In New Orleans, there isn’t another sweet better loved than a beignet, fresh fried square of dough served with a healthy dusting of confectioners’ sugar. Although many cultures adore fried dough – think churros in Mexico, fritters in the UK and zeppole in Italy – the French beignet is the treat of choice in New Orleans, a throwback to the city’s French roots.
Brought to New Orleans in the 18th century by either French Acadians or Ursuline nuns, depending on who you ask, beignets were adapted into the evolving Creole diet, sometimes spiked with bananas or plantains, both popular imports in this port city.
In the French Quarter, Café du Monde is the gold standard when it comes to beignets, fresh fried in the original French Market location since 1862. The Café’s menu is short and sweet: dark-roasted coffee with chicory, served black or au lait with steamed milk, beignets, white and chocolate milk, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. It’s a common sight to see folks sitting along the river walk, clouds of powdered sugar giving their breakfast choice away.
Beignets are adaptable, with fried dough working as well as a savory vehicle as a sugary treat. Creative New Orleans chefs are known to incorporate cheese, seafood and duck debris into the fried goodness.