The Absolute Best Pastries In The US

Pastries are akin to the glitzy celebrities of the bakery world. Shiny jam glaze catches sunlight rays, powdered sugar dustings hint at sweet interiors, and eye-catching colors replicate a universal candy store awe. The lure of French patisserie configuration, puff pastry flakiness, and fruit tart motifs are exhilarating. But, of course, the best pastry is subjective. Some people prefer vanilla cream fillings, others decadent chocolate ganache, and esteemed citrus lovers guzzle back hand-held lemon tarts right after they cross the cashier threshold. Good pastry, however, requires extreme attention to detail and commitment to the craft.

Today, the curious thrill of croissant and donut unions (hello cronut) and pastry chef celebrityhood from shows like "Top Chef: Just Desserts" and "Chef's Table: Pastry" on Netflix, circulate the world. Making pastry is daunting, so we let the experts attempt the early morning wake-ups and repetitive kneading and rising and rolling. For many, a cute croissant Instagram photo seems more approachable. But centuries of hustle, dedication, and professional training prelude the glamour of every storied crumb. Here are the absolute best pastries in the U.S.

Pasteis De Nata at Joey Bats Café - New York City

Pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg tart delicacy, captivates with a fascinating history and bold custard appearance. Per Bon Appétit, Portuguese nuns invented the dessert in the 16th-century. Masa folhada — similar to French puff pastry — lines tart shell molds before welcoming silky smooth cinnamon, lemon, or vanilla-kissed egg custard. When the small tarts appear from a hot 800˚ oven, they stand out from the less eggy Macanese egg tart, with a nearly charred Basque cheesecake-like surface. Joey Batista, Joey Bats' owner, refers to the flavors and textures as a creme brûlée and croissant "love child," according to The New York Times.

A pastel de nata at Joey Bats does every pastel de nata component justice. Rings of layered Portuguese puff pastry grip the custard and shatter into a buttery explosion, teeming with layers of melted butter. Inside, a just-set creamy custard gives out the second it hits the tongue, and a delicate sprinkling of powdered sugar and cinnamon pops against the deeply caramelized custard surface. Per the NYT, Batista's mom would spread pastel de nata deliciousness free of charge, but for now, the goodie is worth every penny and can be shipped straight to your door from Gold Belly.

Walnut Morning Bun at Clear Flour Bakery - Boston

Morning buns could be the wave of the flaky pastry future. Starting with a puff pastry base, the final baked texture resembles a croissant or kouign amann. The lamination process involves folding the dough to produce alternating butter and yeasted bread dough layers. Per the Kitchn, morning buns made their way from Wisconsin to the West Coast, and only recently ventured cross-country to East Coast pastry shops. Familiar renditions incorporate crunchy granulated sugar coatings dotted with optional citrus zest, warm spices, or vanilla bean specks, then spun into a compact spiral dough round.

Brookline's Clear Flour Bakery has developed quite the Boston following, winning "Best of Boston" 14 times since opening in 1982. All pastry provisions utilize freshly milled flour from Maine Grains, and the noteworthy walnut morning bun is no exception. Eater Boston features a morning bun close-up. The detailed image reveals golden brown puff pastry, a caramelized sugar and toasted walnut top, and a fluffy interior that peeks through from side-by-side baking arrangements. Without a single negative morning bun Yelp review, the buns are a clear stand-out. One happy customer raves about the "heavenly" pastry, while another appreciates the simplicity, allowing the masterfully laminated dough to flake without sugar-coating obstruction.

Ham and Cheese Croissant at Arsicault Bakery - San Francisco

Although a French pastry import, croissants are a beloved American treat. According to Statista, the enthusiasm isn't waning. Some 142.30 million Americans ate a croissant in 2020, with the numbers expected to grow to 145.06 million by 2024. Croissants, however, often approach bistro tables with jam jars in tow or glutinous butter extras to spread on the rich and airy pastry layers. Savory croissant applications are less common, but ham and cheese make for a burst of salty, buttery bliss.

According to Eater San Francisco, owner Armando Lacayo draws on familial baking love from his great-grandparents, who headed Arsicault Boulangerie in France over a century ago. Lacayo set out to make a croissant worthy of his tastebuds and only settled after perfecting an original recipe. That winning recipe led to Bon Appétit naming Arsicault Bakery the best new bakery in 2016, citing butter aromas and deeply caramelized croissant flaking...a feature that pointed specifically to ham and cheese croissant mastery. TripAdvisor reviews reflect on ham and cheese croissant memories, adding that the bakery's long lines are easily worth the wait.

