Last updated on June 6th, 2023
You don’t have to make a trip to the Big Easy to enjoy fluffy beignets. Learn how to make beignets from scratch right in your own home!
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Even though I only live three hours from New Orleans, I don’t get down there as often as I’d like. When I do visit, there are two places I make sure to stop at. Central Grocery for an authentic muffuletta sandwich and Café du Monde, for beignets piled high with powdered sugar and a cup of café au lait.
What is a Beignet?
Growing up, I was always told that a beignet is a French doughnut. The word beignet is a French noun that describes a piece of fried dough or fritter. New Orleans beignets differ from French beignets in that they are made from yeast dough rather than choux pastry. After the dough is allowed to rise, it is cut into wide strips and deep fried. As the dough fries, it puffs up like a pillow. They are typically served piping hot from the fryer in groups of threes and piled high with powdered sugar.
How to Make Beignets
Thankfully, I don’t have to hop in my car and travel to New Orleans every time I have a craving for beignets. A little knowledge of working with yeast dough will set you up to making beignets right at home any time you fancy.
Activating the Yeast
Yeast is actually a fungus. When you buy one of those little packets of yeast from the grocery store, they are dormant and need to be activated, or woken up, before using. You do this by mixing them with a little warm water – kind of like how a shower wakes you up in the morning. Warm tap water is fine, but make sure the temperature of the water does not exceed 120 degrees F. Any hotter and you risk killing your yeast.
Start by mixing one packet of yeast with ¼ cup of warm water and one tablespoon granulated white sugar. Whisk in the yeast to combine it with the water, then let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. As the yeast activates, it will start to release gas. This gas is what makes dough rise. After the 10 minutes is up, you should notice some bubbles and a little foam forming on the surface of the water.
Heating the milk
White the yeast is activating, heat ¼ cup of milk and three tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Heat the milk until it reaches 115 – 120 degrees F. As with the water, allowing your milk to come to a boil will kill the yeast. A candy/fry thermometer will ensure your milk reaches the optimum temperature without getting to hot.
Measure 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour and the remaining two tablespoons of sugar into a large mixing bowl. If you have a stand mixture, I recommend using it here. Add the yeast and the warm milk, then mix using a dough hook attachment for two minutes.
Add one egg yolk and one teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture and continue to mix for one more minute. At this point, the dough should pull away from the side of the bowl and should feel sticky, but not wet. If it’s wet, add a little more flour until it comes together. If the dough isn’t coming together, add a little more warm milk.
Letting the dough rise
The dough should be springy, not dense. If you poke the dough with a finger, you should notice it bounce back slightly. Place the dough in a lightly greased mixing bowl (you could even leave it in the bowl you just mixed it in. Coat it with a light coating of cooking spray. The cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for one hour.
Cutting the dough
Once the dough has risen, roll it out onto a floured cutting board. Roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thick. Then cut them into 2 x 3 -inch strips. I find it’s easiest to use a pizza wheel for this step.
Frying the beignets
Pour enough vegetable or canola oil into the bottom of a skillet or deep pot to make 2-3 inches. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. Again, a candy/frying thermometer comes in handy here. Drop a few strips of dough at a time into the hot oil. Adding too many strips at one time will cause the beignets to stick together and cause the temperature of the oil to drop.
These little guys fry up fast! Give them about 30-45 seconds on one side. Carefully spoon some hot oil over the top of the other side to help it along. After, flip the beignet and cook for an additional 30-45 seconds. Total cooking time is 1 ½ minutes. Using a slotted spoon, strain the beignets from the hot oil and drain on several layers of paper towels or thick paper bags. Serve each beignet with a sprinkling (or a pile) of powdered sugar.
How to store leftover beignets
I guarantee these will go fast, but if you do end up with leftovers, store cooled beignets in a resealable plastic bag. They will last a couple days on the counter at room temperature, but any longer than that and they need to be stored in the fridge so they don’t mold.
Beignets lasting more than four days should be frozen. To thaw, simply place the beignet on the counter for about 30 minutes until it comes to room temperature. Do not attempt to fry a frozen beignet!
How to reheat beignets
To reheat leftover beignets, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the beignets on a cookie sheet and bake until heated through, about five minutes.
More New Orleans Inspired Recipes You Might Enjoy:
How to Make Beignets
- 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons sugar divided
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Oil for frying
- Powdered sugar
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add one tablespoon of the sugar. Allow the yeast to sit for 10 minutes to activate.
- Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter is melted and the temperature reaches 120 degrees with a candy thermometer.
- Combine the flour and remaining two tablespoons of sugar.
- Add the yeast mixture and warmed milk to the flour and mix for two minutes using a dough hook.
- Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract. Continue to whisk for another minute. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and be sticky, but not wet. If it’s wet, add a little flour. If the dough doesn’t come together, add a little more warmed milk.
- Lightly coat the top of the dough with oil. Cover the dough with a towel and allow it to rise in a warm place for one hour.
- Heat 2-3 inches of oil over medium heat until it reaches 375 degrees.
- In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a flour cutting board or workspace.
- Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough into 2 x 3-inch strips.
- Place 3-4 dough strips at a time into the hot oil. Fry for 30-45 seconds. Carefully spoon some hot oil over the top of the dough.
- Turn the beignets over and fry for another 30-45 seconds.
- Strain the beignets from the hot oil and place them on a layer of paper towels to drain.
- Serve hot with powdered sugar.