There’s nowhere in the world like New Orleans. From the thriving jazz music scene — the city is largely credited as the genre’s birthplace — to the unique fusion cuisine, New Orleans is a one-of-a-kind city with a fascinating history.
Visitors to the Big Easy have so much to do, but there’s one must-have snack that has to be on your list when you visit: A plate of beignets. It’s been New Orleans’ favorite dessert for hundreds of years.
But with so many restaurants and cafes offering “traditional” beignets, you may be wondering where to look for the most authentic. Well, you’re in luck. We’ve done the rounds in New Orleans to see where you can find the best beignets.
You probably are going to want to grab a napkin now because this post is drool-worthy.
Let’s start with the basics for the uninitiated. Beignets are fried pieces of pastry dough that have the same texture as a donut. They’re fried just enough to keep the pastry together, creating a deliciously crispy outside and a delightfully soft and doughy middle. They’re generally sprinkled with powdered sugar and best served fresh out of the oven.
Beignets have a long history in New Orleans. They likely arrived in the area alongside a migration of French settlers forced out of Canada in the 18th century. By then, the French had perfected a type of pastry dough that used steam to fluff up rather than yeast. The result was a fluffy, delicious treat that came to define Cajun-style desserts.
Today, beignets are the official state doughnut of Louisiana, and one of the tastiest draws to New Orleans. They’re also the star of one of our NOLA-local t-shirts. Made with a soft, vintage feel, our shirts feature an original illustration of those sugary, pillowy pastries we can’t get enough of.
Now that you’re sufficiently hungry, let's talk about the best spots to get a beignet. Everyone does them a little differently, and diehard fans tend to have fierce opinions about the correct recipe. If you ask us, the best beignet is the one in front of you, but make sure you eat them hot and fresh no matter which cafe you choose. There’s just nothing better than a beignet straight from the oven.
That said, let’s take a tour of NOLA.
It would be ethically wrong (and maybe illegal in the state of Louisiana) to name any other establishment before Cafe du Monde. Its flagship location in the French Quarter is open all day and all night, and it attracts tourists and locals alike for a good reason. Since 1862 the cafe has been serving up coffee and beignets, closing only on Christmas Day and when a hurricane passes through.
The cafe has exploded in popularity in recent years, with 15 locations popping up around Louisiana and an online shop where you can purchase their legendary beignet mix. Pro tip? Homemade beignets are good, but nothing beats the in-person experience of Cafe du Monde. Sit, enjoy the French bistro setting, and bury your face into a plate of powdered sugar perfection.
Remember when we said everyone has opinions on how beignets should be made? We meant it. Some purists in NOLA will scoff at the inclusion of Cafe Beignet on this list, but don’t let them stop you from swinging by. Cafe Beignet is known to fry their pastries a little longer than usual, resulting in a crunchier exterior that is extremely satisfying to bite into. A few beignets from Cafe Beignet, and you’ll be scorning tradition too.
Stop by one of their three locations in The French District and enjoy a chicory coffee as well as live jazz music in the afternoon. They also have a wider menu that includes other New Orleans delicacies, like po'boys, jambalaya, and gumbo, so in between your sugary courses you can get a taste of what else the city has to offer.
Morning Call has a long history in New Orleans, opening its first shop over 150 years ago. Since then, it’s moved around a bunch, even closing in January of 2019 after a battle over real estate with Cafe du Monde. Yes, the beignet wars were heated, and yes, the entire city of New Orleans was watching closely with popcorn.
Luckily, Morning Call is back open at Canal Boulevard and City Park Avenue, with a new storefront that embraces its roots with a nostalgic flair. Open for 24 hours a day, the cafe feels like an old-school soda shop with its classic neon sign and arched interiors. It also sports massive outdoor seating, so you can get a nice breeze while you enjoy your beignets.
The classics are beloved for a reason, but you have to appreciate restaurants that take risks. La Petite Grocery does just that. Behind the kitchen doors, James Beard winner Chef Justin Devillie has mastered blue crab beignets and delicious doughy pastries stuffed with fresh crab behind the kitchen doors.
Served with a malt vinegar aioli, it’s the best combination of New Orleans cuisine that we could ask for. Sometimes it can be tough to get a table there, but lunch usually has more open tables. Check it out to see how the city has iterated on its classic dessert offering.
Loretta S. Harrison represents so much of what makes this city special. The first African American woman to own and operate her own praline company in New Orleans, Harrison has served her pastries for more than 35 years.
Loretta’s beignets are a little different from other beignets on this list. Loretta’s beignets are filled and covered in delicious praline candy, her specialty. Loretta’s also has crab beignets, in case you’re looking for something savory.
Loretta also sells an incredible King’s Cake, another New Orleans delicacy. It’s a cream cheese-filled pastry, drizzled in her signature praline and covered in Mardi Gras colored sprinkles. As is tradition, whoever gets the slice of the cake with the small baby toy inside, is considered the King and must provide the King’s Cake for the next gathering.
You can see an illustrated version of this classic New Orleans dessert on our NOLA King’s Cake t-shirt.
Food is an incredibly influential part of the culture in New Orleans, and Loretta’s is a perfect example of that. Stop by their place in Marigny for a once-in-a-lifetime breakfast or lunch experience from a true New Orleans legend.
New Orleans has so much to offer, and the beignets are just the icing (or should we say the powdered sugar?) on top. A trip to any of the above restaurants and cafes is sure to sweeten your trip to the Big Easy. Stop by before seeing a Saints, Pelicans, or Jesters game.
Want to rep your love for New Orleans? Shop our entire city collection filled with t-shirts, maps, and tanks all about this historic and delicious place.