Choux pastry, or pâte à choux (pronounced “pot-ah-shoe”) is a foundational French pastry dough used to make everything from sweet éclairs to savory gougères, and so many treats in between. It’s characterized by a golden crisp exterior contrasted with a soft and airy center. The word literally means “cabbage paste” because of how the final baked goods can crinkle up and resemble little cabbages—but don’t worry, it tastes nothing like the vegetable.
Despite being incredibly light and airy, this dough doesn’t have any traditional leaveners in it, like baking soda, baking powder, or yeast. Instead, it’s leavened using steam and a unique double cooking process.
While it sounds complicated, the basic dough is actually pretty simple to make. Read on to learn everything you need to know to get started making this choux pastry—and all the French baked goods it opens up to you.
What Choux Pastry is Used For
Pâte à choux is the jumping off point for a variety of French desserts, and even a few savory treats, including choux pastry recipes like:
- Chouquettes: Unfilled choux pastry puffs topped with pearl sugar
- Cream puffs: Choux pastry puffs filled with pastry cream
- Profiteroles: Like cream puffs, but filled with ice cream or gelato instead
- Éclairs: Elongated choux pastry filled with pastry cream, whipped cream, or jam, often topped with a ganache
- Gougères: Savory choux pastry puffs filled with cheese
- Beignets: Fried choux pastry
Choux pastry is not the same as puff pastry, which is a layered dough that creates a more flaky pastry.
How to Make Choux Pastry
If you want to learn how to make perfect choux pastry, follow the steps below carefully and you’ll have it down in no time!
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Choux pastry uses basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand: flour, water, whole milk, butter, salt, and eggs. In terms of equipment, you’ll need a pot for your stovetop, a mixing bowl, and a wooden spoon. A countertop or hand mixer will make this process easier, but you can make choux without one. To actually make something with your choux pastry, you’ll want a pastry bag and pastry tips in various sizes to shape the dough into its final shape, parchment paper, and a baking sheet.
If you want to make vegan choux pastry, you’ll need vegan butter or oil, alternative milk, and Just Egg or aquafaba.
Step 2: Heat All Ingredients Except the Eggs
To start making the choux pastry, combine the water, milk, butter, and salt over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides. Continue to cook for about a minute to complete this first stage of the cooking process, which gelatinizes the starch in the flour, providing structure for the pastry when it bakes.
Step 3: Cool, Then Add Eggs
Let the dough cool for about five minutes. Mix the eggs together, then add it to the dough a little bit at a time, mixing until incorporated each time. Every time you add an egg, the dough will separate and look like a curdled mess, but it will then come back together if you keep stirring. This can be done by hand or with a mixer.
Step 4: Check for Doneness
You may not actually need to use all your eggs—how much egg you need can vary based on how much you cooked your dough, the humidity of the room, or how absorbent your flour is. Before you add all of the eggs, check if the dough is done by lifting your spoon, spatula, or paddle out of the dough. If it forms a smooth triangle, it’s ready. If not, add more egg, then check again.
Step 5: Prep for Baking
Once the dough is smooth and elastic, it’s ready to use for choux pastry éclairs, gougères, or any recipe you’d like! Most recipes will require you to pipe the dough into precise shapes using a template, so it’s easiest to put it in a piping bag at this stage. You can find various choux pastry recipes, templates, and more here!
You can make choux pastry the day before and even store it in the fridge for up to two days—just store it in the pastry bag, and pull it out when you’re ready to use (no need to bring it to room temperature).
Make Choux Pastry Step by Step!
All About Choux: Sweet and Savory Puffed Treats, from Eclairs to Gougeres
Choux Pastry Recipe
Recipe adapted from Marie Asselin’s Skillshare class.
Makes about 16 large éclairs or 32 small éclairs
Choux Pastry Ingredients
- 1 cup [250 ml] all-purpose flour
- ½ cup [125 ml] water
- ½ cup [125 ml] whole milk
- 8 tbsp [113 g] unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- ½ tsp [2.5 ml] salt
- 4 large eggs
Choux Pastry Instructions
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C].
- In a large saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When the mixture is boiling, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Continue to cook and stir the mixture for about 1 minute to eliminate excess moisture. Depending on whether you used an aluminum or a nonstick pan, a thin layer of dough may stick to the bottom of the pan, but it’s no worry. Take off the heat. At this point, the dough mostly comes together and rolls away from the sides of the pan when stirred.
- Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow the steam to come out.
- Set the mixer to medium speed, and beat the eggs in one at a time, making sure each egg is well incorporated before adding the next. Also scrape the bowl down between each egg addition. Every time you add an egg, the dough will separate and look like a curdled mess, but it will then come back together in a really sticky, yet somewhat crumbly way. The dough will keep on getting smoother as you add more eggs. The dough is done when it is smooth and elastic, not dry. It will be very thick and sticky.
- The choux paste can then be used to make éclairs, gougères, and more. The choux paste can be made up to a half day in advance, and covered and refrigerated until ready for use. When it is cold, you do not need to bring it back to room temperature before shaping.
Learn More French Baking Techniques!
French Pastry Fundamentals: Souffle, Tarts and Chocolate Mousse Cake