The Fascinating History Of New Orleans' Famous Beignets

There are a few foods that every visitor to the historic city of New Orleans has to try, including the sweet beignet, but how did the powder sugar-covered pastry become synonymous with the Big Easy? Made of fried dough, beignets trace their ancestry to the Celts and French. The word beignet means "to raise" in Celtic, and "fritter" in French, according to What's Cooking America

Since about the 16th century, beignets have been eaten during Mardi Gras by the French. To make a batch of beignets, butter, salt, sugar, flour, and eggs are needed to create the dough, which will be fried in oil, according to a recipe from After they have been fried into puffy doughnuts, the beignets are sprinkled (liberally) with powdered sugar. They are best served with a café au lait or hot chocolate, per Baker By Nature

Delish describes the beignet as being similar to funnel cakes and fritters, and not as sweet as a doughnut. Beignets are usually made from a pâte à choux dough, which has a light and airy center once cooked. Beignets are also best eaten right after frying so that they are hot and before they become soggy and gummy, advises Baker By Nature. 

A long road to New Orleans

Beignet first made an appearance in New Orleans in the 1700s when French-Creole colonists settled the land, according to Also known as French Acadians, they moved to the bayou lands in Louisiana after they were forced from their homes in the Nova Scotia area by the British, reports Britannica

Years later in 1862, the iconic New Orleans restaurant, Café du Monde, opened and sold the original beignet, reports What's Cooking America. To this day, Café du Monde sells beignets around the clock, all days of the week — and it's the only item the business serves, other than its famous coffee with chicory and hot chocolate. In addition to Café du Monde, other businesses in New Orleans, sell the pastry and often with a twist, according to For example, Loretta's Authentic Pralines offers praline-filled beignets. The city also has an annual Beignet Festival in October. The beignet has become so beloved even outside of New Orleans, that it was named the Louisiana State Doughnut in 1986, per What's Cooking America.

If you aren't able to travel to New Orleans to enjoy a beignet, don't worry as they can also be made at home. Just remember to dust them heavily in confectioner's sugar and enjoy them with a hot café au lait. A little jazz playing in the background wouldn't hurt either.