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These soft, fluffy Beignets are pillows of fried dough that have been generously dusted with powdered sugar and inspired by the ones from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. Learning how to make beignets at home in your own kitchen is easier than you would think and they are every bit as delicious!
All week I have been exploring the flavors of Louisiana as part of my American Eats series. You might also want to check out my Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Red Beans & Rice as well to create a New Orleans-themed meal!
What is a beignet?
A beignet (pronounced ben-yay) is a pillowy-soft rectangle of fried dough that is not just dusted, but heaped with plenty of powdered sugar. The combination of crispy fried exterior, soft interior, and melt-in-your-mouth powdered sugar coating is absolutely irresistible!
The Cafe du Monde beignet is probably the most famous one, although Disneyland serves them as well at New Orleans Square. At Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, they come in an order of three and it’s easy to see how you can eat all three by yourself! At Disneyland you’ll get Mickey-shaped beignets, which were inspired by the Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog.”
Why is Cafe Du Monde so famous?
Cafe du Monde is a New Orleans institution. I haven’t even been to the Big Easy yet, and I’ve heard all about their famous beignets. It’s a coffee shop in the French Quarter at the end of the French Market and it has been around since 1862. They still serve essentially the same menu that they did during the Civil War, and for some, the Cafe du Monde beignets are the highlight of the trip!
What you’ll need
- Yeast: I use active dry yeast in this recipe, although instant yeast can be used without proofing, if you want to skip that step.
- Water: Warm water helps the yeast wake up. You want it to be around 105-115 degrees F, which should just feel nice and warm to the touch.
- Milk: I like to warm up my milk in the microwave for 30 seconds or so to adding it to the dough. Whole milk is my personal preference, although lots of beignet recipes call for evaporated milk, which could be used instead.
- Flour: Either bread flour or all-purpose flour will work for these beignets. Bread flour makes them slightly chewier though.
- Butter: If you look at lots of beignet recipes, they all use some sort of fat to enrich the dough, whether that’s shortening, vegetable oil, or butter. Butter is my personal preference from a flavor perspective and because I always have it in the fridge.
- Sugar: A little granulated sugar helps sweeten the dough itself.
- Salt: Because all baked goods need a little salt so they don’t taste bland.
- Vanilla: I almost always add a little vanilla to my baked goods.
- Egg: Like many enriched doughs, this beignet dough uses an egg for richness, texture, and binding.
- Oil: I use vegetable oil for frying, but peanut oil is another great choice.
- Powdered sugar: I would say to use your discretion in how much powdered sugar to dust your beignets with, but they are beignets, so discretion is pretty much out the window. Go ahead and load them up with plenty of powdered sugar on top!
How to Make Beignets
- Proof the yeast: Letting the yeast proof for 5-10 minutes in a bowl with warm water and a little sugar wakes it up and feeds it so the dough will rise.
- Mix in the remaining ingredients: This step can be done with a wooden spoon by hand or using a stand mixer. But you will want to stir until the dough starts to come together, then knead in the remaining flour until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours, until doubled in size. You could even refrigerate the dough at this point for a slower rise that will mean you can have easy beignets for breakfast in the morning!
- Roll out and cut: Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 2″x3″ inch rectangles with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. You can trim the edges for perfectly rectangular beignets, but I always fry up the misshapen ones anyway because they are just as delicious.
- Fry: Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat to 375 degrees F. It really helps to have a good candy thermometer that you can clip to the side of your pan to monitor the oil temperature. Fry in batches until crispy and golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, flipping once partway through.
- Dust with powdered sugar: Transfer the cooked beignets to a baking sheet lined with a wire rack to drain as they finish. Dust with a generous coating of powdered sugar before serving warm.
What is the difference between a donut and a beignet?
While similar in that both beignets and donuts involve fried dough, beignets don’t have holes in the center for starters! Beignets also aren’t glazed or filled, like donuts, instead relying solely on a bit of sugar in the dough and plenty of powdered sugar on top for sweetness.
Also, beignets have a distinctive rectangular shape, as opposed to round donuts.
Tips for beignet success
Beignets are actually really easy to make! They are less fussy than most donut recipes and a great introduction to yeast doughs. These tips will help you get the best results and know how to store your freshly made beignets (if you have any leftover, that is).
Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your oil.
Maintaining the right oil temperature it important for really excellent beignets because it will help the dough fry all the way through without getting too dark on the outside.
Go ahead and make these ahead!
The dough can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge overnight. Then in the morning, just roll them out, cut the dough into squares, and let them warm up for 15-20 minutes before frying.
Storing & freezing
Beignets really are best served fresh, but if you have any leftover you can keep them in an airtight container on the counter for 2-3 days or even freeze them for 1-2 months.
Reheat the beignets in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds or in the oven at 350 degrees F for 3-5 minutes to serve them warm. You will just want to add a fresh dusting of powdered sugar before serving. They won’t be quite as good as fresh, but still pretty darn good.
More Dessert Recipes
- Homemade Churros
- Apple Fritters
- Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts
- Macadamia Nut Stick1/2 cup warm water (about 105 to 110 degrees F)y Buns
- Knotted Orange Rolls
- 1/2 cup warm water (about 105 to 110 degrees F)
- 1/3 cup sugar, divided
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed
- 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
- Oil for frying
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Combine the warm water, about 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is foamy.
- Add the remaining sugar, milk, butter, salt, egg, and 2 cups of the flour, mixing until well-combined using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Add the remaining flour, kneading until it comes together into a soft dough, about 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat, then cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, or refrigerate overnight.
- Roll out onto a lightly floured surface until about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 2"x3" rectangles using a pizza cutter.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat to 375 degrees F. Fry the beignets for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, flipping partway through, until crispy and golden brown on the outside. You will need to work in batches with a few beignets at a time so as not to crowd the pan and drop the oil temperature too much.
- Transfer the cooked beignets to a baking sheet lined with a wire rack to drain as they finish. Dust with a generous coating of powdered sugar before serving warm.
Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series? Check them out below!
Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Oregon • Puerto Rico • South Carolina • South Dakota • Texas