Holey Grail Donuts with ocean in the background — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
Holey Grail is reinventing doughnuts while serving up a delightful taste of Hawaii.
With exclusive recipes completely made from scratch, Holey Grail has quietly disrupted the doughnut industry by creating delectable taro-based doughnuts made with local, high-quality ingredients.
This family-run company is known across the islands for creating sophisticated, unexpected flavors blended with splashy colors and clever designs. Made with special homemade recipes that allow them to be fried in organic coconut oil, these inventive doughnuts have a light, yet crispy texture, which fans say is incredibly addictive.
Founded by innovative brother-and-sister team, Nile and Hana Dreiling, Holey Grail started in 2018 on Kauai. Hana had been running her own catering company for several years after moving to the island, and she specialized in farm-to-table cuisine with ingredients sourced locally. Nile arrived on the island a few years later, with a background in ecological engineering combined with culinary (and doughnut industry) knowledge. Together they conceptualized Holey Grail Donuts with a mission to connect local chefs and farms, using the highest quality ingredients.
Holey Grail started as a humble food truck business on Kauai with one fryer that made small-batch treats on Sundays in the quiet town of Hanalei. Quickly attracting a loyal crowd, they soon had avid fans lining up at 6:30 a.m. Today, the business has expanded throughout Hawaii, and most recently, the U.S. mainland.
Holey Grail's Lilikoi doughnut — Photo courtesy of Holey Grail Donuts
What makes this doughnut experience especially distinctive? Nile explained that Holey Grail was created by skillful “reverse engineering.” He said, “We essentially looked at what it takes to create a regular doughnut, and then step by step, we replaced everything with higher quality ingredients and components. This allowed us to develop elevated recipes with an exceptional taste.”
He added, “Everything about our doughnuts and our beverages are healthier than anything else on the market. For example, I would say that 90% of doughnut shops fry with hydrogenated vegetable oils, which is extremely unhealthy. I believe we're the first doughnut shop to fry doughnuts in coconut oil – because we worked hard to make this happen. You can’t easily take a 'regular' doughnut recipe and just start doing that because it would split and not turn out correctly. So, we had to develop our recipes specifically to work with coconut oil. That's the whole methodology – we want to feel good about everything that goes into our product.”
Plate of Holey Grail doughnuts — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
In addition, Holey Grail's doughnuts are considered a healthier option because the Dreilings created their own handmade taro mix and, unlike many doughnut shops, do not use any other pre-mixes in their inventive recipes. They use mostly island-grown, organic ingredients, including poi (fermented taro root), vanilla, tropical produce and other secret/local ingredients that give the pastries their distinctive taste.
Food & Travel: 10 places you need to eat Hawaiian food on Oahu
With clever, playful names and vibrant colors and designs, their fresh, rotating collection of flavors include OG Glazed, Island Chocolate, Pineapple Express, Miso Honey, Kale’n It and Prosperity (made with kumquat and poppy seed).
A few of their best-selling doughnuts include: Reincarnated (with maple, smoked coconut oil and Hawaiian sea salt), Lilikoi (with wild Jamaican and yellow lilikoi), the Hail Mary (with stone ground cardamom and rose) and Wild Guava (featuring strawberry guava, bee pollen and edible flowers). They also feature an assortment of weekly four-pack tasting boxes and creative seasonal specialties.
Celebrating Hawaii with doughnuts
Holey Grail Dragonfruit doughnut — Photo courtesy of Holey Grail
Hana says, “Our mission was to change the way people think about doughnuts and to create a product that celebrates Hawaii. So, if you taste our doughnuts, you're going to experience the flavors of Hawaii, which are based on seasonal, quality ingredients. Most of our flavors come from us visiting local farms and getting inspired by some niche or interesting tasting notes and letting complex flavors evolve naturally.”
She continued, “I feel like doughnuts are the perfect vessel to connect people with ingredients found within a community. I think we're positively impacting Hawaii by encouraging growth in the Hawaiian agriculture economy, using locally-grown ingredients, and celebrating our partnerships with our farms while supporting the islands.”
Holey Grail doughnut — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
She pointed out that they are passionate about sustainability and created the world's first 100% compostable doughnut box, offered as a small single-doughnut option, as well as a four-pack “tasting box” that changes weekly and features a variety of diverse flavors, which may include chocolate, salty, sweet and fruit-forward options.
Working with other local agricultural companies has evolved into unique partnerships. For example, Holey Grail uses a specific single estate cacao from Kauai-based Lydgate Farms for their chocolate flavors. Hana said, “Since we started supporting Lydgate regularly, they dedicated a few acres to the cacao we use for our doughnuts, which is super cool. We make a chocolate crunch variety, which may sound simple, but it’s one of our most special flavors, due to the quality of the chocolate and texture of the doughnut.”
In addition to their doughnuts, Holey Grail also creates tasty hand-crafted beverages, including iced and hot coffee and tea blends.
Nile and Hana Dreiling of Holey Grail Donuts — Photo courtesy of Holey Grail Donuts
Hawaiian locals can’t get enough of these sweet treats, so Holey Grail has expanded to several locations across the islands and will be opening additional/new mainland U.S. locations in 2022. Currently, Holey Grail has locations on Kauai, Oahu and, most recently, opened two in Southern California. The company expects to have seven locations by the end of 2022. (They're also attracting the attention of A-list celebrities as potential investors and hope to announce their partnerships later this year.)
Hana added “I feel like doughnuts bring people joy. It just feels really good to support our community and bring people together. It’s been a really uplifting experience.”