Cuisines of New Orleans: Top Foods New Orleans is Known For

Pot of jambalaya on cutting board with andouille sausage, garlic, bell peppers and celery.

"Pass a good time" is what’s said by natives when it’s party time in New Orleans. And when somebody mentions NOLA, wild parties spring immediately to mind– humid nights of Mardi Gras, legal street drinking, hyperactive jazz, and hurricane cocktails. But beneath this chaos, there’s a cozier culture of slower times spent eating food that feeds the soul with family and friends. And, if you know about Louisiana crawfish boils, you already get our cultural spirit! Well, here at the NOLA School of Cooking, this is the part of our culture we live and love to share with you!

America’s melting pot personified

NOLA’s Creole/Cajun cuisines are beloved across the US and shaped by city and world history. Its culinary techniques and flavors are an exciting combination of the French, western-European, African and Native American cultures that established Louisiana over 200 years ago. NOLA is famous for Southern comforts over rice. Maybe you’ve heard of Jambalaya (thanks Seinfeld), but we’re also on the map for seafood and some desserts found only here or in France. Here are the top food dishes New Orleans is known for and you must try while visiting!

Southern Comforts

1. Gumbo

Pronounced gum-bo, it is a rich stew cooked for 3 hours minimum but sometimes all day. There are many ways to make it, but it might go something like this––we’d start the morning by making a stock from juices of meat, seafood, or both. When the stock’s nearly done, add green bell peppers, onions, celery and some chicken or andouille sausage together until soft. We then combine the meat, veggies, broth, and some gently fried flour and fat (or okra), giving our gumbo its famous thickness. Finally, Cajun or Creole spices are added, and the pot is left to simmer even longer to deepen the many flavors. For seafood versions, seafood is added at the end to preserve its flavor. What you’re left with is a tasty, hearty meal that’s perfect for our culture of large social gatherings!

2. Crawfish Étoufée (eh-too-feh)

A.k.a smothered crawfish, it is a creamy dish of crawfish” in a thick, buttery sauce. The holy trinity is fried in a heavy pot until soft. We then add crawfish tails with some mix of Creole or Cajun spices such as paprika for depth, cayenne pepper for zing, and garlic powder for flavor. This sizzles until the seafood is tender and flavors fuse. Smothering is a French-influenced method that slowly cooks meat or veggies in a sauce usually made from a roux. We also prepare chicken or pork chops the same way!

3. Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a hearty medley of rice, meat, and veggies with classic spices! We begin by frying up proteins like shrimp, chicken, and sausage until browned; these are then set aside. After this, we fry the holy trinity until soft before toasting raw rice by stirring it through the trinity. This adds nutty flavors. We lovingly season everything to now with regional spices like paprika, cayenne, thyme, and bay leaf. This mixture is then immersed in meat or vegetable broth for around 30 minutes or until the rice becomes tender. Finally, we add the meat back in and serve straight from the pot with some delightful French bread!

Sumptuous Seafood

1. Oysters Rockefeller

These are oysters baked or broiled in the shell until their mouth-watering toppings of butter, breadcrumbs, and green herbs are golden. They’re also sometimes topped with diced bacon and served with fresh lemon to bring out that classic seafood tang. Created by Antoine’s Restaurant in the French Quarter, they were named after the extremely wealthy John D. Rockefeller because of their richness!

Sweet Treats

1. Bananas Foster

Bananas are fried in butter, sugar, and cinnamon until soft and coated. Then, rum is added and lit on fire in a display of fitting NOLA flare. Once the flames die, the mix is served hot by itself or over vanilla bean ice cream! Now, one might ask what exactly the differences between Cajun and Creole cuisine are. Well, in a phrase, they’re “Same same but different.” Spices and techniques may overlap, but Creole food is considered city food, while Cajun food is considered country fare. But you’ll learn more about this and dive deeper into NOLA’s rich history when you book one of our inspiring classes!

The NOLA School of Cooking

When you choose to learn with us, you choose the guidance of local Creole and Cajun cooking experts who’ve been teaching the fun, food, and folklore of our city and Louisiana since 1980! You’ll learn some of the dishes and techniques mentioned here in classes available in a wide variety of formats to suit your needs. We offer demonstration classes, where you’ll learn by watching our entertaining chefs prepare you and your fellow foodies a classic Cajun/Creole meal. And, if you’re more hands-on, we’ve got you covered with interactive lessons where you’ll prepare and enjoy a meal from start to finish. When we say we have something for you, we mean it. If you don’t have time during your stay, we offer Zoom classes! Or, for team-building there are comprehensive corporate or family packages. So, what are you waiting for? Visit NOLA! And when you do, we’d love nothing more than to cook with you!

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