The real difference between donuts and beignets

A tasty little pillow of fried dough dusted with sugar and served with a hot cup of coffee: We're talking about a donut, right? It depends on where you're enjoying this delectable confection. In France and French-influenced locales such as New Orleans, it might be a beignet on your breakfast plate. 

"What we know as a beignet is mostly a square piece of dough, deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar," explained Joanna Cismaru, cookbook author and the "Jo" behind the recipe blog Jo Cooks. "Believe me when I say that you will never look at a store bought donut the same way ever again.These little treats are fluffy and airy, super tender and delicious to the very last bite."

A beignet sure sounds très délicieuxBut aside from the French origin, is there really much difference between this popular Mardis Gras delicacy and Homer Simpson's favorite dessert? 

D'oh! We count three distinct differences. 

Donuts have a different shape, texture, and weight than beignets

The easiest way to tell whether you've been served a beignet or a donut is simply by looking at it. If the fried dough delicacy in your hand is square, you've got a beignet, while we all know donuts for their classic circular shape with a hole in the middle. Beth Dawson refers to beignets as "square holeless French donuts" in her Taste of Home recipe, which calls for the dough to be cut into 2-inch squares before frying.

The ingredients in a beignet are slightly different from those in a traditional donut recipe, and that results in a distinct texture difference. Made with more yeast and fewer eggs than a typical donut recipe, beignets tend to be "a little more puffy with a soft middle," notes Alyssa Rivers in The Recipe Critic

A beignet won't just taste lighter — it actually will weigh less than a donut. That's because the combination of the higher ratio of egg and all of those popular toppings — glazes, sprinkles, even breakfast cereal – gives the donut considerable density. Beignets typically have just a powdered sugar topping — not that this makes them any less decadent than even your most jacked up Krispy Kreme, since Rivers notes that it's common practice to dip beignets in chocolate and caramel sauce and other side delights.

Either way, if your cup of coffee is looking lonely, you can't go wrong with either indulgence. Bon appétit!