More than just a day, Mardi Gras is a season that runs from January 6—which marks the Twelfth Night—to Fat Tuesday (AKA Mardi Gras Day). In countries of Catholic heritage, carnivals always take place during these days, as people party, drink, and eat all of what shouldn't be drank or eaten during Lent.
Celebration through food is part of these carnival traditions, as fatty, rich, sugary, and meat-loaded dishes populate the celebratory tables. In New Orleans, glorious gumbos and jambalayas, dirty rice, po' boy sandwiches, crawfish etouffee, oysters Rockefeller, red beans and rice, bananas foster, pain perdu, and Creole sauce on top of everything are just a few examples of what's served on and before Mardi Gras.
Whether you're planning a Mardi Gras celebration with friends and family or just want to sample some of the nation's most famous food traditions, you're likely to find something on this list that will satisfy your cravings. As they say in New Orleans, "Laissez les bons temps rouler," or "Let the good times roll".
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Mix yourself a classic cocktail while you start prepping and cooking for Mardi Gras celebrations. The Sazerac is a New Orleans cocktail made with rye whiskey and absinthe, created by Antoine Peychaud, the same apothecary who invented the key ingredient in this cocktail: Peychaud's bitters.
Use this recipe and tips to make an authentic Sazerac. Get some ice cubes, an old-fashioned glass, and mix this cocktail in 3 minutes.
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One bite of these light, fluffy beignets will transport you to the Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter. Serve the delectable, deep-fried pillows with a chicory-laced cafe au lait for a classic New Orleans breakfast.
Prepare the beignet dough the night before and refrigerate. Roll them out in the morning and drop them in hot oil and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Prep and serve in 25 minutes.
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Our Mardi Gras King Cake is easy to make, delicious, and fun to decorate. Crescent roll dough triangles are arranged in a circle to create a crust that is filled with sweetened silky cream cheese. Decorate with colorful sprinkles or icing to provide the signature three-color topping.
This quick version is an excellent choice if you're short on time or don't have prior experience with making brioche dough.
Prep and serve in 55 minutes.
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This easy jambalaya creates a symphony of flavor, color, and texture. Andouille sausage, flavorful chicken thighs, vegetables, rice, and creole seasoning come together to make a moist and rich dish that can be as spicy or mild as you want.
A quick sauteeing of the veggies is followed by a slow simmering of the meats and rice; chicken broth moistens the mixture. While the jambalaya cooks, you simply have to slice some fresh bread to accompany the dish.
Prep and serve in 1 hour.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
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Cajun-style barbecue shrimp are served with toasted French bread to mop up the delicious buttery sauce. Typically cooked on the stovetop or in the oven, our quick version suggests a cast iron pan on the grill.
The shrimp marinate for 30 minutes in seasonings, beer, herbs, hot sauce, and butter. The marinade is reduced until thick and the shrimp cook in the sauce for 6 minutes. Serve over rice or with crusty bread.
Prep and serve in 36 minutes.
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This classic étouffée combines a brown roux with shrimp, tomatoes, and the "Holy Trinity" of Creole cooking—onion, celery, and bell pepper. A thick and rich sauce smothers the shrimp and makes for a simple dish that is easily prepared for a weeknight dinner.
Its complex flavors, stemming from the addition of clam juice and creole seasoning, make a wonderful moist dish that goes wonderfully with rice or bread.
Prep and serve in 75 minutes.
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Our chicken étouffée is a rich preparation with a butter-based dark roux, vegetables, broth, creole seasoning, and small shrimp. Although roux is usually cooked separately and then other ingredients are added into it, in our étoufée the roux is cooked alongside the chicken and veggies to save time.
A quick simmer brings to life this flavorful meal, which you can serve with rice or crusty bread.
Prep and serve in 1 hour.
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The Instant Pot makes preparation a cinch in this Creole-style jambalaya. Andouille sausage, chicken, and vegetables are sauteed, and then the seasonings, stock, canned tomatoes, and rice are added and pressure cooked. The shrimp go in at the end along with some green onions making a delicious and filling dish.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
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This delicious gluten-free gumbo uses rice flour to thicken the sauce, making it fitting for people with celiac disease or any wheat sensitivities. Chicken, spicy sausage, sliced okra, chopped vegetables, and tomatoes give a nice and thick texture to the gumbo, while generous amounts of oil give the sauce a rich and smooth finish.
