If the pelican weren't on Louisiana's state flag, the crawfish might as well be. It's just that important to the state's identity, economy and cuisine. The little red crustacean is found in Cajun and Creole food throughout Louisiana, cooked every which way imaginable. In fact, one of the most popular questions we hear is "when is crawfish season in Louisiana?"
Crawfish are part of Louisiana's history. The Houma Indian tribe has used the crawfish as its emblem for centuries. In the 1800s, Cajun settlers modified lobster recipes passed down from their coastal Canadian forefathers, substituting them with crawfish. Creole restaurateurs in New Orleans caught on, and once it took off in the Big Easy, the secret was out: Crawfish became synonymous with Louisiana cooking. Today, Louisiana leads the nation in crawfish production.
What makes crawfish even more of a precious resource is the fact that it's so seasonal. February to mid-May is the prime time to find fresh, live crawfish. For many who live in Louisiana, just the scent of a neighborhood crawfish boil is enough to evoke thoughts of springtime.
It's been said that Louisiana has a fest for everything. And it's true - we love a good party. Crawfish festivals are no exception.
Louisiana Crawfish Festivals Not to Miss
March 26 - 29, 2020, in Chalmette - St. Bernard Parish is one of the most seafood-centric regions of Louisiana, with a commercial fishing industry that has thrived for decades. So it's no wonder the Louisiana Crawfish Festival is in the parish seat of Chalmette, located just a few minutes' drive from downtown New Orleans. Head to the fest for crawfish served up every which way, with sides of Cajun music, crafts and pageants.
March 29, 2020, in Eunice - The goal of this fest: Win over a panel of judges' hearts (or tastebuds, anyway) with the best batch of crawfish étouffée. Étouffée is Cajun heritage in a bowl, a stew made with a "blonde" roux, crawfish and vegetables, and served over rice. At this 35th annual cook-off, a few lucky competitors are awarded bragging rights, but it just might be hungry festival attendees who are the real winners.
April 17 - 18, 2020, in Lake Charles - The unofficial capital of southwest Louisiana rolls out the red carpet for crawfish at this annual three-day party. Billed as a crawfish festival, this is more like a party for the whole region that celebrates all there is to love about Lake Charles. Pageants, live music, midway games, locally made crafts and carnival rides are all part of this family-friendly event.
April 18, 2020, in New Orleans - Two live music stages, 20,000-plus pounds of crawfish and tons of fun are to be found on Tulane University's Uptown campus each April. The legendary New Orleans college becomes Louisiana's crawfish capital for a day, with music by local bands and unlimited plates of mudbugs, soda and water for attendees.
April 18, 2020, in Slidell - Billed as the largest one-day event on the Northshore, the Hospice Foundation of the South-sponsored Crawfish Cook-off in Slidell boasts 60-plus teams vying for the title of Best Crawfish in St. Tammany Parish. Bands known well beyond the parish line play at this charity event and special attractions include a Kids Zone for children age 12 and under.
April 4, 2020, in Metairie - Free crawfish? Yeah, you right - this Metairie fest is an admission-free family-fun event featuring crawfish-eating contests, zydeco and Cajun music, crawfish races and hugs from Deanie's Seafood's Pincher the Crawfish. The event celebrates Louisiana Crawfish Awareness Month and supports numerous local charities.
May 1-3, 2020, in Breaux Bridge - The first weekend of May each year, upwards of 30,000 people to Cajun Country for the preeminent celebration of our beloved crustacean. The Louisiana Legislature named Breaux Bridge the Crawfish Capital of the World in 1959 and the festival was born in 1960. Replete with music, food and fun, this festival personifies the Cajun culture like no other.
Date TBA, 2020, in Monroe/West Monroe - Head to Monroe-West Monroe for an extravaganza of boiled crawfish, fair rides, games, live music, petting farm, artisans selling hand-made crafts, clothes and jewelry. And don’t skip the classic Louisiana foods such as snoballs and crawfish (of course!).
May 22 - 24, 2019, in Shreveport - One of Shreveport's premier events is Mudbug Madness, held Memorial Day each year at the city's Festival Grounds. With the tagline "3 Stages, 20 Acts, 1 Good Ol' Time," Mudbug Madness is a music-centric affair with crawfish-eating contests, magic shows for the kids, and some of Louisiana's biggest zydeco and Cajun bands.
2020 DATE TBA, in New Orleans - The Annual Crawfish Mambo, New Orleans’ largest crawfish festival, is held in May of each year at the University of New Orleans’ Lakefront Campus. Sample dozens of different crawfish boils cooked by teams competing for "Best of Boil" prizes and bragging rights, awarded by celebrity judges. Feast on all-you-can-eat crawfish while you enjoy live music. Then take a break to shop the Mambo Artists Village. Hungry for more? Participate in the crawfish eating competition!
Beyond the Festivals
You won't just find crawfish on the festival grounds. Jeff Davis Parish offers crawfish farm tours, which give visitors an inside glimpse of crawfish ecology and the business of farming them.
And of course, Louisiana's full of restaurants that serve crawfish up daily. Hawk's in Rayne is known for their amazing crawfish boils (call for operating hours) and it is legendary - located in a small backwoods building down a dirt road through farm fields. New Orleans has Creole restaurants galore, including Arnaud's and Galliano Restaurant; Baton Rouge's Parrain's Seafood is also worth adding to your dining itinerary. Cajun-style crawfish is at Bevi Seafood Co. and Clesi's in New Orleans, Steamboat Bill's and Billedeaux's Cajun Kitchen in Lake Charles, and Prejean's in Lafayette.