Big Easy Beignets – Confection Perfection

Big Easy Beignets
New Orleans Style Beignets – recipe in post

To say The Fiancé has a sweet tooth is an understatement. He’s not your average dessert-loving, chocoholic candy fiend… the man’s got taste, and not just any sweet treat will do. He’s a self-proclaimed snob when it comes to confections… and since I get to indulge in all kinds of incredible foods as a result, I have to say I’m okay with it.

Weekend mornings at our house are lazy, just as they should be. In fact, we rarely have weekend mornings, so much as weekend afternoons. When we do get up, we have a routine: almost every Saturday, we go out to get coffee and a pastry from our favorite local bakeshop.

Every week, The Fiancé orders a French crueller, hot out of the fryer, and every week he takes one bite, let’s out a happy little sigh, and then goes on to regale me with stories of his trips to New Orleans as a kid, and of the many beignets he consumed there. The fondness he holds for these doughnuts is clear in the boyish grin on his face as he tells me about them for the hundredth time – rich, eggy, fluffy little pillows of dough, doused in powdered sugar and still warm inside… I once ate a dozen of them in one go! He tells me again and again… and again and again I listen, and hold in the back of my mind this promise: one day, my dear, I will make these for you.

And so I have.



Café du Monde, in the French Quarter of The Big Easy, is famous for their Beignets and Chicory Coffee. Not many things pair better than sweet doughnuts and dark coffee, and though I’ve never been to New Orleans, rumor has it they do it best. The Café sells boxed beignet mix (along with cans of their signature chicory coffee), but with plenty of recipes around the web I was more than happy to try my hand at making them from scratch. The Fiancé was not disappointed.

The word beignet is French for fritter, and can mean most any yeasted doughnut. In the States, however, the word has become synonymous with these familiar squares. You may think from looking at them that these ‘doughnuts’ are entirely without holes… but that is simply not true. The hole, in this case, is on the inside. A pocket of air, warm with steam, giving them the illusion of clouds when bitten into. I’ve never been to Café du Monde, but with these coming out of my kitchen I don’t think I’ll need to make the trip any time soon.

French Quarter Beignets

(Edit: the photo above is incorrect, and should say “4 eggs” not 3. The recipe written below is correct.)

Recipe notes: This recipe makes a lot of dough, but keeps well in the fridge. Making doughnuts for just the two of us, I like to tear off a chunk to use and save the rest for later. Risen dough can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, and the longer it sits the more flavorful it becomes. I highly suggest making the dough at least a day in advance – the difference in taste is incredible!
Café du Monde recommends frying these doughnuts in cottonseed oil – looking around I’ve found a lot of people with concerns that cottonseed oil isn’t safe. They reason that cotton crops aren’t food, and therefore the pesticides used on them aren’t regulated. Doing a little more research, I’ve found that cotton crops are regulated the same as food crops, and that food-grade cottonseed oil is processed to eliminate any natural toxins otherwise inherit to the cotton plant, making it perfectly suitable for culinary use. If you can’t find cottonseed oil or prefer to avoid it, vegetable oil will work just fine.
Beignets are most often served coated heavily in powdered sugar, but if you prefer can be spruced up with a little glaze, fruit preserves, or chocolate sauce.

Big Easy Beignets
Adapted from Paula Deen
Makes 4-5 dozen

1 1/4 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (or one 1/4oz. envelope)
1 cup full-fat evaporated milk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup shortening
6 1/2 cups bread flour, or all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Vegetable, corn, canola, or cottonseed oil for frying
Confectioners sugar – lots of it

Optional: 1 tsp. orange or lemon zest (not traditional, but nice to mix things up a little)

1.    In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until frothy.
2.    In a separate bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, eggs, salt, vanilla, and the rest of the sugar. If using any citrus zest or other flavoring, add it now. Pour into the bowl with the yeast mixture.
3.    Add three cups of flour to the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the vegetable shortening, then continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Keep mixing until a shaggy dough forms.
4.    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for several minutes, until the dough is somewhat smooth and elastic. The dough should be soft, and not particularly sticky. If you find it sticking to your hands, add a pinch more flour.
5.    Place the dough in a very large, thoroughly greased bowl (sides and bottom). Turn the dough to coat it lightly in oil, and then cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 3-4 hours. After rising, the dough is ready to use or can be stored in the fridge for up to a week – the longer the dough keeps, the more flavor it will develop!
5.    To fry: add about 3-4 inches of oil to a large, deep pan or fryer. Clip on a thermometer and bring the oil to 370f.
6.    Tear off a chunk of dough, place it on a lightly floured surface, and roll to about 1/4 inch thick.* Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough into 2inch squares. Carefully drop 3-4 squares into the oil, and fry on one side until evenly golden brown – this should only take about 30-40 seconds, or slightly longer if your dough has been refrigerated. If you have a wire skimmer, use it to hold the doughnuts just beneath the surface of the oil. Flip the doughnuts and fry on the second side for another 30-40 seconds, or until golden all the way around.
7.    Transfer to a paper-towel lined tray and let drain for just a moment before coating thoroughly in powdered sugar. To do this you can either sift the sugar over the top of the doughnuts, or fill a paper bag with sugar, add the doughnuts, and give them a shake. If the oil has dropped in temperature, let it heat up again before frying more doughnuts. Repeat.
8.   Serve warm with a coffee, or cafe au lait. And remember, if you aren’t getting powdered sugar all over your face, you’re doing it wrong. Enjoy!

