America is a country that has a host of unique cultures and a variety of different ethnic groups within it.
While all of these people consider themselves ‘American’, they are also undoubtedly a part of their own culture.
These can be the First Nation peoples, the New Englanders, the Irish-Americans, the Midwesterners, the African-Americans, as well as many others.
Amongst these distinct groups are the Cajun people from the Louisiana Bayou area.
These hardy folk are descended from French ancestry and are known for their music, their swampy home, and – of course – their love of cuisine.
Cajun food sticks to some tenets of French cuisine, but with the flair and color of the land they live in.
As such, we thought we would make a list of easy Cajun recipes for anyone to try.
Nothing says Louisiana quite like a traditional Gumbo (see also ‘The 5 Best Amazing Substitutes For Gumbo File Powder‘).
A good gumbo is to Cajuns what BBQ is to the rest of the south, everyone has their own recipe and no matter what, your mother’s or father’s is better than everyone else’s.
To make this stew, you need to master making a dark roux without burning it.
This is a practice of patience, as if the stove is too hot, you will burn the roux and every New Orleans grandmother will judge you harshly.
Once the roux is cooked down, you add your ingredients: sausage, shrimp, the Cajun trinity, garlic, and stock are the ones that are traditionally used.
Then you serve that up on top of a bed of rice and watch your dinner guests smile.
Rice and beans have been a staple in the south for years, but the Cajun people have taken it a step further.
By adding Andouille sausage (see also ‘5 Great Andouille Sausage Alternatives‘) and Cajun seasoning, they turn this southern comfort staple into an intense bowl of flavor that will have people licking their plates in a fervor.
It will still be as comforting and delicious as ever, it’s just the Cajun version has a little bit of a kick to it.
If you really want to amp up the spice or flavor, you can even add hot sauce and cook some bell peppers, onions, and celery – the Cajun trinity – into the mix.
Many people will say that a boil is a bit difficult, but the only difficulty is getting a large enough stove and pot.
For many, the stove can just be a wood fire outside, so as long as you have the space, this recipe is easy.
Simply throw your ingredients in a rolling, seasoned batch of stock or water – crawfish, sweetcorn, onions, potatoes, garlic, lemons, etc. – let it go for a while, and when it is ready, throw down some newspaper on the table, drain the liquid, and dump the mix on top.
Then it is time to pick it apart with your hands.
Pasta is not a traditional ingredient within Cajun cuisine – rice is the primary staple – but that doesn’t mean the Cajun community has not made the food their own.
It is a dish that uses a ton of spices, lots of sausage, pepper, and chicken, and an absolute ton of shredded Parmesan on top.
Wonderfully indulgent and incredibly rich, it is a dish that captures the adaptability and fun of New Orleans in a nutshell.
Grits is a southern staple. No doubt about that.
You can have a variety of grits based dishes for breakfast from South Carolina all the way to Arizona, but the Louisiana grits is a true treasure amongst the lot.
Like many things in Louisiana, grits has to come with a seafood, and there is no seafood better than shrimp for the dish.
Creamy grits with melted butter spilling over the edge while the top is piled high with Cajun seasoned shrimp, there is absolutely nothing better for breakfast.
For those who aren’t interested in Gumbo, there is always Louisiana’s second favorite dish: Jambalaya.
This is a famous dish around the world and comes from a mix of French, African, and Spanish influences, with the foundation coming originally from the Paella.
While many people think that Gumbo and Jambalaya are too similar, they couldn’t be more wrong.
The flavor, the texture, and the way they are served are completely different from one another and both are equally delicious while providing a completely different Cajun experience.
A dish that is a fusion of Creole and Cajun cultures in the Bayou area, étouffée is the dish of choice for people in Louisiana when crawfish season comes around.
Unlike Gumbo, this kind of stew is made using a blond or a light roux, which is then filled with a variety of shellfish.
From crawfish to shrimp to crab, anything that has a shell and is caught in a net will probably be put in a étouffée.
The dish is then seasoning – with tomatoes added in some areas – before it is served over rice.
This dishes name says everything about the dish, really. It is a battered and lightly fried chicken smothered in a gravy made from the chicken fond on the bottom of the pot.
It is indulgent, it is decadent, and it can be made in one pot only.
