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Easy Baked Beignets (A “Healthy” Twist on a NOLA Classic)

Christy learned the art and science of cooking from her Southern kin. Her cooking secrets aren't secrets because she shares them freely.

Nothing says New Orleans like Bourbon Street, jazz, and beignets!

Nothing says New Orleans like Bourbon Street, jazz, and beignets!

How to Make Homemade Beignets

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a fluffy, buttery beignet, the classic Creole version of a donut. (The word is French, so it’s pronounced “ben-yei.”)

But for those of us looking for something a little healthier than deep-fried fritters, here’s a recipe for homemade oven-baked beignets. They’re delicious but healthier than the traditional version—which is enough to make you shout “ben-YAY!”

Oven-Baked Beignet Recipe (No Deep-Frying!)

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

1 hour

12 min

1 hour 12 min

36 beignets

Ingredients

For the pastries:

  • ¼ cup warm water, 105–115°F
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (2¼ teaspoon) package quick-rising active dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • ⅝ cup buttermilk
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter

For the topping:

  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Place the warm water in a large mixing bowl and add granulated sugar and yeast.
  2. Stir and let stand for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is foamy.
  3. Whisk in egg, buttermilk, flour, salt, and 3 tablespoons butter. Stir until combined.
  4. Knead the dough until smooth, or knead with a dough hook attachment for about five minutes, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides. If necessary, add up to ¼ cup additional flour.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let the dough rise for about 15 minutes.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, punch down the dough and roll it into approximately a 9×9″ square.
  7. Cut the dough into 36 squares (6 rows × 6 rows).
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the squares to the sheet. Cover loosely with a towel or parchment paper and let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  9. Remove the towel and transfer the beignets to the oven. Bake at 400°F for 10–12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  10. While the beignets are still hot, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and place the powdered sugar in a bowl. Dip the beignets in the butter and then in powdered sugar.
  11. Enjoy! See below for my suggestions for what to serve with your beignets.

Options and Substitutions

  • Vanilla: Add ½ teaspoon vanilla extract at Step 3.
  • Cinnamon: Add ½ teaspoon cinnamon at Step 3.
  • Flour type: Substitute cake or pastry flour for the all-purpose flour (see below for notes about how each flour affects the finished product).
  • Air-fryer option: Use an air fryer (see below for instructions).
  • Jam topping: Dip the finished beignets in jam. Yum!
Yeast working in the sugar-water mixture.

Yeast working in the sugar-water mixture.

The ingredients have been mixed, and the dough is ready to be kneaded with the dough hook.

The ingredients have been mixed, and the dough is ready to be kneaded with the dough hook.

Beignets, New Orleans!

The French Quarter. Bourbon Street. Jazz music. The Big Easy. The Garden District. Anne Rice, vampires, and Southern Gothic. All of these things say New Orleans.

You know what else says New Orleans? Beignets!

The first time I tasted one of these heavenly bits of pastry heaven was in 1996. As a life-long Southerner, I don’t have a good excuse for not going to the Big Easy until my twenties. I just hadn’t. Not until the 1996 SEC basketball tournament in the Superdome.

I grew up in Kentucky, which means I’m also a lifelong Kentucky Wildcats basketball fan. My son’s first words were Mama, Dada, and Go, Cats! (Just kidding about Mama and Dada.) My boss couldn’t go to the tournament that year, so he walked into my office, threw a handful of tickets on my desk, and said, “Wanna go to New Orleans?”

My best friend, who went with us, was pregnant, which worked out great for us. Because she was pregnant, she couldn’t drink—meaning we had an automatic designated driver. After the games, we strolled down Bourbon Street, chilled to some amazing jazz music, scarfed down steak and shrimp, feasted on blackened catfish, and stumbled back to the car, where our non-drinking, pregnant designated driver took us back to the hotel.

The next morning, we went to Café du Monde for a New Orleans specialty: beignets. Fluffy, sugary, buttery beignets.

The moment I tasted the first one, I fell in love with the Big Easy.

Now, many years later, I still smile whenever I think of New Orleans because I remember Bourbon Street . . . and beignets.

Fresh beignets, dusted with powdered sugar, begging to be eaten.

Fresh beignets, dusted with powdered sugar, begging to be eaten.

What to Serve With Beignets

Coffee, obviously. (Some people even dunk their beignets in their coffee.) Or try one of these:

  • Café au lait
  • Mimosas
  • Chocolate sauce (for dipping)
  • Andouille sausage
  • Jam or other fruit sauce (Café du Monde uses a blueberry sauce)

What’s that? Did you ask about Café du Monde?

Interior of Café du Monde

Interior of Café du Monde

Café du Monde Beignet Recipe

We noshed on beignets at Café du Monde, which has been a world-famous French Quarter landmark since it first opened as a coffee stand during the Civil War. (I like to picture leaders from both sides talking over coffee and beignets.)

According to The Food Channel, Café du Monde’s recipe is very similar to the one above, with only slight differences in the ingredient quantities. The biggest difference is that they fry their beignets in vegetable shortening. Without a doubt, deep-frying makes browner, more delicious beignets. (More on that below.)

They also let their yeast work in warm milk instead of water, and they don’t use buttermilk. Here are their ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm milk (about 105–115°F)
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups (or more) all-purpose flour

Finally, they top the beignets with a blueberry sauce made of puréed blueberries and cane sugar, which is simmered until syrupy.

