Popular in French cuisine and a staple in the Louisiana city of New Orleans, these New Orleans-style homemade beignets are fun to make and hard to resist! Their light, sweet, and pillowy texture make them the perfect treat to enjoy any time of day: For breakfast, an afternoon snack, or dessert. Top them with sugar, fill them with cream, or dip them in your morning coffee.
📖 What are Beignets
Translated to mean “fritters” in French, beignets (pronounced ben-yay) are light and airy square-shaped donuts made with yeast, flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and butter. They are typically deep fried, topped with powdered sugar, and served hot. You can also find beignets with different toppings as well as made with various fillings.
The New Orleans recipe for beignets is very similar to brioche and sugar donuts, using the same ingredients but with a different quantity of butter. However, authentic French beignets are typically a choux pastry, relying on moisture versus yeast to rise.
Although beignets have a French history, they are a staple in New Orleans, Louisana, primarily served as a dessert or alongside coffee. New Orleans beignets are especially popular during Mardi Gras.
🌟 Why this is the best recipe
- It is the most delicious - I use the most high-quality ingredients and techniques that result in the most flavorful, airy, and fluffy New Orleans style beignets.
- No fancy ingredients required - Everything you need to make these beignets are kitchen staples found in your local supermarket or your pantry.
- It is easy to follow - My New Orleans style beignets recipe is one of the most detailed, easy recipes that covers everything you need to know about how to make beignets. Just make sure to follow each step exactly as written and follow my expert tips below.
- It doesn’t take much time - This easy beignet recipe only takes 30 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook, so you won’t have to spend all day in the kitchen! The longest part is waiting for the dough to be proven, which you can do overnight.
- It is versatile - You can easily customize your beignets with various toppings and fillings. See the Flavor Variations and Substitutions section below for several ideas!
📝 Ingredient notes
- Milk - Whole milk with a high fat content will give the best results. I use 3% whole milk in this recipe. The milk needs to be lukewarm.
- Sugar - Granulated sugar will help to sweeten the dough.
- Yeast - Fresh yeast is ideal, but you can substitute it with 1.5 teaspoons (5g) of instant yeast, if necessary. For more tips, see my guide on how to bake with yeast.
- Egg - You will need one whole egg and one egg yolk. Both need to be at room temperature before using them.
- Flour - Since this is essentially a sweet bread, a high-protein flour such as bread flour is ideal. You can also substitute with all-purpose flour if you do not have bread flour.
- Salt - Salt is an essential ingredient in baking. It helps to balance the sweetness and enhance the flavor. Do not skip it!
- Butter - Use unsalted butter to fully control the amount of butter in the recipe. Like the milk and egg, the butter must be at room temperature and soft enough to incorporate into the dough. Do not use melted butter.
- Oil - You will need oil to fry the dough, preferably a high-heat oil such as vegetable oil or canola oil.
- Powdered sugar - The powdered sugar is to dust the beignets after you fry them.
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
👩🍳 How to make this recipe
1. Step-by-step process of making beignets
- First, make sure your kitchen is nice and warm. A warm kitchen is necessary to activate the yeast. Mix the sugar with the lukewarm milk in a large bowl, then sprinkle the yeast on top. In approximately 10 minutes, you should see the yeast start to foam.
- Move the active fresh yeast mixture (or active dry yeast mixture) into the bowl of your stand mixer with the kneading hook attached. Add the whole egg and egg yolk and mix well.
- Mix in the flour and salt and continue to knead until the beignet dough comes together.
- One piece at a time, slowly add in the soft, room-temperature butter. Knead the dough on medium-high speed for an additional 10 minutes until the dough becomes elastic, shiny, and does not stick.
- Transfer the dough into a bowl and cover with a plastic wrap or kitchen towel. Ideally, you should let the dough rise in the fridge overnight. Or, let it rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
- After the dough rises, press the air out and gently knead it for a few seconds.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll it into a ¼-inch (0.6mm). With the help of a pizza wheel, cut out approximately 2.5-inch (6cm) squares. Use a small amount of flour to help shape the dough, if needed.
- Move the dough pieces onto individual square sheets of baking paper. Depending on the thickness and size of the dough squares, you should yield approximately 20-25 small beignets.
