Take the Pilgrimage to Holey Grail Donuts

hana and nile
Photo Courtesy of Holey Grail Donuts

Holey Grail Donuts is, according to its founders, the world’s original taro donut.

Hana and Nile Dreiling, a sister and brother team, brought their community’s beloved “Sunday Ritual” from Kaua’i to Honolulu and Los Angeles.

It all started in 2018, when the siblings combined forces to start a new food venture on Kauaʻi. Hana was a private farm-to-table chef on the island, and Nile was doing donut delivery out of his college dorm room. They bought a little red food truck to serve hamburgers. However, Hana had a feeling about donuts, so she convinced Nile they should try it out on Sundays in the small town of Hanalei. “Itʻll blow up,” she promised. “Just wait.”

And it did.

dragonslayer on taro leaf

Photo Courtesy of Holey Grail Donuts

Within a couple of weeks, the donuts, which happen to be vegan, had developed a cultish following with flavors like POG (passionfruit, orange, guava), Reincarnated (maple, smoked coconut, Hawaiian sea salt) and Hail Mary (cardamom, rose). Hana and Nile had hundreds of donut orders – and a huge line. So they hired DJs and turned it into a weekend party.

The two say Holey Grail Donuts was born from their community’s sheer creativity and love. The name came from a late-night hangout over a couple of cocktails and silly banter with Nile’s best friend drawing a logo on a napkin (which they use today). “We love puns,” Hana said. “Ultimately, we wanted to create a donut that celebrated Hawaiʻi.”

And taro is the sacred ingredient.

purple haze donut

Photo Courtesy of Holey Grail Donuts

Some background: Hanalei is home to generations of taro farmers. Taro, or kalo, is an ancestral food at the heart of the Hawaiian creation story. The root is pounded to make poi, a fermented food that is incredibly nutritious and a staple of the Hawaiian diet.

The Dreiling siblings created their donuts from Hanalei’s legendary poi and fried them in natural coconut oil. Hana says that she and her brother were never satisfied with “your run-of-the-mill donut.” Instead, their donuts are plant-based and leave you feeling good after every delicious bite.

After six months of waking up at 1 oʻclock in the morning to transform their burger truck into a weekend donut stand, they decided to give the people what they wanted: Donuts every day.

donut truck

Photo Courtesy of Holey Grail Donuts

However, in April 2018, Hanalei experienced massive flooding after torrential rain, and the main road into the community was cut off. As a result, businesses and homes were destroyed and their food truck was halfway underwater.

Though the community bounced back, Hana and Nile decided to bring Holey Grail Donuts to the city. With their “hearts set on Honolulu,” they opened another food truck in late 2020 and a pop-up location in 2021. Both were a hit. They now have a permanent brick-and-mortar donut shop in Honolulu.

Los Angeles was next, starting with a food truck in Culver City in late 2021 and a new shop in Santa Monica. Meanwhile, their “OG” food truck is still serving up the original taro donut in Hanalei.

donut dipped in coffee

Photo Courtesy of Holey Grail Donuts

They spent months perfecting their recipe and doubling down to ensure the new California locations had high-quality taro in every bite. A big supporter of local farmers, Holey Grail Donuts partners with six Hawai’i farms to source their taro and fresh ingredients for their weekly tasting box. Their boxes are full of colors that celebrate seasonal and specialty flavors: passion fruit, citrus, matcha green tea and locally grown chocolate.

As part of their new Breaking Bread series, Holey Grail Donuts creates signature flavors with celebrities, musicians and people “doing rad things in the world.” The donut concocted with musician and professional surfer Donavon Frankenreiter, one of their first customers, features local Kaua’i wildflower honey and truffle sea salt.

“Donuts are the perfect vessel,” Hana said. “If you can use that vessel to showcase a unique ingredient and focus on sustainability and farmers, you can really tell a beautiful story through the donut itself.”

AUTHOR

Breanna Rose

Breanna Rose is a freelance writer, facilitator, and strategist in Honolulu. Raised in the food and beverage industry, she was a yacht chef in the Mediterranean and spent the past decade building networks to advance sustainability policy in Hawaiʻi and globally. Connect with her on Linkedin.

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