Mardi Gras (February 21, 2023) is the last day of Carnival season just before Lent, the 40-day period during which many people spend in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Naturally, it’s a time of great excess (gotta indulge before giving it up!). In New Orleans, it’s celebrated with parades, elaborate costumes, and tons and tons of delicious food. We’ve rounded up this list of 40 of our favorites here, everything from Southern-inspired sides and desserts to Creole-influenced apps and mains. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
One of the most amazing things about traditional New Orleans food is how it has been influenced by cuisines around the world, like French, Caribbean, Italian, and West African, to name a few. Many of these influences are found in modern Cajun and Creole cuisine, which is a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar. Gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp creole, red beans & rice, and shrimp étouffée are all incredible dishes that’ll make you feel like you’re in the Louisiana bayou.
If attempting full-on traditional recipes like these sounds intimidating, we’ve also got a number of recipes only inspired by Cajun and Creole flavors. Adding seasonings and ingredients to recipes you already know and love is a great way to dip your toes in to food you’re unfamiliar with. Give our slow-cooker Cajun Alfredo, our grilled chicken Cajun pasta salad, our jambalaya pasta, or our Cajun mac & cheese a try to see what we mean.
And don't forget about some of New Orleans' most infamous sandwiches—the muffuletta and the po' boy. They were both created out of necessity during important times in history—the "poor boy" during the streetcar worker strike of 1929 and the muffuletta by a Sicilian immigrant in 1906—and now can be found all throughout the city. Every iteration has something a little different or special, so try adding your own little spin when making them at home too.
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
Not to be mistaken for jambalaya or shrimp étouffée, gumbo comes in many forms, but it always absolutely must: 1) thickened by a dark brown roux, 2) be served over rice (or with potato salad if you’re extra Southern), and 3) feature the holy trinity of Southern cooking: onion, celery, and green bell pepper.
Get the Chicken & Sausage Gumbo recipe.
Dirty rice (or rice dressing as it’s referred to in the bayou) is a delicious Louisiana staple made mainly of rice, ground pork sausage, ground beef, and the holy trinity of vegetables (onion, bell pepper, and celery). It's the perfect use for old rice, so feel free to use that box of takeout rice here!
Get the Dirty Rice recipe.
Mardi Gras King Cake
King cakes are one of the best parts of Carnival season. They’re traditionally sweet pastry shaped into a ring (like a crown) and covered with icing and colored sprinkles (gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice). Whoever finds the toy baby inside their slice is king for the year (and has to bring the cake next Mardi Gras!).
Get the Mardi Gras King Cake recipe.
The muffuletta was first served at Central Grocery, an Italian deli in Louisiana founded by Sicilian immigrant Salvatore Lupo in 1906. Sicilian farmers would stop by Lupo’s deli in between shifts at the French Market and juggle plates of olives, salumi, and cheese for lunch. To make it easier to eat, Lupo decided to slap all the ingredients between two pieces of bread, and the muffuletta was born. The more you know!
Get the Muffuletta recipe.
Traditionally, rum is the liquor of choice to flambé bananas Foster, but no one’s stopping you from experimenting with bourbon or anything over 80-proof that has great flavor. As the sauce ignites, the flames will die out as the alcohol is cooked off, leaving you with the flavor of whatever you choose.
Get the Bananas Foster recipe.
Instant Pot Jambalaya
The Instant Pot is a great way to make jambalaya, a Cajun classic, in just an hour. On top of being super-quick dinner to cook, you won’t need pre-cooked rice or meats. All the rice, veggies, broth, and chicken go in the Instant Pot together and get cooked under high pressure for the perfect, fluffy jambalaya.
Get the Instant Pot Jambalaya recipe.
Between the fun of Mardi Gras in February and tunes of Jazz Fest in May, crawfish is the common thread through it all. This boil recipe is pared down for a stovetop rather than the large outdoor gas burners intended for group boils, meaning you can enjoy it even if you can't make it down South this spring.
Get the Crawfish Boil recipe.
Now synonymous with Cajun and Creole food, remoulade is a cold sauce with French origins that can be used to add flavor to anything from fried foods to your favorite sandwich. Always creamy, tangy, and spicy with a hint of sweetness, this sauce is guaranteed to become a fast favorite.
Get the Remoulade Sauce recipe.
Traditional New Orleans beignets are a fried pastry made from French pâte à choux, an eggy yeasted dough used for things like profiteroles and eclairs. To make things simpler, we made a unyeasted dough that comes together and fries up in minutes. Let the good times roll!
Get the Easy Beignets recipe.
Jambalaya is a wildly popular dish that originated in New Orleans and was inspired by flavors from around the world—Spanish, West African, and French to name a few. It's spicy, hearty, and incredibly flavorful. And as with most things, the better ingredients, the better the end result will taste.
Get the Cajun Jambalaya recipe.
Red Beans & Rice
Red beans & rice is a traditional Creole dish made with red beans, veggies, and, often, leftover pork bones. It's traditionally made with soaked dried beans and simmered for hours, but this recipe uses some shortcuts (canned beans, sausage instead of ham hock...) so you can have it on the table in under an hour.
Get the Red Beans & Rice recipe.
Grilled Chicken Cajun Pasta Salad
Camille Lowder is the digital food producer at Delish, otherwise known as our resident queen of recipe galleries. Previously, she attended the Natural Gourmet Institute for culinary school and worked at/managed a number of New York restaurants. She loves anything vegan, foods masquerading as other foods (hello, cauliflower), and a well-used Oxford comma.
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