Cajun Cuisine, Creole Comfort Food and Traditional New Orleans Eats

New Orleans is home to some of the most mouth watering and unique cuisines America has to dish out. There are many unique styles of cooking, from Cajun, to Creole, to Bayou-inspired food. While each style has its own distinct flavors and signature dishes, they all share this in common - each uses fresh ingredients indigenous to the Louisiana land and seascapes.

Crawfish Boil 

A crawfish boil, like the one pictured above, is a celebratory event where Cajuns boil crawfish, potatoes, onions and corn in large pots over propane cookers. Lemons and small muslin bags containing a mixture of bay leaves, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper and other spices, commonly known as "crab boil" or "crawfish boil" are added to the water for seasoning. The results are then dumped onto large, newspaper-draped tables and in some areas covered in spice blends, such as REX, Zatarain's, Louisiana Fish Fry or Tony Chachere's. The seafood is then scooped onto large trays or plates and eaten by hand. Yum!

Attendees are encouraged to "suck the head" of a crawfish by separating the abdomen of the crustacean and sucking out the abdominal fat/juices. We admit - this sounds a bit unusual- but we can assure you that the taste is delectable! Crawfish boils are just one of the fun feasts that you can enjoy while at Mardi Gras!

Traditional New Orleans Foods

Article provided by the New Orleans Convention and Visitor Beaureau

If you end up at some boring chain restaurant eating bland hamburgers while you're in New Orleans, we'll simply never forgive you. More importantly, you'll never forgive yourself. Avoid such shame by familiarizing yourself with the dishes below and be well prepared to savor forkfuls of the culture, tradition and recipe perfection that have earned New Orleans its culinary legacy.

Gumbo

A trip to New Orleans is not complete without a steamy helping of gumbo. Treat yourself to a culinary carnival created by a mix of West European, African, Caribbean and native Indian influences. Classic gumbo recipes call for okra simmered for hours in a stock made as rich as possible using a variety of meats, onions, celery and bell peppers. Served over rice, variations include seafood gumbo with shrimp, oysters and crabmeat, or chicken gumbo with andouille sausage.

Jambalaya

A meal in itself, this classic New Orleans dish consists of sausage, vegetables and a variety of meats and/or seafood. The final touch - adding raw long-grain rice to absorb flavors from the stock - is what sets this one-pot wonder apart from similar ethnic dishes. Variations can include chicken, turkey shrimp, alligator meat and more!

Andouille

This spiced, heavily smoked pork sausage is a key flavor in many New Orleans dishes. Originally brought to Louisiana by French colonists, today's Cajun andouille is the best-known variety in the U.S. - and the spiciest. The sausage is seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper and garlic and is smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane for up to eight hours. Andouille can be found in gumbo, jambalaya, on a po boy, and served along side red beans and rice.

Crawfish Étouffée

A local favorite, crawfish étouffée could be called gumbo's spiced-up, savory cousin. Stemming from the French word for "smothered," this thicker Cajun creation employs hot spices, including cayenne pepper, a mélange of onion and green pepper and hints of garlic. With loads of fresh crawfish, this tantalizing Southern treat is typically enjoyed over rice.

Shrimp Creole

As time-honored as shrimping is to Louisiana, this coveted culinary delight offers fresh peeled shrimp, chopped onion, green pepper, green onion and chopped tomato. Satisfy your Southern spice craving while keeping the calorie factor low - this tomato-based favorite is a healthy, light and flavorful Creole dish.

Muffuletta

While filled with classically Italian flavors such as salami, ham, provolone and the piquant olive spread that gives it its distinctive taste, this famous sandwich was born in New Orleans. Restaurants all over the city have their own versions, but for a taste of the original, visit the Central Grocery, which invented the sandwich in 1903.

Po-boy

There are many variations of the classic New Orleans sandwich, as well as a few different stories about its origins. A couple of commonalities across all interpretations: long, submarine-style French bread and an affordable price. Po-boys usually are piled high with meat such as roast beef and topped in debris (a tasty version of gravy), turkey or smoked sausage. They can also be filled with fried seafood such as shrimp, catfish or oysters mixed with a specialty white sauce that is a more flavorful version of tarter sauce.

Red Beans and Rice

This Creole classic is a staple on menus across the city, and many restaurants feature it on Mondays - that's because New Orleanians traditionally made the dish with leftover pork from Sunday dinner and could leave the beans to cook all day while they tended to their washing. Red beans can be served with a side of sausage, pork chops or fried chicken.

Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller can be ordered all over the city, but the New Orleans institution Antoine's holds the title of creator, serving the original dish since 1899. Though the exact recipe remains a secret, chefs describe the dish as oysters on the half shell topped with a combination of capers, parsley and parmesan cheese topped with a rich white sauce of butter, flour and milk, broiled to perfection.

Bread Pudding

What began as a creative way to use out-of-date bread has progressed into a popular closing course and New Orleans menu mainstay. Soaked in milk, eggs and sugar, the bread is baked and topped with a sweet, typically bourbon-based sauce. Local chefs put their own spin on the rich dish, adding white chocolate, candied pecans or chantilly cream with lemon.

Bananas Foster

This distinctive dessert - made with bananas, ice cream, dark rum, sugar and spices - was famously invented at Brennan's Restaurant right here in New Orleans. The flamed treat remains Brennan's most popular item, requiring 35,000 pounds of bananas each year!

Beignets

Sometimes called a "French doughnut," these decadent treats were brought to Louisiana by the Acadians. A beignet is a square piece of dough that, upon being deep fried, forms a slightly doughy yet slightly crispy pillow. Most often, they are covered with powdered sugar, but savory versions, with fillings such as crawfish or shrimp, are also seen on New Orleans menus and are served as appetizers.

Thank you to the New Orleans Convention and Visitor Beaureau, for this most delicious wrap up of traditional New Orleans eats. For more info and fun reads published by the New Orleans Convention and Visitor Beureau, please click here.  

Yum Yum Yum Yum Yum Yum Yum!! 

crawfish boil

crawfish boil

Gumbo

Gumbo

Jambalaya

Jambalaya

Andouille

Andouille

Crawfish Étouffée

Crawfish Étouffée

Crawfish Étouffée

Crawfish Étouffée

Muffuletta

Muffuletta

Po-boy

Po-boy

Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole

Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller

Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Beignets

Beignets