Featherlight French Fritters (Bugnes or Merveilles)

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras (literally Fat Tuesday, in English called Shrove Tuesday), the last day of Carnival (or Shrovetide) in the Christian calendar. Shrove Tuesday was the last moment to indulge in rich sweets just before the approaching fasting period (Lent) starting on Ash Wednesday. Since fats were traditionally forbidden during Lent, Carnival sweets were usually deep-fried, thus allowing to use up the forbidden ingredient. Even though now most people do not fast during the Lent, these seasonal sweets are still very popular in many countries.

Bugnes (pronounced “byuñ”), French carnival fritters, are the speciality of the Lyon region. The most popular bugnes version is made of doughnut-like soft leavened dough, but the bugnes I prefer – actually the only ones I like – are crunchy, featherlight strips, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and very similar to Italian chiacchiere (also called cenci, bugie and a dozen of other regional names) and Polish “faworki” (“chrust“). In French-speaking Switzerland and in other parts of France very similar light Carnival fritters are called “merveilles” (miracles).

This recipe comes from “Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition” and just like all the Alain Ducasse’s recipes I have tried (for example Lemon Tart or Crème Brûlée), this one is perfectly explained and leads to amazing results. His bugnes have a very moderate sweetness level, are not fatty at all (one quickly forgets they had any contact with oil) and the grated zest gives them a wonderful flavour. I think these fritters are the lightest thing I have ever obtained with deep-frying method.

TIPS: Bugnes have to be planned ahead (the dough needs to be refrigerated overnight), but they are quite easy to prepare. The only arduous part is the rolling-out process. The dough really needs to be almost paper-thin (about 1 mm), otherwise the air bubbles will not form and the bugnes will not be featherlight.

Special equipment:

a rolling pin

a pizza cutter or pastry cutter (a good sharp knife can also be used, but cutters are more practical)

Preparation: 15 minutes + 1 night in the fridge + 1 hour

Ingredients (yields about forty 4 cm x 12 cm strips):

250 g flour

1 teaspoon salt

15 g sugar

2 eggs

grated zest from one lemon and one orange or from two lemons

75 g softened butter

oil or pork fat for deep-frying

Combine the flour, the eggs, the salt, the sugar and the zest and knead with your hands or in a food processor until the dough is smooth.

Add the butter and knead for a couple of minutes until the dough stops sticking to your hands.

Wrap the dough in plastic film and leave overnight in the fridge.

The following day roll out the dough as thinly as possible (about 1 mm) and cut into strips.

Heat the oil (160°C if you have a possibility to check the temperature, if not make some experiments with small pastry cuts: if the oil starts bubbling around them and they don’t fall to the bottom, it means the oil is hot enough).

Deep-fry the bugnes until golden brown. They are very thin, so it will take only about 10 seconds on each side.

Drain them on paper towels.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve.



49 Replies to “Featherlight French Fritters (Bugnes or Merveilles)”

  1. Ah well, as with all deep frying goodies … I can just ogle and drool. When someone comes up with a baked version, I’ll be the first to pounce. Looks delicious! The locals here have their own version too! I think the asians have deep fried anything 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. I totally agree: the French cuisine has very few deep-fried recipes compared to Asian cuisines.

  2. This does sound like an awesome snack. My grandmother used to make something similar (both sweet and salty version). It didn’t contain eggs. I remember them being very addictive. Its amazing so many countries have variations of this, though I haven’t seen anything similar here (fried onions does not count!)

    1. Thank you so much, Mr. Three-Cookies. Deep-frying sweets seems sometimes easier than baking in the oven, so I’m not surprised at all!

      1. Deep frying is easier and also not everyone has access to an oven. I’ve noticed in many countries that ovens are not common, and if someone has it they probably don’t use it often.

        1. You are right. I have heard for example that in Japan almost no one has a real oven (apart from small grill ovens and microwaves).

  3. Hi Sissi!

    I dont think so I know this little mardi gras treat. we mostly make crepes on that day in the north. WE love deep fried food at home and I realy dont want to make crepes this year neither the complicated austrian doughnuts. I d better get going to make the dough then!

    thx for sharing! =)

    1. Hi, Helene. It’s very interesting! I thought crêpes were eaten everywhere in France traditionally at la Chandeleur (it was 2nd February this year). These bugnes come from Lyon, so I’m not surprised they didn’t go up till North. France has so many different regional specialities!
      I hope you try these light bugnes one day!

  4. Over here we usually have ‘Berliner Ballen’ during the carnival time – it’s a kind of donuts topped with icing sugar and often filled with fruit jam – the only (other) thing I like about carnival – I wrote in my blog that I am not a carnival person ;). Those French fritters look heavenly but I am scared of the calories….(urmmm, what am I talking about..??.I am writing this while munching some choc chip cookies…;)!!!)

    1. Thank you, CG. I only know Polish “paczki”, similar to Berliner Ballen, but I also love them. I am not sure if these fritters are worse than Berliner Ballen 😉 It depends on the Ballen’s oil absorbtion capacity. Here at least the surface is very thin, so not much oil can be absorbed (this is at least my impression; I haven’t measured it).

  5. Hi Sissi! What a delicious treat again! I love this kind of snack… My husband always like salty snack (he toasts squid to eat with drinks) but I’m all about sweet treats like this! I deep fry quite often (often enough compared to others) but I have never deep fried donuts or this kind of sweet treats. I think I’m just scared that I forget about serving to the family and eat it all while I deep fry next batch. I’m serious!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. This is my problem while making tempura: I usually eat so much during the frying process, I am no longer hungry at the table 😉 Here it was easier because the fritters are 1mm thin and fry in ten seconds, so I had no time to snack 😉
      Doughnuts are more difficult to resist especially since I always have to taste the first one to check if the temperature is ok… (if it’s too high the doughnuts are raw inside).

