How a Vegan Doughnut Coverup Outraged the Internet

There's more than one hole in this story.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Even if you don’t run on Dunkin' their doughnuts are pretty much unavoidable.

According to ScrapeHero, there are 28,776 locations across the United States alone. Whether you’ve grabbed a Boston Cream and an impossibly large iced coffee at an airport or your coworker brought in a dozen for a birthday, you’re probably familiar with what their doughnuts look like. But would you still recognize them if they were taken outside of their hot pink storefront, placed on sheet trays lined with parchment, and sold at a vegan marketplace?

Since 2019, Cindy Snacks has been the only vegan food market in Long Island, New York. While all of their products are vegan, many of them are also gluten-free, catering to people who are celiac or have severe gluten allergies. They offer snacks, prepared food, frozen items, and even baked goods sourced from local, independent businesses. One of those suppliers, The Savory Fig, has been selling their doughnuts at Cindy Snacks since December 2023, as far as we can assume from their Instagram (a post that has since been deleted).

Founded by Michelle Siriana, The Savory Fig brands themselves as a vegan bakery based out of Patchogue, New York. In addition to scones, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and brownies, Siriani also makes gluten-free, vegan doughnuts. It seemed like The Savory Fig and Cindy Snacks were a match made in heaven.

Related: The Best Doughnuts in Every State

Since most doughnuts are made with a brioche base, vegan and gluten-free versions can be difficult to execute, often winding up too dry or crumbly. And yet, Siriani’s doughnuts looked great. The dough appeared to be fluffy and light and the icing had that satisfying sheen (even if it was occasionally smushed).

On Cindy Snacks’ Instagram profile, owners John Stengel and Indiana “Cindy” Kay would frequently post photos of The Savory Fig doughnuts in all their glory, showing off a variety of flavors: Boston Cream, jelly-filled, strawberry-frosted, and even heart-shaped for Valentines Day.

But on February 23, something was off.

In an Instagram post on March 3, Stengel shared that on this day, the order they received from The Savory Fig contained one, familiar-looking doughnut — one with tiny, pink and orange, D-shaped sprinkles.

“I immediately became concerned as to why this one donut was decorated differently than all the others and in such a strikingly similar way to a recognizable chain,” he wrote. “I pulled all of the items delivered out of our racks immediately and stored them in the back out of precaution until I could confirm what was or wasn’t happening here.”

Worried that the doughnuts were in fact, neither vegan nor gluten-free, Stengel texted Siriana (which he included in the Instagram post in the form of a screen recording). “If these are Dunkin’ Donuts the ingredients could kill somebody as we have so many ppl with severe dairy allergies that shop here. I’m concerned with the donuts this week and am very nervous to put them out.”

Related: 18 Delightful Doughnut Recipes

Siriana responded, promising that they were, in fact, not Dunkin.’ She did not elaborate beyond that. Growing increasingly suspicious, he asked Siriana to send photos of the sprinkles she used, as it was hard for him to imagine why she’d simply have D-shaped sprinkles on hand. Rather than sending a picture of a bottle or package, Siriana texted him a screenshot of Homankit Happy Birthday Letters on Amazon, saying that she bought them for a friends’ birthday. While the sprinkles are indeed, tiny letters, there are 25 in addition to “D” in the pack, and they include many colors beyond pink and orange.

Stengel and Kay decided to order the sprinkles to compare them to the strange doughnut. “Not only are these sprinkles NOT labeled vegan (or even list the ingredients on the Amazon listing), they do not even match the ones on the donut,” Stengel wrote. So the doughnuts were probably not vegan, but maybe they were gluten-free, at the very least. Stengel and Kay put the doughnut to the test — an at-home gluten test, that is. The test came back positive.

Without Siriana’s confession, there is no way to know for sure whether or not the doughnut is from Dunkin.’ What we do know is that that one, strawberry-frosted doughnut could have put anyone with a gluten allergy at risk. Stengel stated that he and Kay had cut all personal and business ties with Siriana and are “looking into legal proceedings.”

This story spread like wildfire on Instagram and TikTok, picking up speed when vegan baker Natalie Slater recounted the chain of events. More and more people scrolled through Cindy Snacks’ Instagram history, and lo and behold, it appears that the possible scam had been going on since the very beginning. Those heart-shaped Boston Creams that were once nostalgic, are now all-too similar to the ones they see at every rest stop. Those powder sugar-coated jelly doughnuts that were once incredibly impressive vegan, gluten-free creations, are now actually full of flour, dairy, and eggs, and goes for $1.69 a pop.

Related: The 18 Best Vegan Cookbooks for Every Type of Meal

Although no one has come forward with reports of allergy attacks or illness, it is disturbing to think about what could have happened, and at the bare minimum, how many people were fooled by a doughnut – a food that's supposed to bring a sense of joy and comfort.

On March 5, Stengel and Kay posted an update on Instagram stating that they have contacted the Supervisor at the Division of Food Safety and Inspection from NY Agriculture and Markets and alerted the Suffolk County Department of Health. “We want to make it clear that we came forward with this information to keep our community of local vegans and those with food allergies safe from future harm,” they said. “We want to keep people safe and call out wrongdoings when we see them. We feel confident we have done that as best we could.”

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