- Proof the dough for a second time at room temperature, making sure your kitchen is nice and warm. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this can take 1-2 hours. Avoid placing the dough near direct heat or sunlight.
💡 Top Tip: Place the dough in the refrigerator overnight for the first rise for the best experience when working with the dough. Cold, firm dough is much easier to work with than warm, soft dough.
2. How to fry the beignets
- Once the beignets are nice and puffy, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. The oil temperature should be between 347-365F / 175-185C for the best results.
- Place 6-8 beignets in the oil, leaving enough space around them. The number of beignets can vary depending on the size of your pan. Use just enough oil to prevent the beignets from touching the bottom.
- Fry the beignets on each side for approximately 1.5 minutes or until the color turns nice and brown.
- Transfer the fried dough to a wire rack lined with paper towels to soak the excess oil. While still hot, toss them in the powdered sugar and coat them evenly. Serve fresh.
💡 Top Tip: Use a digital thermometer to check the temperature of the oil before frying the beignets. The perfect temperature for frying is 356F / 180C. Oil that is too hot will burn the beignets while the inside remains raw. Oil that is not hot enough will result in the dough soaking up too much oil while the inside remains raw.
📚 Flavor variations & Substitutions
This authentic beignet recipe is incredibly versatile and can be customized to your liking with different flavors, toppings, and fillings. Try your beignets with one or more of these many flavor variations or substitutions:
With different sugars - Replace the powdered sugar with decorating, muscovado, or brown sugar. You can also use cinnamon sugar for tasty cinnamon-flavored beignets. See my sugar guide for more about the various types and how to use them in baking.
With all purpose flour - If you do not have bread flour, you can use all-purpose flour at a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind that the texture may vary.
Without eggs - For egg allergies, you can use one of the available egg substitutes to make this recipe. You will likely need to make other adjustments to get the same flavor and texture.
🥣 Equipment Notes
🎓 Expert tips
- The milk, egg, and butter must always be at room temperature to emulsify correctly.
- A warm kitchen is necessary for the yeast to activate. However, always avoid placing the dough near direct heat or sunlight.
- Kneading the dough in the stand mixer will take approximately 10 minutes, although it may take longer. You will know the dough is ready when it is shiny, elastic, and no longer sticky. Do not attempt to speed up the process by adjusting the ingredients or adding more flour to the dough. Instead, continue kneading.
- For the best flavor and texture, do the first proofing overnight in the fridge. Do not skip the second proofing, as it is necessary to give the dough the perfect rise-and-fluffy texture.
- You can cut the dough into 4-inch / 10cm squares for larger beignets, in this case, fry them for about 2 minutes on each side.
- To get the most out of the flavor and texture, serve your beignets fresh and hot!
📖 What is the difference between a donut and a beignet?
On a broader level, there are two types of donuts: cake donuts, leavened with baking soda or baking powder, and yeast donuts.
While yeast donuts and beignets (they are also made with yeast) are very similar, these two delicious pastries have a few significant differences, including their appearance, quantity of ingredients, texture, and overall taste.
In the United States, a donut (also commonly spelled “doughnut”) is known as a round pastry with a hole in the middle (just like these sugar donuts), typically decorated with glaze, frosting, fillings, or other decorative toppings such as sprinkles. On the other hand, a beignet is known as a fried, square-shaped doughnut dusted with powdered sugar.
Also, classic American donuts typically use less yeast and more eggs than beignets, making them denser, softer, and less puffy, however, it can vary and there is no set recipe that everyone has to follow.
📖 Are beignets French or New Orleans?
Beignets have long been a part of French cuisine and are one of the most popular pastries during Carnival and Mardi Gras. Beignets are said to have been introduced to Louisiana in the 18th century when French colonists migrated from Canada to New Orleans. In the year 1986, the beignet was named the official state donut. It has since become one of the most popular delicacies that New Orleans’ French Quarter is known for, although you can also find them worldwide.
Store beignets in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. To reheat, place them in the microwave for a few seconds (the time can vary based on your microwave) or warm them in the oven for 3-5 minutes at 350F.
You can freeze plain beignets without any toppings. Once completely cooled, wrap each individual beignet in plastic wrap, put them in an airtight container, and freeze them for up to two months.
