Louisiana is famous for many things, one of which is the state’s mouthwatering Cajun cuisine. This cooking style is inspired by French, West African and Spanish cooking techniques and is known for its savory, smoky and spicy flavors.
Cajun dishes are often cooked with at least three pots; one for the main dish, a second for steamed rice or a type of seafood dish and the last for vegetables. They can be ordered in any Louisiana restaurant or made at home to enjoy while watching a game, reading or playing some online slots.
While there is certainly a wide variety of Cajun dishes, most consist of what Louisiana chefs refer to as ‘the Trinity’ — onion, green bell pepper and celery.
Enough about the background; here’s a list of some of the best Cajun food ranked from the most popular to the lesser-known options that are a must-try whenever you visit Louisiana.
This is one of the most popular and loved Cajun dishes and for good reason. Jambalaya is a one-pot dish made with a mix of rice, traditional spices, chicken or sausage and, most importantly, seafood like shrimp or crawfish.
While tomatoes are used in the Creole preparation of the dish, Cajun jambalaya doesn’t include tomatoes but has a mix of bell peppers, celery, onion and lightly cooked garlic. The broth is seasoned with spices before the rice is added to cook and soak up the dish’s flavors.
As one of Louisiana’s well-known dishes, Jambalaya is served in multiple locations, including casino restaurants which are particularly popular in the area. It’s also a dish you’ll get to enjoy as part of a food tour of any city in the state.
Gumbo is almost as popular as Jambalaya. The stew is made from a dark roux of flour and fat and contains chicken, sausage and shellfish in a spicy broth.
Gumbo also uses the trinity – onions, celery and bell peppers – which are left to simmer for hours for a deeper, well-blended taste. Like Jambalaya, Cajun Gumbo doesn’t use tomatoes, while the Creole version does.
The dish is traditionally served over side dishes like rice or potato salad and has several variations in Louisiana homes.
3. Shrimp Etouffee
This is a classic stew in Louisiana found in both Cajun and Creole cuisine. Etouffee is made from a wide range of seafood like crawfish, crabs and shrimp using a Cajun cooking method known as smothering. Here the cooking is done over low heat in a covered pot with minimal amounts of liquid.
Like most Cajun food, Etouffee includes the vegetable trinity as well as garlic, which are added after the flour and butter roux turns a light brown color. Some Louisiana restaurants add traditional Cajun seasoning and hot sauce to the dish before serving it with a side of rice.
4. Crawfish Boil
This Cajun dish is definitely a go-to for seafood lovers when visiting Louisiana. A crawfish boil is mainly prepared during festivals, parties and events in celebration of the crawfish season. Armed with a plethora of spices and herbs, including Zatarain’s crab boil seasoning, this dish is one messy but certainly delicious experience.
Several methods and ingredients are used to make a crawfish boil, but it mainly includes potatoes, artichokes, fresh corn, mushrooms, Andouille sausage and, of course, crawfish. The ingredients are boiled together and served family-style while still hot.
5. Corn Maque Choux
Not many Cajun side dishes rival the main dishes on the menu, but corn maque choux certainly gives them a run for their money. This is a Louisiana household favorite and pairs beautifully with any main course.
Corn maque choux is cooked similarly to traditional succotash, where corn is sauteed with onions, Tasso, green bell peppers, bacon and tomatoes. If you’re in the mood for a bit more spice, you can add some chopped jalapeno and serve with the main dish of your choice.
6. Red Beans and Rice
Rice is prepared in various ways with different twists according to the region and Louisiana is no different. The red beans and rice dish is a budget-friendly meal packed with incredible Cajun flavor. The recipe is a mix of bell peppers, celery, onion, Cajun spices and pork broth and can be served with almost any main course.
You could always cut up some ham sausage or add Andouille to the mix to turn red beans and rice into the main dish. Some good side dishes for this meal include sausage, cornbread, collard greens and fried chicken.
7. Pecan Pie
Despite its exquisite appearance, pecan pie is relatively easy to make and only needs a few basic ingredients before it’s popped in the oven. You’ll need an unbaked pie shell, eggs, butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla extract and the star of the dish, pecans.
After the ingredients are mixed and combined thoroughly, the next step is to pour the mixture into the pie shell and put it into the oven for around 30 to 40 minutes. Once cooled, enjoy the blissful nutty goodness.
The dish can be topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, caramel sauce, maple syrup or additional nuts.
8. Shrimp and Grits
This traditional Cajun dish is a Louisiana specialty and is primarily a breakfast dish but can be served for lunch or brunch. Shrimp and grits combine two southern meals– spicy sauteed shrimp and creamy grits.
There are several variations of shrimp and grits, but the classic southern dish is served with smooth, creamy grits and a shrimp mixture cooked with Andouille sausage or bacon. The meal combines ingredients like bacon, cheese, grilled shrimp and grits in a well-seasoned spicy gravy.
Some restaurants serve alternatives that use crawfish, salmon or catfish and are just as good as the original. Shrimp and grits can be easily made at home and enjoyed with family and friends or by yourself.
While alligator meat isn’t often found in most cultures, it’s usually used as a substitute for other kinds of meat in Cajun cuisine. It can be used in almost any recipe to substitute pork, chicken or even beef.
With its mild flavor and chewy texture, alligator meat can be enjoyed when served in a spicy red piquant sauce with a side of rice. The unusual meat choice can also be fried and served in bite-sized pieces, much like chicken.
Several Louisiana restaurants serve boiled or grilled alligator filets in addition to a variety of dishes inspired by the meat.
10. Boudin Sausage
Boudin Sausage is the last and one of the easiest meals on the list. The dish is a traditional Cajun sausage made from liver and pork shoulder combined with celery, onions, rice and a mix of spices. It can be eaten as a snack or as part of a main meal.
The Cajun sausage is usually prepared over a slow smoke. But it can also be served in ball form. For the Boudin balls, the sausages will be taken out of its casing, rolled into a ball, breaded and fried until crispy.
Boudin sausage and balls are served with several different sauces such as Creole or whole grain mustard and remoulade sauce. It can also be added to spaghetti, rice, baked beans and sandwiches.
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If reading through this list made you as hungry for Cajun food, make sure you visit any of the top restaurants in Louisiana to satisfy your cravings. You can also try some recipes at home and give them your own twist.
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