While many people are happy to serve this dish with a vegetable side, others contend that adding gravy to the fry before making the gravy will not only create a richer sauce, but make it something any guest can enjoy.
Every state has had a crack at fried chicken, with the Colonel often coming out on top.
But Cajun fried chicken doesn’t try to replicate any of these and instead goes in its own direction, keeping its chicken distinctly Louisiana based while still being fried to golden perfection.
The batter and dredge is light but flavorful, incorporating Cajun seasoning, onion powder, and garlic powder, and the chicken is kept juicy.
The whole affair is served with hot sauce to taste and is definitely an easy simple answer to a favorite fast-food item.
Crab and fish cakes are a staple of American and Western European foods, but Louisiana adds a spicy touch to them.
The crab cakes are made as per normal, with all cooked and raw ingredients tossed together in a bowl, however, in deviled crab cakes you add hot spices before frying.
Dry mustard (see also ‘4 Substitutes For Dry Mustard‘), Cayenne pepper, and Worcestershire give the cake a sharp, spicy flavor that works in tandem with the standard salty, sweet flavor of the crab.
Served with some tartar sauce and lemon slices, and you have yourself a lunch perfect for on the side of the dock in the hot sun.
The sandwich that really defines New Orleans, Po’boys are beloved by every single person in the city.
They were originally made to be a cheap, affordable sandwich for the working people of the city or the ‘poor boys’.
The Cajun accent slowly changed the sound to Po’boy, and the name stuck.
A traditional Po’boy has a meat or a type of fried seafood on a New Orleans baguette, which is lighter and fluffier than a French baguette.
However, you can also get yourself a dressed Po’boy, which has shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayonnaise, before chowing down.
As you’ve probably guessed right, Cajun chefs love to smother their food.
Sauces are built into the fabric of the cuisine, but sometimes expensive food is off the table, so instead cheaper foods are used.
Smothered cabbage and potatoes are an incredibly popular cheap dish in Louisiana and are made throughout the year.
The smothering actually happens during the cooking process, as the vegetables are smothered in a broth, and then it is cooked until all the liquid has been absorbed by them.
It is hearty, cheap, and a very filling dish.
Deviled eggs are a picnic and picky food that has appeared at parties, picnics, and other social events since the 60s, with everyone loving them.
However, the Cajun people decided to take it a step further and turn up the flavor of the eggs to the max.
Pickle relish and seasoning are added to the yolk slurry to make it looser, and the egg white are coated in beaten eggs, flour, and panko breadcrumbs, before being deep-fried.
The two are then reunited for an intensely flavorful bite of an old favorite.
14. Dipping Sauce
Everyone has a favorite dipping sauce or condiment sauce, and a lot of the time it is tied to the place you come from.
With Cajun dipping sauce, it is all about creating a tangy, slightly spicy, but refreshing sauce that could be at home on seafood, fish, chips, meats, or just on bread.
Basically, any food that appears in Cajun cuisine.
It is incredibly easy to make and is the perfect way to accompany whatever quick snack or easy meal that you have made for yourself.
Cajun food has always had close ties to French food, with the state of Louisiana being a part of France for hundreds of years, and through that time there has always been some form of Cassoulet on the menu.
The recipe is literally the same as the original French, except that the ingredients are all things that Cajun people could grow or find within their state.
As such, the dish is slightly more spicy and flavorful, than the delicate, subtle French version.
16. Shrimp Dip
People think that a dip is nothing more than a snack or something to go along with a meal, but with Cajun shrimp dip, it is definitely an experience and meal of its own right.
So many different kinds of cheese melted and fused into a delicious sauce that then covers onions, peppers, and shrimp, before being thrown under the broiler.
You can have it at a party, or you can have it at home, with the dipping implements being anything from bread to chips to nachos.
As long as it dips, it can be used in this fabulous dip.
17. Maque Choux
A traditional dish of southern Louisiana, Maque Choux, it involves frying off or cooking a bunch of local vegetables together – including corn, okra, peppers, and onion – along with some andouille sausage before braising the entire thing in seasoned heavy cream.
It is incredibly quick and easy, with a pot full being ready within 25 minutes at most, while still being wonderfully flavorful and thick.
It is perfect if you have very little time on your hands, but a bunch of hungry mouths to feed.
