"Pretty please with sugar on top” can only mean one thing in New Orleans: a beignet. Often referred to as a fritter or doughnut, the beignet is actually a close cousin of the two. Square in shape and traditionally covered in powdered sugar, this sweet treat has been a New Orleans staple for over a century and a“must-eat” item on many visitor’s lists.
Originally brought to New Orleans in the 18th century by Acadians of French descent, beignets are now almost exclusively thought of as a New Orleans dish. They became a mainstay of home-style Creole cooking, with some variations offered such as those made with banana or plantain — popular fruits in this port city with strong ties to Central America. Best served hot and fresh out of the fryer, these doughy desserts are most likely to be found covered in powdered sugar and consumed with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or a glass of milk.
The “must-eat” item on many visitor’s lists
There are several places to find beignets in the city, with Café du Monde being the most popular spot serving them. Café du Monde, situated in the French Quarter across from Jackson Square, is an iconic New Orleans food destination specializing in beignets with powdered sugar, coffee with chicory, and café au lait. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Café du Monde churns out thousands of beignets every day. Made with a variety of flours and fried in cottonseed oil, beignets need to be cooked at a high temperature and not over-handled in order for the finished product to come out of the fryer light and fluffy.
In addition to offering its patrons delicious beignets, Café du Monde has ensured that its food is kosher. With the help of Rabbi Uri Topolosky, all six Café du Monde locations now serve beignets in accordance with ancient dietary laws.
Elsewhere, Café Beignet serves many New Orleans dishes, including its namesake. Two locations in the French Quarter serve hot coffee, beignets and live entertainment. Known for picturesque outdoor and indoor seating, Café Beignet serves massive amounts of its signature dish to visitors and residents alike. Traditional beignets covered in powdered sugar, served in groups of three, keep the kitchens busy.
It is possible to get beignets at other establishments outside of the French Quarter, and Morning Call is an excellent option. Morning Call Coffee Stand in Metairie has been serving café au lait and beignets to generations of locals and visitors since 1870. Founded by Joseph Jurisich and operated by succeeding generations, this venerable establishment has been described as “one of the world’s great coffee houses” and recognized nationwide in numerous publications and periodicals.
Visitors to New Orleans City Park can fuel up for a full day of sightseeing by stopping off at this Morning Call location for a round of beignets and coffee. Like others in the French Quarter, Morning Call serves throngs of tourists and locals on a daily basis who heap praises on the establishment for producing so many consistently delicious beignets.
Named one of the “Top 10 Breakfasts in the U.S.” by Travel & Leisure, Brick & Spoon, located Uptown on Magazine Street, has a variety of options for those with a hankering for beignets. From the traditional version covered in powdered sugar, to those with cinnamon sugar, topped with a blueberry compote, or the supreme Bananas Foster topped beignets, Brick & Spoon adds some spice to the ordinary beignet — and diners are thrilled.
“The response has been excellent,” says manager Alex Broussard. The restaurant has been winning accolades from foodies, food writers and locals. A non-traditional take on beignets is part of what makes Brick & Spoon a hit with guests, according to Broussard.
Sunday brunch is an excellent time to indulge in this sweet treat. At Compare Lapin, the newly lauded Caribbean-influenced restaurant in New Orleans’ Warehouse District, chef/co-owner Nina Compton has added a twist to her beignets.
“We make our beignets a little differently than most,” she says. “We make ours with buttermilk and offer the spiced Bolivian chocolate sauce because it adds a kick and a contrast opposed to the traditional beignets. Locals embrace the different presentation.”
Experiencing fresh beignets in the Crescent City is a must, but for those who love beignets and want to eat them at home, purchasing mixes to take or ship home is also an option. Many of the top restaurants serving beignets have mixes available for purchase on their websites. Coffee, coffee mugs and aprons are some of the products available to purchase online along with beignet mix at several restaurants. Though enjoying beignets in the Big Easy is preferred, it is possible to enjoy them anytime, anywhere.