beside the point that they’re vegan — except it matters a lot to Monroe and her business partner, Ryan MacDougall, who opened the shop together two years ago. “If it’s within your power to provide fun, indulgent doughnuts while also operating as sustainably and cruelty-free as possible,” Monroe asks, “why wouldn’t you?”

Nikkita Sampson and Shivam Kumar, on the other hand, got into vegan doughnuts more or less by accident. Last winter, they bought Auburn’s then-year-old Break Coffee Shop and moved it across the Androscoggin River to Lewiston. “I didn’t know that there was a market out there for vegan doughnuts,” Kumar admits, but Break’s had already garnered a following when he and Sampson took over. Since then, he’s been putting his own spin on things with a bevy of new toppings: Fruity Pebbles, apple-pie filling, crushed Oreos (which are vegan, believe it or not), and more.

Vegan doughnuts aren’t entirely novel — the lineup of potato-based doughnuts at Portland and Scarborough’s vaunted Holy Donut has included vegan options for years. For the most part, the remarkable thing about vegan doughnuts is that they don’t taste remarkably different from other doughnuts. Alas, despite nondairy milks and vegan butters generally making fine substitutes in dough, there’s no way to satisfactorily vegan-ize something like Holy Donut’s maple-bacon topping. Lovebirds, though, manages to pull off a Boston cream variety, using vegan custard that’s a pretty good approximation of the real deal. Just because a doughnut is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy or wholesome, and that’s exactly as it should be.