18. Boudin Balls
Boudin is a traditional type of sausage that can be made from a concoction of puréed vegetables, meats, and liver.
However, if you are instead looking to make a meal out of this purée, instead of sausage links, then you can always make Boudin balls.
These are where the boudin mixture is rolled into a ball, covered in a breadcrumb crust, and then deep-fried.
The frying part can be a bit tricky, as the balls are quite moist, so you need the crust to hold together completely.
However, if you get it right, then you will have one of the most delicious things Louisiana has to offer.
19. Dirty Rice
The reason for the name is not because it is unclean or a problem for your health, it is in fact because of the browning effect that happens to the rice from cooking the whole dish in ground pork and chicken liver.
While it may not make it a pleasant color, it does make the dish insanely flavorful and something everyone should try.
20. Black-Eyed Peas
Beans have always made their way into southern dishes or sit at the edge of dinner tables, and Black Eyed Peas are no different.
They are cheap, simple to cook, and easy to add flavor to, with many people choosing to cook them in broth and with bacon as well, before dousing the whole thing in hot sauce.
21. Hoppin’ John
This is actually originally a Carolina based dish that used all the leftover vegetables for a New Year’s meal.
However, Bayou natives have added their own spin to it with Cajun seasoning, Jalapeño peppers, and the Cajun trinity, as well as the more classic ham, rice, and peas.
If you are looking to spice up your normal Hoppin’ John, maybe try the Cajun variant.
Not a traditional Cajun dish, but one that has made its way slowly south over the years, pan fried Brussel Sprouts.
It is very similar to the normal dish, but you add peppers, celery, and onion to the brussels and coat the lot in Tabasco, cane vinegar, and cayenne pepper as well.
It may sound like a lot, but creates a wonderful medley.
23. Crab Dip
We’ve had shrimp dip, but for those looking for a bit more seafoody bit to their dish, we have crab dip.
Unlike the previous dip, this one relies less on cheese and more on spicy, seafood flavors, like crab, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.
However, that doesn’t mean that the dip isn’t cheesy, oh no, it is loaded with the stuff, which – combined with the spice and crab – makes it irresistible.
This is a quite old-fashioned, one layer cake that has kind of stuck out of time, as it has been around almost as long as New Orleans itself.
However, that doesn’t make it any less delicious, and it is a pure joy to get a slice of it while you go for coffee, visit friends, or just so you can relax in comfort.
A sandwich that was invented by the Italian immigrants – mainly from Sicily – who came to New Orleans in the early 1900s, it has since become a rival to the Po’boy for the Louisiana sandwich crown.
With layers of meats, cheeses, and vegetables on soft Sicilian sesame bread, it is not hard to see why.
Cajun flavors lend themselves very well to the traditional mac and cheese, as the strong, salty cheese flavor can only be enhanced by any additions given, especially the spicy, smoky flavors that come from Cajun cuisine.
Even if you make your mac and cheese how you like, but add seasoning, sausage, and peppers, then we guarantee it will be even better than expected.
27. Stewed Okra
Stewed okra is popular around the south of the United States, but has always had a special place among the Cajun community, with it making its appearance regularly on dinner tables alongside main courses.
It is simple to make, with you only needing to stew okra and tomatoes in stock with a couple of other ingredients.
28. Stuffed Peppers
Peppers are one of the most fundamental ingredients in Cajun cooking, and stuffing them just seems like a natural progression.
Normally, a mix is cooked involving rice, shrimp, Andouille sausage, garlic, onion, seasoning, before a stock is added, and it is reduced down.
Once the liquid is gone, the pepper is stuffed, and you can dig in.
The multiple influences in Cajun cooking and Louisiana in general have given it an abundant cuisine culture that persists to this day.
African, French, Spanish, Native American, and even Italian, with so many culinary influences, it is no wonder the food is fantastic.
The recipes set above are relatively easy, if you want to experience the cooking first hand yourself.
What Is Cajun Seasoning?
It is a mix of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, sea salt, white pepper, cumin, oregano, thyme, and – if you want – some basil.
All of these ingredients are dried, as the seasoning has to have a multitude of uses, like a rub for frying or as an incorporation into a stew.
It is relatively easy to make this seasoning at home, but if you aren’t confident in doing that, then you can always buy it pre-made and work your way up to making your own.