Classic Beignets are pillowy, New Orleans-style fried dough. Enjoy these soft donuts sprinkled with powdered sugar or dipped in a sauce!
The Best Homemade Beignets
What is a beignet? The word Beignet (pronounced ben-YAY) comes from the early Celtic word bigne meaning “to raise.”
It is also French for “fritter.” Beignets are a New Orleans specialty! They are fried, raised pieces of yeast dough, usually about 2 inches in diameter, or 2 inches square.
The famous New Orleans Beignets vary from the traditional French choux pastry, because they’re raised with yeast instead of steam.
How to Make Beignets
YEAST. Add ¾ cup warm water to a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 tsp yeast on top, and stir to dissolve. Allow the yeast to activate (about 5 minutes).
WET INGREDIENTS. In a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer), add the sugar, egg, salt, nutmeg, heavy cream and vegetable shortening. Mix to combine. Pour in the activated yeast and mix.
DRY INGREDIENTS. Add the flour to the mix. Use the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed, until all of the ingredients are combined. Dough should be smooth, but still slightly sticky.
DOUGH BALLS. Form a ball with the dough, and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour.
CREME ANGLAISE. While the dough ball is rising, make your vanilla crème sauce.
PREP. Add 3 inches of vegetable oil to a deep sided, heavy pot. Heat over medium high heat until, oil reaches between 360°F – 370°F (cooler than this won’t cook the beignets fast enough, and hotter than this will burn them quite easily).
FRY. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough until it is ½ inch thick. Use a pizza cutter, or sharp knife, and cut the dough into 2 ½ inch squares. Working in batches, fry the beignets until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes on each side.
DRAIN. Use tongs, or slotted spoon, to remove the beignets from the hot oil. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.
SERVE. While the Beignets are still warm, dust them completely with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
There are a few musts for creating the fluffiest Beignets, and not executing any one of them correctly can cause the Beignets to turn out dense and flat. Here are the most common points to keep in mind:
- Rise. Be sure to let them rise sufficiently to yield a pillowy beignet.
- Too thin. Don’t roll the dough too thin.
- Don’t overwork the dough, or it will toughen.
- Oil temperature. Keep a constant oil temperature.
- The beignets should float to the top fairly quickly. If they do not, then the oil is not hot enough.
- Frying too many beignets at the same time can cause the oil temperature to drop too low.
Oil. We used vegetable oil to fry the Beignets, but you can also use cottonseed oil, canola oil or peanut oil.
Making the best Vanilla Crème Anglaise
Many times, when anglaise doesn’t quite turn out, the culprit is the egg. Tempering the egg correctly is very important.
If undercooked, the sauce won’t thicken to the desired consistency. If overcooked, the eggs will scramble, and you’ll have to discard it. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Temperature. Don’t let the temperature of the half-and-half rise above 180°F.
- Milk. Slowly pour the hot milk in step 3. If you prefer, slowly pour 1 cup of the half and half into the eggs, and after whisking, return into the saucepan with the rest of the half and half.
- Whisking constantly is important, but don’t beat it with a heavy hand
- Do not boil. Do NOT allow the sauce to reach a boil.
- Store. The crème can be stored in an airtight container, or jar in the fridge, for up to a week.
Change it Up!
This recipe creates the most delicious classic Beignet! However, you can make small adjustments to change things up:
Shapes – the easiest, and classic shape of a Beignet is a square/rectangle, but you can also make other shapes:
- Roll out the dough, use a 2-3” cookie cutter to stamp out another shape.
- Cut circles from rolled dough, using the top of a drinking glass.
Flavor – for a chocolatey Beignet: add 2 tbsp cocoa powder into dough batter. For a pumpkin-y flavor: add 2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice into the dough batter.
TOPPINGS. You really need to pair this with the vanilla crème anglaise at least once. It is so delicious!!! Some other toppings you can pair with the Beignets include:
- Strawberry Sauce
- White Chocolate Fudge Sauce
- Raspberry Sauce
- Chocolate Fudge Sauce
- Caramel Dip
- Fresh Fruit
- Cinnamon Sugar Mix
Make ahead of time
These are best served freshly fried, but here are a few ways you can prep these AHEAD OF TIME.
Make the dough:
- STORE for a few hours: Cut out the dough shapes, and place on lined trays. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge. Bring to room temperature, then fry.
- STORE for 2-3 days: Make the dough, store it covered in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. Even though it is in the fridge, it will slowly rise. Let the dough come to room temperature before rolling and cutting, then fry.
Fry and keep warm: Fry, keep them warm in a 200°F oven for up to 30 minutes before serving
STORE leftovers in an airtight container, at room temperature for 2-3 days. They may last longer, but will grow stale with time. FREEZE for 1-2 months.
To REHEAT. To reheat quickly, pop them in the microwave for a few seconds. For the oven, place in a 350°F oven for about 5 minutes. Eat them before they cool off!
For more fried treats, try:
- Add ¾ cup warm water to a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 tsp yeast on top and stir to dissolve. Allow the yeast to activate (about 5 minutes).
- In a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer), add the shortening, sugar, egg, heavy cream, salt and nutmeg. Mix to combine.
- Pour in the activated yeast and mix.
- Add the flour to the mix. Use the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer and mix on medium speed until all of the ingredients are combined and dough is smooth but still slightly sticky.
- Form a ball with the dough and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour.
- Use a deep sided heavy pot and add 3 inches of vegetable oil. Heat over medium high heat until oil reaches between 360°F – 370°F (cooler than this won't cook the beignets fast enough and hotter than this will burn them quite easily).
- On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is ½ inch thick. Cut into 2 ½ inch squares.
- Working in batches fry the beignets until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes on each side.
- Use tongs to remove the beignets from the hot oil. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. While the beignets are still warm, dust them completely with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
Vanilla Creme Anglaise
- While the dough ball is rising, make your vanilla creme sauce.
- Add the half and half to a small pot on medium heat. Bring it to a low simmer and then turn off the burner.
- Add your egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar to a heat proof bowl and whisk together.
- Add a few spoonfuls of the hot half and half to the eggs, stirring it in to temper the eggs before adding the rest of the half and half. Whisk constantly.
- Then slowly pour in the remaining hot half and half. Whisk constantly.
- Once it has been combined pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Continue to whisk over low heat until it thickens a bit. (180°F) To check: dip the back of a spoon into the mixture. The creme should evenly coat it without dripping off.
- Pour the custard through a mesh strainer to remove any lumps/skin that can form.
- Add vanilla and stir well. Cover the creme and place it in the fridge to chill. Serve along side the beignets.