Canelé at Courier Coffee Roasters - Portland, Oregon

Making canelés is a labor of love. Not just for the average home baker but for professionals, too. Samin Nosrat — Author of "Salt Fat Acid Heat" — sums it up with a New York Times "Lazy Woman's Canelé," a dessert that mimics caramelized and milky canelé flavors without any of the canelé's notorious fuss.

Joel Domreis heads operations at Courier Coffee Roasters but took an unexpected detour from coffee when canelé inspiration hit. For Domreis, the transition from coffee roaster to canelé expert was natural. A pastry shunned by many for its complicated nature, he embraced the simple ingredients — butter, sugar, egg yolks, flour, vanilla, milk, and dark rum — and used tactful technique to produce perfectly caramelized and custardy canelé (via Portland Monthly). The batter takes 24 hours to rest, melted beeswax intricately coats copper molds; hot oven polarization is crucial for a proper bake. Domreis crafts only 18 artful canelé a day. Still, the fresh crown-like pastries warrant high praise from Yelp reviews, claiming: "canelés fresh out of the oven are the best thing you can put in your body."

Blueberry Financier at Maison Villatte - Falmouth, Massachusetts

Cape Cod is a summer beach destination, but year-round Falmouth residents have French patisserie excellence at their fingertips without fail. Maison Villatte relies on faithful customers, word of mouth, and Facebook business updates with no official website. Buttery croissants, Paris Brest, tarts, creme puffs, brioche, and eclairs line up in classic Parisian patisserie fashion behind glass counters until customers disturb the peace with their highly anticipated selections. Freshly baked bread loaves are strategically placed on the back wall to showcase gorgeous crispy bread crust ridges.

Maison Villatte boasts an impressive spread, but an unsuspecting berry almond concoction stands out among all the flashy flakes and bright cremes. In all its round and peek-a-boo blueberry glory, the blueberry financier captures the true essence of the nutty, satisfyingly springy, and slightly chewy cake. As explained by Dorie Greenspan in "Paris Sweets," a French pastry chef who took inspiration from the Paris Stock Exchange invented the financier in the 19th century to resemble valuable gold ingots (via Joy of Baking). 

The batter mixes ground almonds, egg whites, powdered sugar, and browned butter before pouring into buttered and floured molds. The blueberry financiers at Maison Villatte are generously sized and made in a round mold, but the characteristic golden brown color and distinct nutty aroma remain true to the original. Per the Cape Cod Times, lines are long, and sparse café tables are often fully occupied. Still, according to Yelp reviewers, perfectly sweet and buttery selections provide sufficient incentive.

Hibiscus Cheesecake Conchas at Pan Artesanal - Chicago

Pan Artesanal is a powerhouse patisserie with fusion influence, distinguishing the Saturday and Sunday operation from fellow Chicago panaderias. Per the Los Angeles Times, much like a Fresh patisserie or American bakery, panaderias round up sweet and yeasted excellence with Mexican pastry refinement. Pan dulce welcomes warm vanilla aromas and buttery steam — some are flaky, others delightfully doughy, and a variety sprinkled with colorful sugary coatings.

Marisol Espinoza, co-owner with sister Lizette Espinoza, opened Pan Artesanal in 2018. But a unique and very personal pastry perspective inspired her unique approach to panaderia brilliance. The menu starts with a butter foundation before Marisol fuses together her French pastry education and proud Mexican heritage (via ABC 7). Marisol originals include cajeta conchas and croissants, poblano chile bread loaves, and a tender scone strewn with salty cotija cheese, nopales (cactus), and fresh corn before a sprinkling of sugar challenges all previous savory notions.

The hibiscus cheesecake concha, however, is a clear stand-out. According to Eater, conchas unite bread's satisfying chew with the crisp thrill of a crunchy cookie on top — the characteristic crackly seashell top earning the concha name. Thrillist mentions the hibiscus cheesecake concha in a 2021 write-up, but only a photo can do the dessert justice. So when the Espinoza sisters opt for the hibiscus cheesecake special, powdered sugar-dusted concha, hibiscus stained vanilla cream, and dark chocolate pieces will surely call out from behind the bakery glass.

