Are you planning a trip to Louisiana? You know you’ve got to be ready to eat some of the best food in the U.S.A. Cajun and Creole foods are spicy and delicious. You’re going to love our Louisiana list of foods to try.
We just recently came back from an epic trip to Louisiana. Yes, it’s a very unique place. Yes, there’s lots to do. And, yes, the people are fantastic. But you know the thing that sticks out the most in my mind from this trip? You guessed it. The food.
I don’t know what the secret ingredient is in Cajun and Creole cooking, but it’s something that goes beyond the actual food itself. Maybe love. Maybe tradition. I don’t know, but it’s absolutely delicious.
We are always looking for the best local foods wherever we go, and when we find them, we share them. Here are some of the great foods we tried while we were there. I hope you get a chance to go to Lafayette and New Orleans, especially in the famous French Quarter, and give them a try, too!
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In this article:
- Difference between Cajun and Creole Cuisines
- Ingredients found in these dishes
- Cajun and Creole Dishes You Should Try
What is the difference between Cajun and Creole Cuisines?
Cajun food is a style of cuisine dating back to the late 1800s when the Acadians were deported from Canada and came to settle in Louisiana. We learned all about this at the Acadian Cultural Center.
Creole cuisine is an amalgamation of all the cultures that settled in Louisiana. It’s a mix of French, German, Spanish, African, Caribbean, and American Southern cooking, true fusion in every sense.
You will find that the terms have become almost interchangeable at this point, even though true foodies can discern the difference. It’s basically all called Louisiana Cajun, and has definitely become one of the tastiest and most sought-after food in the US. Cajun restaurants can be found all over.
What Types of Ingredients are in Cajun and Creole Cooking?
Technically, there is little difference between a cajun dish versus a creole dish when it comes to ingredients. Cajun makes more use of pepper (black, white, and cayenne) while Creole is more herbal with aromatics like thyme, basil, oregano, and bay leaf and it also seems to use a lot more tomatoes.
If you ask someone from Lafayette whether or not their gumbo should have tomatoes they will emphatically insist that it does not and will give you a death stare for even suggesting such a thing.
There is also a difference in the roux. A roux, originating in France, is traditionally made from butter and flour, and that is what the cajun style still is today. Creole style roux, on the other hand, is derived from people that couldn’t always afford butter, so they used lard in their roux.
However, novices to Louisiana cuisine will tell you that both taste amazing.
Other ingredients you will find in Cajun and Creole food include:
- fresh seafood, especially shrimp
- crawfish or crawdads
- andouille sausage
- Holy Trinity – bell peppers, onions, and celery
Cajun and Creole Dishes You Should Try
There are so many delicious cajun and creole dishes to try on your trip, so plan your food carefully. It would be a shame to miss any. We tried our hardest, but it’s so difficult not to go back to some of your favorites, you know?
Here is a smattering of what we ate on our last trip to Louisiana:
- gumbo – the Louisiana state food
- red beans and rice
- boudin or andouille sausage
- crawfish or shrimp étouffée
- bread pudding
- corn maque choux
Gumbo, the signature dish of the entire state of Louisiana, is a delectable mix of deep savory broth that highlights the shrimp and sausage, as well as whatever vegetables you want to throw in there. Most people use okra, as is traditional, since that’s what the name translates to from its African roots.
Gumbo starts out with a slow-cooked and thoroughly stirred roux (which I learned how to make at Spuddy’s) or a gumbo filé (dried sassafras), it takes hours for the gumbo to really infuse its flavor.
You can find gumbo in just about every restaurant in the state, but some of the places we’ve tried it and loved it are:
- New Orleans Creole Cookery
- Houmas House, or really any of the plantation house restaurants
- 1886 on Avery Island at the Tabasco factory
Jambalaya is another very popular dish, containing any kind of meat you want to put in it, but usually containing andouille sausage as one of the ingredients. Locals will put whatever meat they have on hand, today they use mainly chicken and pork, but in the past, it would have included the game they’d hunted that day as well.
Jambalaya is a dish where you can tell if it’s Cajun or Creole when you see its color. A Cajun jambalaya will be brown and smoky, whereas a Creole dish will have added tomatoes making it red in color.
Again jambalaya can be found in practically every restaurant, but we found some great examples here:
- Vermillionville in Lafayette
- Joey K’s in New Orleans
Boudin and Andouille Sausage
Making great sausage has always been a go-to in the South, but Louisianians really take it a step further with their boudin and andouille sausage. Both are traditionally pork sausages, but boudin uses rice as well as the seasonings found in andouille.
While we were there, I went to an Acadian festival in Lafayette where instead of opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, they opened with a boudin link cutting ceremony. I also went to the andouille festival in La Place. I guess this shows how important these amazing sausages really are!
Red Beans and Rice
A simple, down-home, and very Southern dish, I’ve been eating red beans and rice my entire life because my dad is from Alabama. So, I was really looking forward to seeing if a Louisiana take on it would be different than what I’d grown accustomed to. It was.