Serve with rice or fresh bread.
Prep and serve in 75 minutes.
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Our slow-cooked shrimp gumbo brings a variety of flavors thanks to spicy andouille sausage, tomatoes, vegetables, broth, and seasonings. As tradition mandates, if the gumbo has tomatoes it most likely has okra, so while adding it is entirely up to your taste, it does make the gumbo more traditional.
Ladle the gumbo over a mound of cooked rice and serve it with crusty New Orleans French bread.
Prep and serve in 2 hours.
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Serving traditional Mardi Gras food to your vegetarian or vegan friends can be challenging, as many recipes use meat, dairy, or animal fat as their base. But a flavorful vegetable stew can be made using the same traditional New Orleans techniques and seasonings. Add to our gumbo all the vegetables of your liking and adjust the cooking liquid to provide a good simmer until all pieces are tender.
This gumbo, made with okra, zucchini, tomatoes, and a variety of other vegetables, is seasoned and thickened with file powder. Although there is no substitution for file powder, omitting it won't alter the quality of the dish you're serving.
Prep and serve in 45 minutes.
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Chayote squash is a summertime vegetable native to Mexico and popular in Creole and Cajun cuisine. It has a firmer texture than other summer squash, making it ideal for sautéing with garlic. Serve along with rich seafood dishes for a complimentary side dish.
Prep and serve in 27 minutes.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
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This lower-in-calories version of jambalaya is still rich and tasty, but has less added fat and uses skinless chicken thighs that provide a lot of flavor without the excess calories. Shrimp, spicy chicken sausage, and tomatoes make up the medley of colors and flavors we've come to expect from Cajun and Creole food.
Brown rice adds fiber and is an easy switch-up. Skip the traditional crusty bread and serve with a green salad.
Prep and serve in 53 minutes.
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This classic New Orleans bread pudding is finished with a rich and creamy whiskey sauce. Day-old French bread is soaked in a sweet eggy mixture and seasoned with vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Soak for up to one hour before baking the dish for an additional hour.
Serve with a whiskey or bourbon sauce, made with butter, milk, and eggs.
Prep and serve in 90 minutes.
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Celebratory Bananas Foster is transformed here into a breakfast or brunch casserole that you can prep at night and bake in the morning. Although the use of rum is optional, you're still getting all the flavors from the original dish even if you go without.
A base of caramel is topped with sliced bananas, cubed bread, and a sweet egg mixture that makes this Foster French Toast Casserole a wholesome dish, packed with protein. Serve with slices of fruit.
Prep and serve in 85 minutes.
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Four ingredients and less than one hour are all that you need to enjoy these classic Southern treats. Pecan pralines are a highlight of any New Orleans visit and always present during Mardi Gras celebrations.
Pecans, vanilla, sugar, and cream is all that it takes. Get a candy thermometer for best results and be mindful of not having kids or pets around the kitchen when working with hot caramel.
Prep and serve in 35 minutes, but do wait until they're completely cool before offering them to kids.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
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The muffuletta is a classic New Orleans sandwich made with layers of meat, cheese, and olive salad. The sandwich was created in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, owner of Central Grocery Co. on Decatur Street. They're monstrous in size, but the deli still sells the famous sandwich – in half and quartered-size portions, as eating two pounds of charcuterie and cheese, alone when weighed without the bread, seems like a task few can undertake.
Ham, mortadella, salami, Provolone, mozzarella, and salad mix are the ingredients fit to feed a family of 4.
Prep and serve in 10 minutes.
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Cajun dirty rice is a classic dish that can take many forms, but that takes its name from the dark color that the preparation takes on after the ingredients have been cooked. Our version has chicken livers, vegetables, stock, pine nuts, and seasonings that go inside of fatty chicken breasts or thighs, and then are baked to a golden brown.
Alternatively, if pressed for time, make the rice and grill the chicken breast to serve on the side.
Prep and serve in 70 minutes.
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Cajun Barbecue Sauce and Creole Mustard
Slather some Cajun barbecue sauce on ribs, chops, or chicken and get a taste of Louisiana. As Lent approaches, many Catholics eat as much red meat as they can, and this sauce makes the task all that much tastier. Complex in flavor due to its long list of ingredients, this sauce is worth having at hand. Stock, spices, onion, garlic, Tabasco, butter, citrus, and even roasted pecans go into this flavorful preparation.
Prep and serve in 50 minutes.
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