In the world of doughnuts, there are many specific kinds, from Polish paczki to Israeli sufganiyot. But today we’re looking at beignets and zeppole, which have a lot in common but are not quite the same.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an experience, but no trip to NOLA can compete with the city’s finest attraction: its beignets. Put the beads away because you have more pressing matters to attend to…like your trip to Café Du Monde.
No matter how many other people are currently doing it, stopping at this French Quarter staple is a must. If you visit New Orleans and don’t visit Café du Monde, does it even count? When you take a bite of those pillowy yet crunchy squares, you’ve officially consumed fried dough goodness from the gods. Sprinkle it with a little powdered sugar, or really a whole lot of powdered sugar, wash it all down with a hot cup of coffee (bonus points for chicory coffee), and you’ve achieved bliss.
Cafe du Monde Beignet Mix and Coffee & Chicory, $16.89 on Amazon
A taste of Café du Monde for when beignet fever strikes but you can't make it to NOLA.
It’s a mighty fine pastry (read: meal), but if you’ve noticed, beignets do bear a striking resemblance to the zeppoles from your neighborhood’s annual carnival or perhaps a recent trip to Little Italy. A plate of either is certainly bound to be a good time, but what exactly is the difference between the two?
Let’s start with the origin: Beignets hail from France whereas zeppoles are the Italian counterpart. Both are fried, but beignets tend to be square in shape; the word originates from “buyne,” meaning bump or lump. Zeppoles, known as “fried soft dough” are circular treats that are a staple on Festa di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day).
Stepping away from Italian holidays, let’s focus on the French, who have codified two significant types of pastry dough: a variety where yeast serves as the dough’s rising agent, and a second variety is rises from its own steam. The correct term for the latter type is “choux pastry,” which includes beignets. Beignets made their way over to the United States thanks to the Acadians. The legends behind zeppoles and their connections to St. Joseph, however, are up for much debate.
Regardless of origin, both delectable pastries are worthy of seconds, so no sweat about trying to differentiate the two. You’ll just have to have both. If you can’t make it to NOLA to enjoy Louisiana’s state doughnut, or if you’re not able to attend the next St. Joseph’s Day party, here are a few recipes to whip up on your own.
This recipe puts a convenient spin on the classic Italian dessert. If you find yourself with extra pizza dough after whipping up a pie for the fam, you can put it right to use after dinner when making these zeppoles. Get our Dough-nut Zeppole recipe.
Related Reading: Sweet Treats to Make with Pizza Dough
This dessert is the perfect comfort food for the colder months. Thanks to the naturally warming flavors of ginger and cinnamon — plus chocolate oozing from each bite — all you need is a warm blanket and fireplace to accompany your dessert. Get the Gingerbread Surprise Beignets recipe.
These zeppole call for a cream filling and a cherry placed atop of the treats — never a bad idea. We hope we get an invite to this San Giuseppe party. Get the Zeppole di San Giuseppe recipe.
Get a fruity twist on your favorite fried dessert, but maybe don’t try to convince yourself that these are somehow good for you. I mean, they’re good for your soul, if that counts. Half tangy and doughy, yet completely delicious, these snacks are a must for any summer soiree. Get the Lemon Beignets with Fresh Berries recipe.
These Chocolate-Filled Beignets with Chocolate Sauce give us a double chocolate whammy that Willy Wonka himself would certainly be proud of, but zeppoles are not to be outdone. Here’s a more subtle, but no less delicious incorporation of chocolate into fried dough, with the added bonus of an air of hazelnut from Nutella. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Nutella + Fried Anything = Delectable. Get the Zeppoles with Hazelnut Chocolate Filling recipe.
Letting the dough rise overnight in the fridge lends more flavor (the fact that these have brown butter in them also helps), and making it ahead also means all you have to do in the morning is get frying. The strawberry powdered sugar is a beautiful pink, and a great tangy-sweet touch, but you can use any freeze-dried fruit you like (try raspberries or blueberries). Get the Overnight Beignets with Strawberry Powdered Sugar recipe.
Yogurt and lemon are just the zesty components needed to give your zeppoles a true acerbic Italian wit. Don’t be surprised if you start hand-gesturing wildly after a plate of these. Get the Yogurt Zeppoles recipe.
This take on the Louisiana fan favorite adds a tangy blast to the dessert care of some raspberry sauce. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the fruit dip makes this an eligible breakfast option, in case you were somehow still on the fence about it. Get the Beignets with Raspberry Sauce recipe.
You’re going to need a dessert to accompany your PSL in the fall, and these Pumpkin Zeppole Fritters are the answer. This treat screams “scary movie fest” and “plaid sweaters,” so obviously it’s a go-to for the season. Get the Pumpkin Ricotta Zeppole recipe.
Love apple pie and ice cream? This is your fried alternative to the beloved dish, which may cause you to start rethinking your Thanksgiving dessert options. Get the Apple Beignets with Vanilla Sauce recipe.
Related Video: 11 Famous Instagram Doughnuts You Can Make at Home
Header image by Chowhound, using photos from Steve Korn / Getty Images and Chris Rochelle