The holey grail of donuts | Hawaii’s taro and vegan donuts

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The holey grail of donuts

Holey Grail takes taro and vegan donuts from Hanalei to L.A.

Holey Grail’s plant-based donuts and drinks come recommended as pairings, like the L&L donut with the draft latte.

A pro skateboarder, a fine dining chef, and an actor tried a box of donuts. Taro donuts, made with real poi, not the artificially dyed or flavored dough you see around most towns. Golden circles fried to order in coconut oil and glazed with Kauai-grown chocolate or local lilikoi or dusted with cardamom and rose petals. These weren’t just any donuts. They were the only ones of their kind. And that’s how Holey Grail Donuts recently raised $9 million from investors including Tony Hawk (the pro skateboarder), Christopher Kostow (the fine dining chef) and Zach Braff (the actor). In the coming months, Holey Grail will have gone from a little red hamburger trailer in Hanalei, Kauai to include two new tony locations in Los Angeles — in Santa Monica and Larchmont.

Siblings Hana and Nile Dreiling first introduced Holey Grail Donuts as a weekly offering from their food truck.

Bringing the community together

In 2018, when sister and brother Hana and Nile Dreiling bought their kitchen-on-wheels trailer, donuts weren’t even the focus. During the week, they sold hamburgers. They had the idea of serving donuts one day a week, “a Sunday ritual to bring the community together,” Hana says. “We had been working on our donut recipe at home for the past year. We didn’t know what the response was going to be.”

A few weeks after the debut of donuts, people began lining up around the block for them, at times waiting almost two hours. “We ended up throwing a party with DJs to occupy the line,” she says. “It was this whole celebration.”

Holey Grail offers a tasting box with four donuts selected to balance flavors, from savory to sweet

Telling the story of taro

Holey Grail’s fun and lighthearted approach carries through everything, from the paper lining the donut boxes that riffs on Louis Vuitton’s iconic pattern, to the names of the flavors, like L&L, referencing the plate lunch chain, but is made with lemon sugar, lime curd and finger lime, the fruit resembling caviar.

“Our priority was to create something that celebrated our community and encapsulated Hawaii,” Hana says. “In Hanalei, we were surrounded by taro, and we thought donuts would be the perfect vessel to tell the story and culture of taro.”

As an omnivore, she didn’t set out to create a vegan donut. “We just wanted really clean flavors. We tried the recipe with butter and eggs. And making it plant-based was much lighter.”

The donuts are fried to order, creating a hot and crispy base for the ever-changing flavors, which have included Dragonslayer (dragonfruit lemonade), Wild Guava (guava, bee pollen, and flowers), and Strawberry Fields (strawberries and green tea). Holey Grail constantly introduces new flavors to try to highlight locally-grown ingredients and farmers, like Kauai’s Lydgate Farms, which harvests cacao for chocolate, and Laie Vanilla, which grows the orchids that produce vanilla’s fragrant pods on the north shore of Oahu.

Holey Grail opened a brick-and-mortar flagship shop at Ward Village in Honolulu, Oahu, in 2022.

From Hanalei to L.A.

Before Hana started Holey Grail, she was a private chef, and she approaches donuts the same way she once created menus. Holey Grail offers a tasting box — four donuts selected to balance flavors, from savory to sweet — and also pairings that match drinks with donuts. A recent coupling: the L&L with the Draft Latte, made with housemade coconut cashew milk and nitro cold brew coffee (coffee on tap which creates a creamy pour). All of Holey Grail’s coffee and tea drinks are also plant-based.

The original Holey Grail red trailer still exists in Hanalei — it’s the most popular location, Hana says — but now you can also find a truck in Waikiki, a brand new brick-and-mortar at Ward, and soon, the two LA spots, making the Holey Grail a lot easier to find.

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