Louisianan cuisine is underrated and underrepresented. Different dishes native to the Big Easy are typically referred to as either Cajun or Creole. While some use these terms interchangeably, they’re actually two different types of dishes.
Cajun: Cajun food is known as “country food.” This type of cuisine is inspired by the Acadians that settled in the swamps, marshes, bayous and prairies of Louisiana. These settlers came to the state before refrigeration was invented, so they learned to use every part of an animal and salts and smokes to preserve meat. Cajun food is known for being heavily seasoned and sometimes spicy. Common flavors in Cajun cuisine include: onion, celery and bell pepper, seasoned with garlic, paprika, thyme and file.
Creole: Creole food is known as “city food,” as it was inspired by the settlers of New Orleans. A mix of people, from Italians, Spaniards, and Germans to Africans, Native Americans, Caribbeans and Portuguese people settled in New Orleans, and Creole food took on inspiration from all of those cultures. While it’s similar to Cajun food, people in the city had access to more ingredients than people in the country, so tomatoes and butter are more widely used.
Popular Louisianan dishes
Inspired to make some Cajun or Creole dishes with a kick? Here are some of Louisiana’s most popular dishes:
Seafood gumbo: In addition to using crab meat and shrimp, this gumbo also contains plenty of Andouille sausage, which is a Cajun staple. The ingredients list is pretty extensive, so it’s a great meal to put together for Sunday dinner.
Barbecue shrimp: This may be called barbecue shrimp, but don’t expect it to taste like your favorite red barbecue sauce. Seasoned with chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Creole seasoning, paprika, oregano, red pepper and hot sauce, this shrimp is authentic Creole.
Jambalaya: This jambalaya may have a long ingredient list, but it’s hardly complicated to make. It makes for a good family dinner, and this recipe will leave you with leftovers.
Maque Choux: Pronounced “mack shoe,” this dish is a classic for anyone who enjoys a good mixed dish. Made up of corn onion, bell pepper, tomato, green onions and bacon, it’s seasoned with cayenne pepper. It’s simple to make, and if fresh corn is out of season, it’ll taste just as good with canned or frozen corn.
Blackened chicken: You can’t be well-versed in Cajun or Creole cooking without having a solid background in making blackened chicken. Grill your chicken with a classic mix of paprika, cayenne, cumin, thyme, and onion powder.
Red beans and rice: This recipe is for exactly what it sounds like. Seasoned kidney beans, Andouille sausage and long grain white rice make up a perfect dish that can be served as a side or packed up for lunch.
Bourbon chicken: While this dish is named after the famous Bourbon Street, bourbon is also a main ingredient. There’s speculation that it may not be authentic Cajun or Creole, but it’s delicious all the same!