Beignets are a delicious pastry, and you can enjoy them alone. However, you can also serve them with fruit, ice cream, coffee, tea, cheese, and yogurt, some even like to serve them with cured meats, breakfast bacon, and eggs!
Using an air fryer to make beignets will not give the same golden brown color or taste that deep frying will, but it is certainly possible. To do so, preheat the air fryer to 350F, lightly spray the basket with cooking oil, and place half of the beignets in the basket. Cook for approximately six minutes (depending on your air fryer model).
There are a couple of reasons why your beignets may not have puffed up: Either your measurements were off or the yeast was expired, or maybe you did not let the dough fully rise after the second proofing, or you flipped them over too soon when frying. The key is to flip them before they become a giant air bubble, but not too soon to prevent them from puffing up.
🍩 More Donut recipes
- 110 g (½ cups) Whole milk lukewarm
- 50 g (¼ cups) Granulated sugar
- 12.5 g Fresh yeast Can be substituted with 1.5 teaspoons (5g) instant yeast
- 1 Egg yolk room temperature
- 1 Egg room temperature
- 250 g (2 cups) Bread flour High protein content flour. Can be substituted with All purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 60 g (⅓ cups) Unsalted butter room temperature, soft
- 1.5 liter (6 cups) Vegetable or Canola oil for frying
For the sugar coat
- 60 g (½ cups) Powdered sugar
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Start with mixing sugar with lukewarm milk then sprinkle yeast on top. Make sure the kitchen is nice and warm, and in 10 minutes the yeast should foam.
- Place the yeast mixture into your stand mixer with the kneading hook on, then mix it together with the egg and egg yolk.
- Mix in dry ingredients; flour, and salt, and start kneading until the dough comes together.
- Slowly start to add in room temperature (soft) butter chunks piece by piece. Knead the dough for another 10 minutes on medium high speed until the dough becomes elastic and shiny and not sticky any longer.
- Move the dough into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Let it rise ideally in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
- After the dough has risen, knock the air out, and gently knead the dough for a few seconds.
- Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into ¼ inch (0.6mm) thick, and with the help of a pizza wheel cut out about 6 cm / 2.5-inches squares. Use a small amount of extra flour while shaping the dough, if needed.
- Place the dough pieces onto square sheets of baking paper. Depending on how thick you roll and how large the squares are, the dough will make 20-25 small beignets.
- Proof the dough for the second time now at room temperature. Proofing might take 1-2h depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Chose a warm spot but avoid direct heat and sunlight.
- Once the donuts are nicely puffed up, heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. The ideal oil temperature for baking donuts is 180C/356F or between 175-185C / 347-365F. Use a thermometer.
- Depending on the size of your pan, place 6-8 beignets in the oil at a time, leaving enough space around them. Fry the beignets on each side for about 1.5 minutes or until nice and brown.
- Place the fried beignets on a wire rack lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil. While they are still hot, toss them in powdered sugar. Serve them fresh.
- Store the beignets in an air-tight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.
- Use always unsalted butter in baking. In this recipe, the butter needs to be at room temperature so soft enough to be able to knead into the dough.
- Fresh or Dried yeast can be used. Please check my baking guide for more details on how to bake with yeast.
- Use the milk, butter, and egg at room temperature in order for the ingredients to properly emulsify
- Since rum donut is effectively a sweet bread, use high protein content bread flour
- For activating the yeast (whether it is dried or fresh), make sure that the milk is lukewarm and your kitchen is also nice and warm
- You will knead the dough for about 10 minutes in a stand mixer. The dough is ready when it is shiny, elastic, and no longer sticks to your fingers. Do not add more flour to the dough. If it sticks too much, continue kneading
- The first proofing ideally should happen in the fridge overnight for the best flavor and texture. It will also mean that you work with cold dough when shaping the donuts, which is less sticky and easier to shape.
- Second proofing is necessary for the perfect rise = fluffy texture
- The oil temperature is critical, so use a thermometer. Too hot? It will burn the donuts and they might stay raw in the middle. Too cold? The donuts will soak in too much oil and again, might stay raw in the middle.
- You can make larger beignets by cutting the dough into 10 cm / 4-inch squares.
- Feel free to experiment with flavoring the dough; vanilla extract, cardamom, orange zest, rosewater, etc. can be all great ideas.