Beignet (pronounced /bɛnˈjeɪ/ in English, /bɛˈɲɛ/ in French; French, literally “bump“ ), synonymous with the English “fritter”, is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux paste. Beignets are commonly known in the U.S. as a dessert served with powdered sugar on top, however, they may be savory dishes as well and may contain meat, vegetables, or fruits. They are traditionally prepared right before consumption to be eaten fresh and hot.
Variations of fried dough can be found across cuisines internationally, however, the origin of the term beignet is specifically French. In the U.S., beignets have been popular within New Orleans Creole cuisine and are customarily served as a dessert or in some sweet variation. They were brought to the Louisiana in the 18th century by French colonists, from “the old mother country”,and became a large part of home-style Creole cooking, variations often including banana or plantain–popular fruits in the port city . Today, Café du Monde is a popular New Orleans food destination specializing in beignets with powdered sugar (served in threes), coffee with chicory, and café au lait. Beignets were declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana in 1986 .
The tradition of deep-frying fruits for a side dish dates to the time of Ancient Rome, while the tradition of beignets in Europe is speculated to have originated with a heavy influence of Islamic culinary tradition. The term beignet can be applied to two varieties, depending on the type of pastry. The French-style beignet in the United States has the specific meaning of deep-fried choux pastry. Beignets can also be made with yeast pastry, which might be called boules de Berlin in French, referring to Berliner doughnuts which have a spherical shape (i.e. they do not have the typical doughnut hole) filled with fruit or jam.