All fair foodies out there know the devastating feeling when you can't find the funnel cake booth at the fair and have to settle for another deep fried dessert. After spending the last 30 minutes lost in the maze of mirrors, all you really want is to sit down with a heap of deep fried dough saturated in powdered sugar. But you stumble across an elephant ear booth, and if you're like me, the first thing to cross your mind is WTF is an elephant ear?

But really, what's the difference between funnel cakes and elephant ears? I've done the research to crack down on what really is the difference of funnel cakes vs elephant ears so you can eat your fried dough in peace.

How Each Is Made

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Jennifer Nigro

While both are made with the same ingredient (dough) and process (frying), the way they are structured is completely different. Funnel cakes are made by pouring the dough into a bottle or funnel (hence the name, funnel cakes) then squeezing it out slowly to create long stringy dough lines. 

Elephant ears on the other hand are made by rolling the dough flat (almost like a pizza) so it is thin. After that, the dough is rolled back up, cut into 2-3 inch slices, or however big you want your elephant ear, then flattened out again. The final product ends up looking like a flat cinnamon roll.  

Structurally, it looks like funnel cakes vs elephant ears are more than slightly different.  

Which Is Healthier?

I'm not even sure there is a black and white answer for this question. No matter how you cook it, and there really is only one way (come on people, it's fried dough), it isn't going to be healthy. You're better off heading to your local farmers market if you're in the search for something healthy, but what's the (unhealthy) fun in that? 

Instead, let's focus on the toppings, because that's what really makes or breaks fair food. Fresh fruit will obviously be a healthier choice than canned fruit and the sugar syrup they sit in.  

A typical funnel cake or elephant ear might contain around 10-16 tablespoons of whipped cream, which comes in at around 25-40 calories. That is just the whipped cream, people. You know there's going to be at least 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar on that funnel cake or elephant ear. So, throw another 124 calories and 32 grams of sugar into the equation. 

Craving some caramel sauce or hot fudge to top it off? Yeah, okay, keep the calories coming. Why stop now? In the end it's all going to come down to how you top off your fried dessert. It isn't fair season year-round, so the extra calories are worth it just this one time. 


It's all about that natural lighting and Instagram aesthetic. If the food isn't good enough to achieve that #foodporn level, is it even worth the calories?  

While funnel cakes might have more of a photogenic look, they are for sure the messier of the two. Elephant ears, on the other hand, can be picked up and eaten almost like a cookie. Their shape gives them an upper edge in terms of food aesthetic photography which every food blogger will appreciate. 

If you're a fan of messy eating and don't care how sticky you might get, then funnel cakes might be calling your name my friend. If you're looking for something to be able to eat on the go, then elephant ears would be your best choice. 

Bianca Hsieh

No matter what you pick, you will essentially be eating the same dessert just prepared in a different style. These iconic fair foods couldn't be more different yet similar at the same time. When it comes time to enjoy your fried fritter, may the funnel cake vs elephant ear fiasco not hold you back.

Happy end-of-fair-season my fair fried food friends (try saying that five times fast)!