Or save yourself some trouble and buy Café du Monde’s beignet mix:

Baked vs. Fried: Which Is Better?

Are baked beignets better than fried? It depends on how you measure it. For taste, fried is better. No question. Café du Monde knows this.

For health, baked beignets are better. So my waistline says . . . look, who are we kidding. My waistline lost this battle the first time I tasted real New Orleans fried beignets.

So I’ll continue baking them at home, but with a twist: air frying them.

Air-Fried Beignets

Yes! I’m glad you asked! Remember, the air fryer is really just a big toaster oven. It doesn’t fry anything—it bakes. So whatever you can bake, you can air fry.

I have made this recipe in both an electric oven and an air fryer, making both from the same batch of dough, and I am sold on the air-fryer method. It browns beignets better, giving them a nice slightly crunchy texture on the outside, with fluffy deliciousness inside.

Here's how to bake them in an air fryer:

  1. Set the heat to 400°F. Use the bottom rack. If you need two racks, place one near the bottom and the other no higher than the middle, and alternate them halfway through.
  2. Keep a close watch! Check for doneness at about 8–9 minutes. (The first time I air fried them, I hate to admit, the beignets were burnt. I mean, Cajuns like their catfish blackened, but definitely not their beignets.)

What's the Difference Between a Beignet and a Donut?

You wouldn't be far off the mark to think of beignets as square donuts with powdered sugar. Both beignets and donuts are fried pastries made from sweetened yeast dough.

Naturally, it’s a little more complicated. Donut dough contains more eggs, which make them heavier than light, airy beignets. Donuts are often glazed or cream-filled. Beignet dough is simpler, and beignets are traditionally topped with nothing but powdered sugar, letting the beignet itself be the star of the recipe.

Here's a quick breakdown of all things beignet!

Here's a quick breakdown of all things beignet!

Should You Use Cake Flour or All-Purpose Flour?

Ah, the age-old question: which type of flour to use? Turns out you have your choice. Let's take a look at how each one affects the finished product.

  • Cake flour: Contains less gluten and less protein than all-purpose flour (8–9% protein content). Made from a variety of wheat that has a softer berry. This makes the cake lighter and fluffier—think of angel food cake. I've made my favorite beignets with cake flour.
  • Bread flour: Contains more protein (around 11–14%). The higher protein content makes the bread hold together better. Beignets made with bread flour are still good, but they’ll be heavier. (We still ate all of ours. Isn’t that the ultimate test?)
  • All-purpose flour: This is the Goldilocks of flour. Its protein content is 9–11%, which makes it perfect for most cooking. Cookies, chicken breading, cornbread, pie crust . . . all are perfect with all-purpose flour. As a bonus, you probably have all-purpose flour in your kitchen right now, so there’s no excuse not to make beignets today!

Can Baked Beignets Be Made With Artificial Sweeteners?

My husband has diabetes. I hate that so many store-bought foods are loaded with unnecessary sugar. He feels he has more energy when he doesn’t have sugar or artificial sweeteners.

I use sucralose or stevia when I need sweeteners, but I try to avoid adding any sweeteners—sugar or otherwise. (Yes, you heard me right. In an article about beignets, which are loaded with powdered sugar, I’m talking about no sweeteners. Everyone needs to splurge occasionally!)

But if you use artificial sweeteners, you’ll still need to feed the yeast and pay attention to browning.

Artificial Sweeteners Do Not Activate the Yeast

Neither sucralose (Splenda) nor stevia (Truvia) activate yeasts, so you’ll need at least some sugar. Both Splenda and Truvia make a granulated sugar blend for baking with a mix of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

I have made this recipe both with Truvia and with cane sugar. The cane sugar activated the yeast better—you could see it in the amount of foam—and the resulting beignets were lighter and fluffier. If you replace the sugar with either sucralose or stevia in Step 1 (mixing the yeast with water and sugar), you might consider adding 1½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon baking soda in Step 3.

Beignets Made With Artificial Sweeteners Won’t Brown as Well

The golden brown, slightly crunchy outer coating of a beignet is one of the things that make it heavenly. However, artificial sweeteners don’t make baked goods brown as well. That’s why both Splenda and Truvia make baking blends that include some cane sugar.

If this doesn’t make beignets brown enough for you, brush the beignets with an egg wash before putting them in the oven.

The final step, coating with powdered sugar, can be done with powdered sucralose or stevia.

How to Store Leftover Beignets

Store beignets in an airtight container or a zipper bag. To reheat them, place them on a plate and sprinkle a few drops of water on the plate (not on the beignets). Pop them in the microwave for 10–20 seconds.

If you know you’ll be saving some beignets for later, don’t add powdered sugar until after they’re reheated. But don’t fret if you’ve already dusted them—just eat them and be happy!

How Long Do Fresh Beignets Keep?

They’re best eaten while they’re still hot, but will they keep overnight? Can you eat them the next day? Sure. They’re still good . . . but not as good. In my experience, however, one day is probably the max.

Unfortunately, beignets do not keep well in the refrigerator or freezer.

Just one more reason to bake a fresh batch!

What do you think?

© 2021 Christy Marie Kent

Comments

Liza from USA on March 01, 2021:

I have heard a lot about beignets, and it's all good stuff! Last year, I have found Café du Monde Beignet Mix at World Market. I have yet to try to make them. However, your recipe is good enough to convince me to make them from scratch. Thanks so much for sharing!

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