Eat + Drink

Chow Down on These 10 Delicious New Orleans Traditions

Tuck into a steaming bowl of spicy gumbo on your NOLA vacation. (Photo: Alamy)

New Orleans’ architecture and music are singular; its food and drink speak a language of their own, alluring visitors with one-of-a-kind experiences. These experiences are shaped by the city’s Cajun and Creole heritage and access to fresh, local seafood – a delicious blend of influences you’ll discover from century-old restaurants to modern eateries where chefs reinterpret traditional tastes. Here are 10 not to miss.

1. Gumbo

New Orleans’ myriad cultural influences marry in a steamy bowl of gumbo. The classic recipe simmers okra in a dark roux, adds any meaty combination of shrimp, oysters, crabmeat, chicken, duck and andouille – and heaps it all over rice.

2. Jambalaya

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Taste the city’s famed Creole flavors with jambalaya. (Photo: Alamy)

This one-dish meal blends a variety of meats and seafood – depending what’s in season, maybe plump shrimp and savory alligator meat. Long-grain rice is added to absorb the flavors of the cooking stock, creating a comforting, flavorful dish.

3. Crawfish Étouffée

The star of this classic entrée is tender crawfish, smothered, as its French name implies, in a peppery spice blend and fragrant mix of onion, green pepper and garlic. It’s served over rice to soak up the irresistible flavor.

4. Bread Pudding

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You’ll need to loosen your belt after digging into bread pudding. (Photo: Alamy)

Imagine bread soaked in milk, eggs and sugar, then baked and topped with a sauce that balances spirited bourbon and sweetness. Watch for variations, such as infusions of white chocolate or a crown of Chantilly cream.

5. Red Beans & Rice

It’s traditional to enjoy this dish any Monday, a nod to home cooks who pair it with juicy pork chops reserved from Sunday dinner. Chefs honor the process by simmering beans all day and serving them with hearty sausage or golden-fried chicken.

6. Bananas Foster

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Cooking bananas foster. (Photo: Alamy)

Brennan’s is the restaurant credited with inventing this flambéed dessert of buttery bananas spiked with cinnamon, dark rum and banana liqueur, served over ice cream. Today, you can find it at finer restaurants around New Orleans.

7. Boiled Crawfish

Seek out restaurant/markets where you’ll order at the counter or take food to go. To find one, use your sense of smell: You can’t miss the aroma that wafts from “boiling houses” as crawfish simmer in their own liquid and zesty seasonings.

8. Charbroiled Oysters

From oyster bars to cafés, and especially at Drago’s (the pioneer), charbroiled oysters are grilled over fire in their shells and topped with a mélange of butter, garlic and hard cheese for smoky, briny perfection.

9. Beignets

How does a square piece of dough become a decadent lesson in Louisiana heritage? When it’s fried as a beignet: crispy and coated with powdered sugar outside; pillow-soft inside. These anytime treats were introduced by Acadien (“Cajun”) French settlers.

10. Cocktails

New Orleans brims with cocktail culture, with claims to several cocktails and the bars where they were invented. Launch a spirited study at The Carousel Bar with a Vieux Carré on the rocks.

This article was published through a partnership with Jetsetter magazine.