I tried Dunkin’s new ghost pepper doughnut and found that the sweet and spicy treat might not be enough to lure customers back in

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  • Dunkin’ is selling a “Spicy Ghost Pepper Doughnut” with strawberries and ghost pepper in the frosting.
  • The doughnuts are available beginning October 14 through December as a Halloween treat.
  • In our tasting, the doughnuts were more sweet than spicy, but not exciting enough to bring in new customers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I was more than a little nervous when I volunteered to taste test Dunkin’s new Halloween Spicy Ghost Pepper Doughnut.

Dunkin’ says the doughnut “packs a touch of heat with something sweet,” though with pink frosting and reddish sprinkles, it looks like any unassuming doughnut. If the flavour combination seems odd, it’s not too surprising. Spicy foods are hot right now — literally.

Last summer, fast food chains famously competed with dueling spicy chicken sandwiches. Popeyes went through an inventory meant to last several months in only two weeks, with some locations turning chaotic. Business Insider’s Kate Taylor dubbed it the Chicken Sandwich War of 2019. More recently, McDonald’s introduced spicy chicken McNuggets to compete with Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets.

The recent popularity of McDonald’s Travis Scott meal showed that limited edition offerings can bring in customers, to the point where McDonald’s was running out of burgers. And right now, restaurants are doing everything they can to lure in the customers they lost in the beginning of the pandemic.

As a fan of spicy foods, although not necessarily in my desserts, I headed to Dunkin’ to see where this new doughnut fits into the world of spicy fast food.


I recruited my younger sister along as a slightly unwilling taste-tester. Frankly, we were both scared of all the ways this doughnut could go wrong.

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Driving to Dunkin’. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

We parked outside the local Dunkin’ Doughnuts/Quicklee’s. She was worried that the doughnut would be too spicy, and I was worried they might not have any left by our mid-afternoon trip.

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Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

All the COVID-19 precautions stuck on the door only made it feel more ominous.

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Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

Though the doughnuts were behind a giant piece of plexiglass, I was happy to spot several ghost pepper doughnuts still in stock.

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Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

I asked the cashier if they were selling well. He told me that out of the eight they’d made that morning, two were sold before I got there, and two were tested out by employees.

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Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

He also told me that he didn’t find them very hot, but he thought they were “ok.”

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

Doughnuts in hand, we headed back to my apartment for the official taste test.

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Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

I protected the precious cargo on the short drive back.

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Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

I ordered three ghost pepper doughnuts, plus some more traditional flavours as palate cleansers, just in case.

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Doughnuts, including three ghost pepper ones. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

Dogs probably shouldn’t eat spicy doughnuts, but mine was very interested.

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Doughnuts. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

Even close up, the doughnuts look pretty traditional: pink with red sprinkles. I could definitely see someone taking a bite without realising what flavour it is.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

To me, they look as appealing as any doughnut from Dunkin. The doughnut is just a regular plain doughnut, with strawberry frosting containing ghost pepper and cayenne pepper.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

We were prepared with iced coffee and water, still cautious about the possible heat levels.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

I decided to get it over with and try the doughnut first. I was surprised to find almost no heat in the first bite, which was mostly just the doughnut itself.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

The frosting is where the ghost pepper really comes into play. I thought it was mild and still more sweet than hot.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

Elizabeth agreed that the heat was less pronounced than she expected.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

My boyfriend Joe also agreed to try one. Unlike us, he was excited and eagerly anticipating the heat.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

Here you can see him considering the flavour, which he eventually compared to the cinnamon candies Hot Tamales.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider

Two out of the three of us went back to finish our doughnuts. We agreed that the heat was very subtle, and actually edible, but not enough to bring in new customers. In other words, I don’t think Dunkin’ will be facing a doughnut shortage any time soon.

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Ghost pepper doughnut. Mary Meisenzahl/Business Insider