  6. Sissi, this looks like the yummy Chinese dessert I had while growing up at Taiwan, the photo is beautiful and I can imagine how delicious they must taste! We went to our first ever Mardi Gras at Galveston yesterday, it was very family oriented and the parade was for children and pets, lots of fun was had by all. Hope you are enjoying Mardi Gras also before Lent!

    1. Thank you so much, Jeno. It’s so funny something similar exists in Chinese cuisine! I have never been to a carnival parade. There is nothing similar in my city and even in France (apart from the North of France I think).

  7. Is it that time again? I love Mardi Gras and wish I was in New Orleans for the event. Great fritters … if only I didn’t hate deep frying. 🙂

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. I don’t mind it as long as I don’t forget to put the ventilator on 😉 I think I will buy a deep-frier one day because for me the only annoying part of deep-frying is the right temperature.

  8. What a fun Mardi Gras themed treat Sissi and it looks like you got a great result from your deep frying – light and crispy (the touch of confectioner’s sugar and lemon – mmm – sounds lovely too!) – I don’t come across fritters very often in Canada but I do hear the term more when we travel to the US in the summertime… (lots of battered and deep-fried fish, clams – mmm – etc). Ducasse’s cookbook sounds full of wonderful things – I should investigate… thanks Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. In this case deep-fry was really easy and quick. Ducasse’s book is wonderful indeed.

  9. These look so pretty! I think they also serve the same in the North of Italy for carnival (or at least I tried something like this there a few weeks back). Where I come from for Mardi Gras we always serve pancakes, it almost obligatory to eat them that day…

    1. Thank you, Gourmantine. As I have written above, Italians have very similar Carnival sweets, so you confirm it! Thanks.

  10. These look great Sissi, and I can’t believe I’ve never even heard of them before. The idea of deep-fried anything covered in sugar is always gonna get me ooh-ing and aah-ing. They look so crunchy… I think making these must be quite dangerous. They’re probably so light and easy to eat that one can probably eat a whole load of them without even realising! 😀

    Thanks for reminding me about “Pancake day” tomorrow too 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Charles. I am not sure if bugnes are popular in Paris region. They come from Lyon, so they are very popular all around me. You are totally right. They are addictive, but they are very small and there are about 40 of them, so it’s easy to limit oneself to certain amounts.

  11. Oh, how yummy! These sweet treats puffed up beautifully…I’ll trade you some for the bananas foster I made for Mardi Gras 🙂

  12. I love all these new obscure dishes you always bring to attention. I learn so much about french traditional cuisine from your blog! who would have thought the posh french have things liek fritters too, i mean, merveilles 😉

      1. that’s true, i was watching a bcc food show with raymond blanc returning to his hometown i.e. france, and introducing the cuisine of each region and they’re often so simple but look so delicious!

        1. From what I have read the French cuisine has changed especially in the 80s. I have some old French cookery books written by famous chefs in the beginning of the 80s and… the dishes are simply swimming in heavy, creamy sauces, so even the “haute cuisine” was quite heavy at the time.
          Apparently the Asian influences were at the origin of the “nouvelle cuisine” which started to be developped in the 80s and which is now considered very French. I love both.

  13. Oh dear, tomorrow is Wednesday and I won’t have time to make these amazing little fritters before lent! This was an informative and inspiring post Sissi. I’m definitely going to make these. I wonder if beignets are also French carnival fritters? I’ll have to investigate that.

    1. Thank you so much, Barb. “Beignet” is a French word for “doughnut” or in general fritter “calamar fritters” would be “beignets de calamars” etc.). The American or German one (in the form of fried ball) is not a traditional carnival fritter here (at least in the regions I know), but “beignet” and “bugne” have the same origin, so bugnes are sometimes called “beignets”. I hope my explanation is not too “hazy”.

  14. These are so beautiful Sissi. They are like a work of art. And thanks for all the background info to Lent. We’ve always observed Pancake Tuesday but we haven’t done too well with the fasting!

  15. These wonderful little fritters remind me of a similar pastry found in Italian bakeries or, my mother’s Romanian kitchen where they are called “minciunele” or “little lies” … maybe because you tell yourself little lies about how many (or rather how FEW) you’re going to eat. 🙂


    My mother’s were only about half as long before she made the slit, turned them inside out, fried and sugared them.

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. Yes, the minciunele look very similar. In France some people also “tie” the strips in this way (I’m too lazy to do that!). The Romanian word is really cute 🙂 and so true! They are so light and small, we think they don’t have any calories…
      Many countries have very similar light fritters.

      1. My mom also used a scalloped roller to cut out the strips but I couldn’t find any pictures of the kind she made before I went to work this afternoon. 🙂 You’re right, it is a small world with many countries having similar fritters.

    1. Thank you so much, Zsuzsa. I was wondering if there was anything similar in the Hungarian cuisine… I think my Hungarian friend told me about similar light fritters.

      1. Csöröge. I have it under Crispy Crullers. Every country has something like that because these fried wonders are so good. But your recipe intrigued me, these billowy pillows look amazing

          1. Sissi, the easiest way to navigate my older recipes [I have 487 so far] is by clicking on the cookbook link on the top. There the recipes are organized into chapters and each chapter has live links to the recipes. Its all arranged in alphabetical order. Look for Crispy Crulles in the Pastry chapter or in the Hungarian chapter. I have listed it in both places.

  16. They look a little like the Italian crostoliand Polish Faworki, which are also served during Carvival. To stop them from soaking up too much oil and browning too quickly we also add a little rum or spirits to the dough.

    1. This is what I have written 😉 (Although Italian fritters have at least 20 different regional names…). I add rum or vodka to Polish fritters, but somehow not here.

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