The Difference Between Zeppole And Beignets

When you think of beignets, there's a rather good chance that you automatically picture Café du Monde among other beignet joints in the French quarter of New Orleans. While the doughnut-like confections covered in powdered sugar are undoubtedly delectable, they have a sister pastry that you might confuse them with: zeppole. Apart from the names, you might have wondered what differences there actually are between the two kinds of bite-sized fried doughnuts that are almost too easy to eat. 

The first, and perhaps most obvious, difference is the birthplace of each kind of sweet treat. Beignets originally come from France and are usually shaped into squares or rectangles (via ChowHound). Zeppole, on the other hand, are circular Italian pastries. The biggest difference of all comes down to the ingredients and types of dough that are mixed up to create beignets or zeppole. While the two desserts are similar in that they are small doughnut-like indulgences, they come from two very different pastry doughs.

There's a complex difference in the pastry dough

The difference in the pastry doughs comes down to the way in which they rise. One form of the pastry dough is choux pastry which uses steam to help the dough rise. The other includes yeast in the dough to help it rise, per ChowHound. But which dough is used for beignets or zeppole is not as clear. 

According to Kitchn, yeasted dough is used to make New Orleans-style beignets, like the ones you'd find at Café du Monde. However, French beignets are made with a choux pastry like Italian zeppole are often made, too. According to Giada de Laurtentiis for the Food Network, true Italian zeppole are made with choux pastry. However, Food Republic skips the choux and mixes many of the same ingredients with ricotta cheese before piping the dough into hot oil to fry.

Ultimately, the difference between the two is yeast dough versus cooked choux pastry dough, if you are comparing New Orleans beignets to zeppole. Another subtle difference is that there are more eggs in zeppole choux dough rather than the yeasted dough, per Kitchn. Otherwise, French beignets only differ from zeppole in shape.