On my first visit to New Orleans, I popped over to the historic Cafe du Monde to grab a paper bag of beignets and a takeaway cup of coffee. I walked to the water’s edge to watch the sky at dusk over the Mississippi River, a couple buskers singing a few yards away. Like any first-timer, I made the mistake of inhaling as I bit into the beignet, coughing powdered sugar all over myself. But it was worth it. The warm yeasted dough must’ve been fried minutes beforehand, and the sweet crispy outside gave way to an airy interior that smelled and tasted like heaven. Beignets are cut into squares, which means the corners become slightly crispier than the rest of the pastry—those fried corners alone make beignets a legitimate rival to any circular doughnut.

Years later, I tried this easy beignets recipe and was transported back to that May evening on the Mississippi. Made from a simple yeast mixture, evaporated milk, shortening, eggs, and flour, the dough only takes a few minutes to throw together, but the secret is letting the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight. This time in the fridge allows the yeast to develop slowly, making a particularly fluffy and flavorful beignet.

How to Make It

Step 1

Make the Yeast Mixture: Combine 1 (1/4-oz.) packet of yeast with 1/2 cup warm water (105°F-115°F) in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 1 tsp. granulated sugar, stir, and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Add 1 cup evaporated milk; 2 large eggs, lightly beaten; 1 tsp. salt; and 1/2 cup sugar.

Step 2

Form the Dough: In a separate bowl, stir together hot water (about 115°F) with 1/4 cup vegetable shortening; mix until shortening is melted. Add to yeast mixture along with 4 cups bread flour. Using hook attachment, mix until smooth. Gradually add another 2 1/2 cups bread flour, and beat until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, turning dough to grease entire surface; cover and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours.

Step 3

Roll, Cut, and Fry: Prepare Dutch oven by filling with 2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil and heating to 350°F to 360°F. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness, cut into 2 1/2-inch squares, and deep fry in prepared oil until puffy and browned, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and dust immediately with powdered sugar.