Kouign Amann at Little Tart Bakeshop - Atlanta

Pastry cases are curated at the Little Tart Bakeshop's four locations to highlight Sarah O'Brien's baking expertise. Per the Little Tart Bakeshop website, O'Brien was a James Beard semifinalist from 2016 to 2018 for outstanding baker. Local products from nearby jam makers, beekeepers, and butchers guide Little Tart's eat-local attitude and only enhance the bakeshop's selection. Various pastries have since gripped the spotlight; the strawberry galette mimics a freshly picked strawberry taste, and delicate cookies are declared a worthy repeat purchase (via Yelp). But a particular flaky pastry with contemporary charm and a sugary cult-like following is making its mark as the city's best.

Kouign amann are relatively new pastry celebrities in the U.S. Atlanta Magazine's Christine Lauterback recounts her first kouign amann eating experience. At Dominque Ansel's bakery in New York, she discovered the "maddeningly delicious" combination of caramelized sugar and buttery pastry flakes. According to Lauterback, The Little Tart Bakeshop makes the best kouign amann in Atlanta. In addition to that gorgeous caramelized exterior, she notes: "...its dough is dense, and little puddles of sugary melted butter splash under tooth."

Sfogliatella at La Siciliana Bakery & Café - Houston

Excellent flaky pastries rely on adequate layering, and the Sicilian dessert sfogliatella is a flaky pastry on steroids. According to Atlas Obscura, the name "sfogliatella" refers to "leaves" or "layers" that meld to golden perfection after baking. To achieve layered excellence, sheets of paper-thin dough get a generous greasing before strategic rolling, shaping, and filling. Traditionally, sweet citrus or cinnamon-flavored ricotta filling hides inside the clam-shaped sfogliatella.

Pastry chef Diego Chiarello relocated from New York and brought sfogliatella and cannoli greatness to Houston from his native Sicily in 2018 (via Houston Culture Map). Since then, his pastry prowess has made quite a splash on the popular Food Network "Spring Baking Championship." In 2021, Houston Press named La Sicilia Italian Bakery & Cafe the best one in Houston, with a special sfogliatella tribute. The pastries are so delicate that one glance could seemingly shatter them into a million delicious flaky pieces. Before they're ready, they get a liberal powdered sugar dusting, which accentuates the dozens of tiered layers surrounding a creamy ricotta filling. If you're lucky, Chiarello has whipped up a rare sfogliatella offering like his sfogliatella riccia with vanilla and raspberry custard cream.

Apple Tart at Al Forno - Providence, Rhode Island

Pizza is king at Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island. Acclaim from Food & Wine, Zagat, and Food Network Magazine (via Go Local Providence) references seductively charred grilled pizzas and a charming bistro setting. The apple tart, however, is a dessert that turns heads despite an already carb-heavy menu.

Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli is one of many apple tart admirers, honoring the Al Forno dessert on Season 1's "Sugar Rush" episode of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." The generous whole tart arrives sitting on a pool of homemade creme anglais, still warm enough to melt a powdered sugar garnish slightly. 

The tart is so dangerously good that the Los Angeles Times and The Providence Journal published apple tart recipes from the restaurant to capture the dessert's iconic sweet apple and delicate pie pastry union. One Instagrammer even replicated the famous tart with vegan butter for personal baked apple enjoyment. Other seasonal fruits cozy up with the pie crust recipient to fill in for autumnal apples depending on the time of year.

Twice Baked Almond Croissant at Bakery Nouveau - Seattle

Just when croissants seem predictable yet unmistakably satisfying, teeming with butter layers and a golden-brown crust, twice-baked almond croissants at Bakery Nouveau are breaking croissant molds and turning them into an enviable dessert treat. William and Heather Leaman run three Seattle-area bakery locations — a blueprint that guarantees a twice-baked croissant isn't far for any Seattle resident. Per Bakery Nouveau's website, the "croissants a deux" are sought after. But the praise doesn't stop there. Mentions from the James Beard Foundation, Seattle Magazine, and TripAdvisor join the enthusiastic twice-baked croissant cult-like following.

Even the most detailed description would fall well short of an up-close and personal twice-baked almandine croissant experience. Two buttery croissant halves get a simple syrup bath and a luscious almond cream filling before they meet again for a second bake. Seattle Weekly applauds the dynamic contrasting textures. The syrup barely soaks into the soft pastry, creating an incredible crystallized crust around the edges. Chocolate lovers can ask for a chocolate croissant version instead.