*Beignets that are rolled too thin will have a large pocket of air with very little doughiness, and an almost crispy exterior. If rolled too thick, they will be dough all the way through with no pocket of air. Rolled correctly, they are light and doughy with a small bubble of air inside.


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21 Responses to Big Easy Beignets – Confection Perfection

  1. Foodie Stuntman February 7, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    These look light, fluffy and delicious!

  2. Juliana Loh (@bilbaobab) February 7, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    stunning!! would LOVE to have some!

  3. Katie February 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    oh i’m salivating at the computer. these look to die for. I had my first Cafe du Monde Beignet a few years ago and still dream of enjoying them again. Glad to know that I can make them at home without having to travel (although lets be honest I would love to travel back to NOLA)!

  4. shannon weber February 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    your beignets are BEAUTIFUL!!!! I’m sure that’s not appropriate to put like, a bazillion exclamation points behind that sentence, but i felt like these deserved that. :) I haven’t eaten a beignet in YEARS, and i’ve never made them on my own. now seems like a rather appropriate time to change that.

    • Willow February 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      Haha – THANK YOU!!!! Just in time for Mardi Gras, too – no better time! ;)

  5. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes February 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Oh wow these seem a lot easier to make than what I first thought – for some reason I always thought they would be overly complicated, the fiance is so lucky to have you, you take such good care of him! :)

    • Willow February 7, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

      Heheh, thanks Heather – he says he ‘highly recommends’ marrying a food blogger (I think he knows he’s got it good)!

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  7. Erin | The Law Students Wife October 23, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    OMG, I am coming over for breakfast. IMMEDIATELY.

  8. Erica March 4, 2014 at 3:54 am #

    Hi. Is it 3 or 4 eggs??? It says 3 in the pic but says 4 types out. Hmmm. Help!

    • Willow March 4, 2014 at 3:59 am #

      Hi Erica — the one in the pic is wrong, the typed recipe is correct. 4 eggs. I’m so sorry for the confusion! I’ll work on getting it fixed in the photo.

  9. Lauren March 13, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    Hi, I would love to make this dough in advance and keep in the refrigerator overnight, do I need to let it rise again when I take it out?

    • Willow Arlen March 14, 2015 at 11:40 am #

      Hi Lauren! No need for a second rise. I just pull the dough out of the fridge, tear of a chunk to use, and let it sit while the oil comes up to temperature. Hope that helps!

  10. Kathryn May 10, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    I made these today. They were delicious! The dough is delightful to work with. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    • Willow Arlen May 12, 2015 at 10:10 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Kathryn! I’m so glad you liked them! :)

  11. Bebot January 10, 2016 at 12:07 am #

    Just made 1/2 batch tonight. Yummy!
    Used my bread maker to make dough . My husband & I enjoyed it very much. Can’t wait to make for the kids?. Thank You!

    • Willow Arlen January 10, 2016 at 9:47 am #

      Thanks for sharing, Bebot, I’m glad you liked them!

  12. Alyce October 2, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

    Hi, your beignets look gorgeous! Have you ever halved this recipe? I’m interested in what the results were?

    • Willow Arlen October 3, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

      Thanks Alyce! I’ve halved the recipe many times — they turn out great!

  13. Debbie November 15, 2016 at 12:41 am #

    These look just like the ones you can get in New Orleans. It has been years since I’ve had one, two or let’s be honest about a dozen in one setting! Can’t wait to try them! One question, how long does this whole process take from start to finish?

    • Willow Arlen November 20, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

      Hi Debbie, great question! I can usually pull the dough together in about 15-20 minutes, then it needs to sit for several hours to rise. Generally speaking, I make the dough in advance and keep it in the fridge until I’m ready to use it (it keeps well, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge for 5-6 days). That way it’s maybe 30 minutes of work one evening, then the next morning I can just heat up the oil, roll the dough while the oil is coming to temp, and fry them off. The full recipe makes a massive amount of dough, so it would take some time if you’re planning to fry all of it at once for a large crowd. IN my small household, though, I like to make a half batch of dough (just halve all the ingredients), tear off enough for a few people, and fry that up,k which takes maybe 30 minutes (most of that time is waiting for the oil to get up to temperature, and then return to temperate after each batch). I keep the rest of the dough in the fridge so we can have them again later in the week. I hope that helps!

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