A Taste of a Louisiana Favorite: Beignets
We all say YAY for beignets!!
The word beignet (pronounced ben-YAY) comes from the early Celtic word bigne meaning “to raise.” It is also French for “fritter.” The typical well-known beignets are fried, fluffy pieces of dough, served hot and doused with powdered sugar. However, beignets can be either sweet or savory. Sometimes stuffed with chocolate or fruit jam and served with sweet dipping sauces. Other times stuffed with savory ingredients, such as Cajun spices and fresh Louisiana seafood, like these blue crab beignets.
It is believed that the French colonists brought the recipe and custom of making beignets to Louisiana. In the 17th century, French settlers brought beignets with them as they migrated to the eastern coast of Canada, a region called Acadia. Later, the British took control and forced thousands of Acadians to migrate elsewhere - bringing their culture, cuisine and language with them as they migrated south. Many found their homes in Louisiana, where their descendants became known as Cajuns.
Beignets became popular at the New Orleans French Market in the 1920s, where they were initially called doughnuts. They were, and still are, most often enjoyed with café au lait – a strong dark roast coffee and chicory with equal part hot milk. In 1958, the French Market doughnuts were rebranded as beignets, and later in 1986, beignets became the official Louisiana State Doughnut.
While you can find some variation of beignets in most every city and town in Louisiana these days, the following are arguably the most popular spots:
Café du Monde
When thinking of beignets, Café du Monde is most likely the first thing that comes to mind. The iconic green and white striped awning and the smell of the fried dough and coffee is unforgettable for anyone who has made their way to the stand for the popular pastry. The original Café du Monde coffee stand was established in the New Orleans French Market in 1862 and still operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While the original cafe is a New Orleans landmark, it has expanded to multiple locations around the New Orleans area and the Louisiana Northshore.
Over in the Capital City, some argue the best beignets live at Coffee Call – giving the original New Orleans spots a run for their money. Founded in 1976, Coffee Call has made a name for itself as a contender for best beignets in the state, with students at the nearby Louisiana State University often finding it the perfect place to study while sipping on a hot coffee and grabbing an order of beignets for a late-night snack.
If you’re in North Louisiana, this is the place for you. Marilynn’s is rated as the #1 place to get beignets in Shreveport on both Yelp and TripAdvisor. Head over to this casual Cajun and Creole restaurant, where beignets and coffee are served all day.