Like anything else, when you are ready for a homemade taste, but it comes out more commercial tasting, it can be a bit boring. However, that’s where all those Louisiana hot sauces, like Tabasco and Slap Your Mama come in.
Not hard to find, we had some good red beans and rice at the following restaurants:
- Bon Temps Grill, Lafayette
- Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, New Orleans
Crawfish and Shrimp Étouffée
Probably one of my favorite dishes from Louisiana, I first had it in New Orleans years ago. I was smitten. It most likely helped that the waiter was really putting on his Cajun drawl and the bowl of étouffée was just heart-warming.
I try to always opt for the crawfish étouffée versus the shrimp one because it just feels that much more special and even exotic. It can be eaten by itself or as a topping on just about any dish, Jim loves it on fried green tomatoes.
Another rich stew dish, starting from that famous roux, the main ingredients are crawfish or Gulf shrimp. Crawfish is kind of a land lobster or shrimp anyway, and the main season is between February and mid-May, which is when you can find a crawfish boil shack on just about every block.
Some of our favorite places for Étouffée include:
- Prajeans Restaurant, Lafayette
- Don’s Seafood, Lafayette
- New Orleans Creole Cookery
Po’Boys are ubiquitous in Louisiana and have really spread throughout the South. It’s a crunchy French bread sandwich, piled high with fried seafood or roast beef, usually with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, and pickles.
Our favorite Po-boys were found at:
- Joey K’s in New Orleans
- Old Tyme Grocery, Lafayette
Named after a Sicilian round sesame bread, the bread it’s made from, a Muffaletta (also known as Muffuletta) is a large and tasty cold-cut sandwich that includes a tangy olive spread to give it its unique taste.
The spread is made from olives, carrots, cauliflower, pickled celery, garlic, and oil. And the whole sandwich originated when the inventor put this in the sandwich instead of alongside it as he had previously.
For a great muffaletta go to one of these eateries:
- Alberto’s Cheese and Wine Bistro in the French Market, New Orleans
- Rock’n’Bowl at Lafayette, served here as a Muffaletta flatbread
- Driving I-5 in California? Stop off at Olive Pit in Corning, California
Not originally from Louisiana, but definitely Louisiana-perfected, we must have had a different bread pudding every single day we were on our Louisiana trip. Every café, restaurant, and, yes, home cook has their own favorite version.
All of them have some sort of bread, purists only use day-old crusty French bread, but others use whatever is on hand. Then milk or cream and sugar are added to make the pudding-like binding for the dessert. After that, there are so many different variations it can make your head spin. Folks have added everything from fruit to meringue.
However, one of the typical toppings in Louisiana is a whisky sauce, and we had plenty served this way. It was ah-mazing!
We found the best bread pudding at these places, but really you won’t go wrong anywhere:
- Court of Two Sisters, New Orleans
- 1886 on Avery Island at the Tabasco factory (add a few drops of raspberry chipotle sauce)
- Bombay Club, New Orleans
Corn Maque Choux
Going to the restaurant in Lafayette for our first dinner, I looked at the menu and had no idea what some of the offerings even were, like corn maque choux. It sounded good; I like corn. So, when the waiter came to take our order, I peppered him with questions.
When I kept asking about corn maque choux, I could tell it wasn’t necessarily his favorite, but I didn’t care. I had to try it. It was offered as a side dish there and in many of the places we ate, but I’ve since found out that some folks just add a little andouille sausage and it can easily become a main dish as well.
So corn maque choux? It’s basically creamed corn, with a smattering of other vegetables, like celery, green peppers, tomatoes, and onions. I loved it!
- Bon Temps Grill, Lafayette
- Prajean’s Restaurant, Lafayette
Pillow-y squares of fried dough, beignets are really well known in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans. Deep fried dough with a pile of powdered sugar on top, with a cup of coffee, how can you go wrong?
The most famous place to eat beignets is at Café du Monde, and they are fantastic there, but you can find them all over.
Some other places to find a yummy beignet include:
- Tante Marie in Breaux Bridge
- Loretta’s in the French Market, New Orleans
Taking a trip to Louisiana is the best thing a foodie can do. A true mix of cultures, the food reflects that in all of their cajun and creole dishes.
Author Bio – Corinne is an avid camper and traveler. She’s been to all 50 of the US states and has four more Canadian provinces to visit. However, she’s not stopping yet. There’s always more to see of this great continent! Corinne loves local foods, getting outdoors, landscape photography, and road trips.
Wednesday 5th of April 2023
One comment. most of your review was spot on but the roux is the opposite. Creole style is more "city" food (new Orleans fancy) and the roux uses butter, Cajun is more "country" and they used lard originally, though now the difference is less obvious.
Wednesday 5th of April 2023
Thanks for clearing that up, Ray!