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What are Fry Jacks?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Fry jacks are a staple in Belizean cuisine: delicious golden and crumbly fried dough. They are very similar to the New Orleans beignet, fried bread, and to Latin American sopapillas (alternately spelled sopaipilla), which are made with flour tortillas, and often topped with cinnamon, honey and whipped cream. Sometimes the fry jack is called the beignet without the powdered sugar, since they are typically topped with either honey or jam, or served as a breakfast food with savory accompaniments like beans, bacon and eggs.

Basic fry jacks are made from simple recipes that combine shortening, flour, water, salt and baking powder. The dough is then quickly fried in hot oil, which causes the dough to rise slightly, and produces a crunchy, crispy, golden brown rectangle or triangle. When sopapillas are made, tortillas may be sliced, or they may be fried whole, with the tortilla becoming puffy and crispy as it cooks in the hot oil.

Though fry jacks are often compared to beignets, they may differ in ingredients. In New Orleans, two types of beignets are popular. Some use choux pastry, which may contain egg, and others use a yeast-raised dough, which creates a much higher rise. However, the amount of difference between fry jacks and beignets is pretty slight, and many people would gladly have either since both foods are highly praised by lovers of fried foods.

Another distinction between fry jacks and beignets is toppings. Beignets are almost always served with powdered sugar, but fry jacks are usually split into two categories: those topped with jam or honey, and those topped with refried beans. In this way, the fry jack is much more alike the sopapilla, which may also not be served a dessert, but as part of an entrée. Of course many people don’t eat fry jacks or beignets as a dessert, but as breakfast or part of a midmorning snack.

For people in the know about this delicious fried bread from Belize, there are a number of variants that get rave reviews. Plantain and mango types are mentioned with reverence. Another Belizean breakfast favorite is Johnny cakes, very similar to fry jacks in ingredients, but baked instead of fried. Both breads may contain lard, though trends today have more cooks replacing the lard with vegetable shortening or vegetable oil.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By OceanSwimmer — On Sep 02, 2010

@calabama71: I have made sopapillas both ways. The dough recipe just calls for 4 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 4 Tbsp. shortening, 1 ½ cups warm water, and oil for frying.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and shortening in a large bowl. Stir in the water and mix until the dough is smooth. Cover for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough until it is about 1/8” thick. Cut into squares Fry until brown on both sides.

I usually just do the tortilla shells, as well.

By calabama71 — On Sep 02, 2010

@anon105416: I somewhat disagree with your post. I make sopapillas all the time at home. I was given the recipe from a friend that works at our local Mexican restaurant. All they do is deep fry tortilla shells for a few seconds and then add butter, honey and sometimes chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

I'm sure there is a recipe made from a dough but many of the Mexican restaurants just use tortilla shells.

By anon105416 — On Aug 20, 2010

You have some inaccurate information here. Sopapillas are not made from tortillas, but from a dough.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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