Beignets are the official state doughnut of Louisiana. How this tasty treat ended up in the Pelican State is a typical American migration story. From Rome and Gaul, to the Great White North and the Big Easy, beignets are an American success.

Europeans have been eating fried dough at least as far back as ancient Rome. Scriblita were a type of Roman pastry made of moist dough dipped into boiling animal fat.

French cooks eventually developed two basic types of pastry: doughs that use yeast as a raising agent, and those that rise with their own steam. Doughs that are moist enough to use steam to fluff up are called choux pastries. Traditional beignets are a choux pastry.

French settlers brought beignets with them as they migrated to the eastern coast of Canada, a region called Acadia, in the 17th century. Thousands of Acadians endured a forced migration as the British took control of the region a hundred years later. Many Acadians settled in Louisiana, where their descendants became known as Cajuns. Acadians brought their cuisine, as well as their language, with them as they migrated south.

Today, beignets are most associated with the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • Unlike most doughnuts, beignets are square, with no hole in the middle.
  • Beignets are usually fried in vegetable oil, such as cottonseed oil or peanut oil. These oils have a high "smoke point," meaning they can reach a high temperature without burning.
  • Beignets are most often served with a thick dusting of powdered sugar, but can also be served with fruit, jam, maple syrup, or even savory items such as meats and cheeses.
  • Beignets are traditionally served on a plate of three.
  • Some food historians trace the choux-based history of the beignet to the influence of Moorish Spain on France during the Middle Ages.
  • Beignets are traditionally enjoyed with hot coffee called cafe au laitFrench for "coffee with milk."
Acadia
Noun

(1604-1713) French colony in northeastern North America.

ancient Rome
Noun

civilization founded on the Mediterranean Sea, lasting from the 8th century BCE to about 476 CE.

beignet
Noun

square doughnut associated with New Orleans, Louisiana.

Big Easy
Noun

nickname of the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

cafe au lait
Noun

style of coffee with milk.

Cajun
Noun

people of French-speaking ancestry native to the Gulf Coast region of the United States, mostly the coast of Louisiana.

choux pastry
Noun

very light, moist pastry dough made without a raising agent such as yeast.

cuisine
Noun

a style of cooking.

descendant
Noun

children, grandchildren, and other offspring.

endure
Verb

to survive.

fat
Noun

material found in organisms that is colorless and odorless and may be solid or liquid at room temperature.

forced migration
Noun

the movement of people away from their homes due to political conflict, natural disaster or environmental hazard.

French Quarter
Noun

oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, Louisiana, and a National Historic Landmark. Also called "the Quarter" or the "Vieux Carre."

Gaul
Noun

Western European civilization that became a major part of ancient Rome.

Great White North
Noun

nickname of the country of Canada.

migrate
Verb

to move from one place or activity to another.

Noun

movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.

Moor
adjective, noun

people and culture native to North Africa, blending Arab and Berber cultures, who established a major civilization on the Iberian Peninsula between 756-1492.

pastry
Noun

food item, such as pie crust or doughnuts, made from dough.

Pelican State
Noun

official nickname of the U.S. state of Louisiana.

raising agent
Noun

substance added to a food that makes it rise or fluff up when cooked. Also called a leavening agent.

Noun

any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

savory
Adjective

salty or spicy, not sweet.

settler
Noun

person who migrates and establishes a residence in a largely unpopulated area.

smoke point
Noun

temperature at which heated fat or oil starts to burn.

steam
Noun

water vapor.

Noun

degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

vegetable oil
Noun

liquid fat extracted from a plant.

yeast
Noun

various types of fungi that cause the fermentation of carbohydrates, producing carbon dioxide and ethanol.