Coconut Exotic Mousse at JinJu Patisserie - Portland, Oregon

Chocolate bonbon paradise meets elaborate pastry showroom: JinJu Patisserie in Portland, Oregon, turns all pompous pastry notions on their head. Jin Caldwell and Kyurim Lee ditched Las Vegas lights for quirky and down-to-earth Portland to open a high-end bakery with undeniable neighborly charm (via PDX Monthly). Caldwell describes JinJu's intentional objective — to be a haven for simultaneous pajama frolics and bold croissant endeavors.

The desserts at JinJu are far from simple, the coconut exotic mousse representing the pinnacle of artistic excellence. The dessert is comprised of six components which include a buttery cookie base, coconut sponge, citrus curd, coconut mousse, passion fruit cream, and mango-passion fruit jelly. Bright yellow passion fruit and mango shades are electric, and a thin white chocolate spear barely catches the piped cream topping. Five stars on Yelp and over 11k Instagram followers attest to JinJu's Portland pastry prowess. 

CHP Brownie at CH Patisserie - Sioux City, South Dakota

Chris Hanmer of CH Patisserie puts Sioux City on the pastry map in more ways than one. "Top Chef: Just Desserts" Season 2 winner and youngest American chef to win gold for the World Pastry Team Championship, Hanmer is killing the pastry game (via Experience Sioux Falls). As reported by The Sampson House, CH Patisserie was's second best French U.S. bakery shop. All this to say, Hanmer doesn't play around when it comes to petit gateau, macaron, viennoiserie, and bonbon finesse.

The CHP brownie is not your average American brownie. Rather, it's a brownie on Parisian steroids. Per Instagram, three different chocolate intensities — 70% cocoa chunks, 38% cocoa chunks, and 64% chocolate ganache — lead to a fantastic brownie outcome. The squares cut like candy fudge and shiny chocolate pearls cling to a silky smooth ganache layer on top. Happy customers on TripAdvisor compare a CH Patisserie pitstop to a Parisian atmosphere, marveling at the CH brownie's textural complexity and overt fudginess. The love spreads to other CH Patisserie items like brioche au caramel, macaron cookies, and croissants.

Treat Assortment at Babettes - Longmont, Colorado

Not only do they serve incredible pizza and homemade bread loaves, but Babettes Bakery also creates an incredible selection of unhindered pastries. Customers have to roll the dice without a standard menu and trust owners Catherine and Steve Scott. Per Get Boulder, Babettes featured in a 2015 Bon Appétit issue for "Best Food We Ate This Year" and was later ranked a top 21 U.S. bakery by Thrillist. Babettes' location has since moved from Boulder to Longmont, but the devoted fan base followed. Today, Babettes has over 40k Instagram followers, who, unsurprisingly, find the bakery's iconic piped meringue ripples hypnotic.

Babettes does bakery life a little differently. Brilliantly charred pizzas are a given, but the desserts don't follow the jurisdiction of a traditional menu. Instead, when inspiration hits, dessert concoctions like a smoked tanori (Valhrona chocolate), hazelnut praline, and salted caramel tart appear only fleetingly (via Instagram). Unpredictable? Yes. Surprise-worthy? Absolutely.

Pistachio Macaron at Bakery Lorraine - San Antonio

San Antonio native Charlie Biedenharn had a vision in 2011. So, with the help of former Thomas Keller trainees Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell, Bakery Lorraine took off and eventually transformed into a nationally recognized patisserie with attention from Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today, and Food & Wine (via San Antonio Business Journal). Once only a farmer's market stand, the bakery quickly expanded to a 4,000-square-foot commissary kitchen. At this writing, Bakery Lorraine has four San Antonio locations and one in Austin, Texas.

Per Culture Map San Antonio, Bakery Lorraine's macarons live up to the national hype. To satisfy a nationwide sweet tooth, the bakery ships all over the U.S. There's no such thing as a wrong order, but walk-in customers and shipment recipients share great enthusiasm for the pistachio macaron. Yelp reviews like "pistachio macarons are to die for" and "the best one I've ever had" describes a perfectly chewy and crisp shell and creamy pistachio ganache filling. If you're looking to fill a box of six or more, consider adding decadent chocolate or grapefruit macarons to accompany the authentically green pistachio beauties.

