Guide to Cajun Cooking: Eatin’ Well in N’awlins

A view of Oak Alley Plantation in New Orleans, Louisiana.
A view of Oak Alley Plantation in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo credit: James DeMers

Cajun country is well known for its fearsome alligators, endless bayous, and jovial music. Ask any Cajun, and he or she will tell you the key to the easygoing spirit of the region is the hearty enjoyment of good food. Here’s a quick guide to Cajun cooking to get you started:

1. Gumbo

A delicious plate of gumbo.
A delicious plate of gumbo is key in Cajun cooking. Photo credit: Jeffery W

The most famous Cajun dish, gumbo, consists of an extremely salty and thick stock known as roux, which contains flour and fat. This roux is then packed with “the holy trinity” of vegetables: celery, bell pepper, and onion. Seafood gumbo, the most popular variety, includes crab, shrimp, oyster, and crawfish, but some varieties of gumbo use different types of meats. The whole mixture is served over rice.

2. Jambalaya

Jambalaya piled high on a plate in a restaurant.
Jambalaya piled high on a plate in a restaurant. Photo credit: Stu Spivack

The second-in-command to gumbo, jambalaya, is a smorgasbord of vegetables, meat, and rice in a broth. Unlike gumbo, the rice is cooked in with the whole mixture, and the broth is usually less thick, meaning that jambalaya is considered a solid, rice dish, whereas gumbo is a soup.

3. Boudin

Boudin balls in a mustard sauce topped with scallions.
Balls of boudin in a mustard sauce topped with scallions. Photo credit: Ann Larie Valentine

A thick sausage made from pork, green onion, rice, and garlic, boudin is readily available throughout Louisiana and is usually eaten with some sort of bread.

4. Andouille

Andouille is a very coarse, smoked sausage made of pork, pig intestines, pepper, wine, and onions.

5. Beignets

Beignets, powdered with white sugar.
Beignets powdered with white sugar. Photo credit: Zoe

These chunks of fried dough are topped off with confectioner’s sugar.

6. Crawfish

Crawfish, or crayfish, are a staple food in New Orleans.
Crawfish, or crayfish, are a staple food in New Orleans. Photo credit: Knuckles

Crawfish resemble little lobsters and are boiled in much the same way, but eating them can be tricky. First, you want to grab the head with one hand and the underside of the tail with the other. Snap the crawfish apart at the midsection and toss the head. Then pinch the top and bottom of the base of the tail and yank a strip of juicy meat out.

7. Catfish

Catfish is often described as “the fishiest-tasting of fish.” People have also said that they have a sweet and sometimes earthy taste that defies classification.

8. Frog Legs

Close your eyes, and you’ll swear you’re eating chicken.

9. Muffuletta

Ham, salami, provolone cheese, and olive relish nestled between slices of round muffuletta bread.
Ham, salami, provolone cheese, and olive relish nestled between slices of round muffuletta bread. Photo credit: Robbiesaurus

Invented in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, the owner of the Central Grocery on Decatur St. in New Orleans, the muffuletta sandwich features ham, salami, provolone cheese, and olive relish between slices of round muffuletta bread. These can get messy to eat, but they’re worth the extra napkins.

10. Po’ boy

Guide to Cajun Cooking: A po' boy filled with lobster.
A po’ boy filled with lobster, an essential chapter in this guide to Cajun cooking. Photo credit: GW Fins

A New Orleanian pronunciation of “poor boy,” this is basically New Orleans’s version of the grinder, hoagie, submarine, or hero sandwich. The name originates from the Great Depression, when oyster po’ boys were the cheapest meal you could buy in the city. Served on french bread, today’s po’ boy may feature oysters, catfish, shrimp, or more traditional lunchmeats.

Ready to check out these delicious dishes yourself? Take a food tour of New Orleans with PlacePass.

Did this guide to Cajun cooking whet your appetite for other cuisines? Check out our post on the Salon du Chocolat festival in France!

Share this Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *