Every cuisine in the world has its favourite interpretation of fried dough. Such a variety means it can be difficult to distinguish or identify one sweet dough treat from the next. But that doesn’t mean that all fried dough is the same. How similar are zeppole and beignet?
The most significant difference between zeppole and beignet is how the dough is shaped. At least, that is the case for traditional beignets. New Orleans beignets are made using a yeasted dough whole zeppole uses a choux pastry.
What are Zeppole?
Zeppole are an Italian take on a typical doughnut. Though they more resemble leftover doughnut bites than regular doughnuts.
The fried sweet treat is associated with St Joseph’s Day, celebrated as Father’s Day in Italy.
However, zeppole can also be served at various carnivals and events, similar to how mini-doughnuts are sold in the UK, completed with a paper bag and a heavy sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Traditional zeppole is made into bite-sized, round balls and does not require any kind of yeast. Instead, choux pastry dough is puffed up when fried in oil to make perfectly fluffy, slightly sweet zeppole.
A deep fat fryer or a large pot of boiling oil is the best way to ensure a crunchy outer but fluffy centre for your zeppoles. They take a lot of oil to make, though, which is why most people enjoy them as a special treat.
What are Beignets?
What many people may not know about beignet is that the sweet treat actually originated in France though invented in ancient Rome. However, a more popular New Orleans interpretation of the beignet is what most Westerners are familiar with.
The original French beignet is made from choux pastry shaped into rectangles or squares and enjoyed all year round.
France has at least 20 different types of beignets. Each with its variation of flavour, shape and even filling. But traditional beignet is made using regular wheat flour made into a choux pastry and is left unfilled.
The New Orleans interpretation of French beignet uses a yeasted dough instead of choux dough. This gives the fried treats a slightly different, fluffier texture.
Differences Between Zeppole and Beignet
If you have never tried either zeppole or beignet before, the above descriptions may sound very similar. However, there are some noticeable differences between the two treats that can help you to tell them apart:
- Place Of Origin – Almost every country has their take on fried sweet dough. It just so happens that zeppole is one of Italy’s most popular interpretations and beignet is France’s, having been thought up by the Ancient Romans. Though beignets are more well known for their New Orleans style.
- Shape – It is easy to tell zeppole and beignet apart by their shape alone. Beignets are usually presented as a square or, more commonly, a rectangle. Zeppole dough is shaped and fried as a ball.
- Where They Are Served – The appropriate place to serve zeppole tends to be more at a carnival or festival, treated very much like street food. Beignets, at least in France, are commonplace in pastry restaurants and cafes. They may also be served as street food but are easier to find in cafes.
- Variations – Zeppole has remained an Italian holiday staple since the 16th century. Its original recipe has hardly varied, only been modernised. Beignets, on the other hand, have a few interpretations. The traditional French recipes use choux pastry, while others rely on a yeasted dough.
Similarities Between Zeppole and Beignet
At the end of the day, zeppole and beignet come from the same basic dessert origin, so the two fried treats share plenty of similarities. Such as:
- Type Of Dough – There are more variations of the standard beignet recipe than zeppole. However, traditional zeppole and beignet are both shaped choux pastries, meaning that they rely on steam alone to make the dough rise into a fluffy treat.
- The Toppings – Unlike other types of fried dough treats, beignets do not need excess toppings to be enjoyed. A simple dusting of powdered sugar is enough to compliment the dough without giving you a cavity. Or, if you do want a little something extra, zeppole and beignets will work well when paired with fresh fruit.
- Snack Size – Despite different shapes, zeppole and beignet are both intended to be bite-sized snacks. They are small enough to enjoy a couple at a time without getting overly sick. Though beignets look more prominent as they are a flatter shape.
Zeppole vs Beignet: Which Wins?
You’ve got to decide… You can only have one of these fried doughs for the rest of your life, so which are you going to pick? It’s zeppole vs beignet:
Do You Prefer Zeppole or Beignets?
Zeppole and Beignet FAQs
Still got questions about zeppole, beignets and what they share? Then check these FAQs out:
Some zeppole are filled in the same way that some doughnuts can be found filled. Standard zeppole are just fried dough balls. But some zeppole, such as zeppole di San Giuseppe are filled.
Like doughnuts, you can find beignets with a jam filling but, traditionally, they are kept plain and simply dusted with icing sugar.
Acacia may be a freelance writer by day, but they are a food fanatic by night. They are always trying out new recipes or finding different ways to elevate classical dishes. But their biggest culinary aim is to educate others on the basics of the kitchen so that they too can enjoy delicious food.