Coffee Eclair at Colette Bakery - Medford, Massachusetts

Colette Bakery plays neighbor to Tufts University and nearby Somerville residents, but authentic French touches are transformative. Nathalie and Franck Beddiar traveled across the Atlantic from Toulouse, France, bringing French tradition and even baking equipment to America's Northeast (via The Boston Globe). Cho-Colette, or Colette Bakery's homemade dough, begins with bubbling yeast in the wee hours of the morning to adequately prepare for a busy day of customers. All baked goods reap small-batch benefits, and fascinated shop-goers can gape through glass windows to witness the creative process firsthand.

Per The Boston Globe, you can't go wrong with an order of chouquette, baked choux rounds with a crunchy and pearly white sugar sprinkling. For a next-level choux delicacy, however, the coffee eclair is mandatory. The same choux dough is piped into oblong shapes and topped with a sugary craquelin hat for a striking crackle after baking. A smooth coffee cream fills the center, a coffee icing waterfall sweeps over the top, and discreet craquelin crunch peeks through on the sides. Yelp, which honored Colette Bakery as a top dessert spot throughout Canada and the U.S. in 2021, harbors one-of-a-kind texture and coffee cream compliments (a Yelp reviewer called them "luxurious") that will force even eclair skeptics to cross the French pastry aisle.

Lemon Tart at Black Walnut Bakery - Minneapolis

Minneapolis is a prime spot for bakery innovation. The Star Tribune even noted in 2019, "The Twin Cities is fertile ground for baked goods," and the owner of Black Walnut Bakery, Sarah Botcher, is grateful for local demand. Black Walnut Bakery treats diners to both sweet and savory specialties. Egg and cheese croissants, pressed sandwiches, and quiche slices command attention at the start. Before long, a museum-worthy lemon tart works its way onto the dining scene.

The lemon tart is a mainstay, showing off gorgeous yellow curd and pigmented edible flower petals in periodicals like Minneapolis St Paul magazine,, and the Star Tribune. The tarts are not only visually stunning, but a tangy citrus burst will not go unnoticed. Botcher's lemon tarts are precisely what a lemon tart should be — intensely tart, silky smooth, and just set in a delicate, sandy crust. Every Yelp review cites an unapologetic tartness and visual appeal worthy of Instagram pedestals.

Petit Gateau at Sacré Sucré - Baltimore

At Sacré Sucré, lively wall colors match rows of pastel macaron cookies — the Baltimore bakery's trademark. The name, which translates to "sacred sweet" in French, aligns cheerful macaron cookies with homemade salted caramel marshmallows, glossy petit gateau offerings, loose teas, and kombucha (via Baltimore Magazine). Per the Sacré Sucré website, the official Fells Point macaron depot features in exposés for The Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Weddings.

The macarons are remarkable, but the petit gateaux are show stoppers. The vanilla and hazelnut mille feuille stacks deeply golden brown puff pastry layers with whipped vanilla bean ganache piping, hazelnut praliné, and candied hazelnuts. The construction is simple, but the flavors strike a nutty, sweet, buttery jackpot. Meanwhile, a teal-blue Sofia petit gateaux dazzles with Earl Grey-infused almond cake and an edible gold garnish. Lastly, the opera cake is a chocolate explosion, packed with light chocolate biscuit jaconde sponge, espresso syrup, chocolate creme, and chocolate glaze.

Jam Pinwheel at Boulted Bread - Raleigh, North Carolina

If there's a line down the block on Raleigh's West South Street on a Saturday or Sunday morning, Boulted Bread's local organic loaves are likely the culprit. The bakery received a 2016 Bon Appétit stamp of approval, earning a coveted special mention spot as one of America's best new bakeries. Modern warehouse bakery vibes and warm community appeal are home to daily stone flour milling and some of the freshest baked goods you will ever try (via Boulted Bread). Alex Delany of Bon Appétit documented his 2019 four-day Raleigh excursion, repeatedly giving in to the fresh flour's "intense flavor" and pastries he called "intoxicating."

The jam pinwheels capture the best of both worlds — Boulted Bread's excellent flaky pastry and an attractive star design. Delany is a jam pinwheel fan, congratulating the distinct buttery layers and uninhibited caramelization. On Instagram, over 30k followers admire the golden-brown crust and drool-worthy jammy pockets. Sticky sweet jam pinwheels offer no better way to end a pastry deep-dive into the absolute best pastries in the U.S.