Ricotta Beignets

I love yeast-risen doughnuts, but I adore this beignet recipe, which takes you from zero to doughnuts in 45 minutes or less. This batter is simple to whip up and it cooks fast. When I make these for a houseful of guests, the aroma is enough to wake everyone up. The beignets disappear just as quickly as they appeared, accompanied by sighs of satisfaction.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 45 min
  • Active: 45 min
  • Yield: About 55 beignets
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Ingredients

489 grams (2 cups) ricotta cheese (whole-milk is best), at room temperature

170 grams (3 large) eggs, at room temperature 

27 grams (1 large) egg yolk, at room temperature

66 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar 

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise 

6 grams (1 tablespoon) finely grated orange zest 

210 grams (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour 

12 grams (1 tablespoon) baking powder 

1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) fine sea salt 

About 967 grams (4 cups) vegetable oil for deep-frying 

Powdered sugar, for finishing 

Directions

  1. Cover a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta to loosen it slightly. Add the eggs and egg yolk and whisk to combine. Add the granulated sugar and orange zest and whisk to combine. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the seeds to the bowl (use the pod for vanilla sugar; see Chef's Notes) and whisk to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk just to combine--do not overmix. The batter can be used immediately or refrigerated overnight (see Chef's Notes). 
  3. In a medium pot, heat about 4 inches of oil over medium heat. You can either attach a deep-fry or candy thermometer to the pot and heat until it reads around 325 degrees F (162 degrees C) or just use a little bit of batter to test the oil temperature: If the batter immediately sizzles and rises to the surface, the oil is ready; if the batter begins to brown immediately, the oil is too hot--remove it from the heat and let it cool somewhat, then try the test again. 
  4. Working in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot, drop tablespoons of dough (I use a No. 60 or 1-tablespoon scoop, but you can just wing it) into the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until the beignets are golden brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or a spider to lift the beignets out of the oil and set them on the paper towels to drain. 
  5. Transfer the warm beignets to a serving platter. Sift powdered sugar generously over them and serve immediately. 

Cook’s Note

Make Ahead and Storage: The beignet batter can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The beignets are best served hot, or at least within a few hours of being made. Why It Works: While the flour provides structure and the eggs keep things bound together, the ricotta is the true base of this batter, giving it a slightly tangy flavor and a tender texture. The right fry temp is key: You want the beignets to brown slowly enough that they cook all the way through--if the oil is too hot, they'll look golden but be uncooked in the middle. Pro Tip: If you make the batter ahead and refrigerate it, it's best to bring it to room temperature before frying (adding cold batter to the oil will cause the frying temperature to fluctuate drastically). But if you are pressed for time, just let the batter sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, which is about how long it will take to heat the oil. Vanilla Sugar: To make vanilla sugar, dump 2 pounds (907 grams or 4 2/3 cups) granulated sugar into an airtight container. Add up to 5 leftover vanilla pods, mixing them into the sugar. As you use the sugar, replace it with an equal amount of uninfused granulated sugar.

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