With all due respect, you could combine every famous dish from every state in the nation and still not have as many as you’ll find in Louisiana. That’s not bragging; the food here is just that good. Boudin, beignets, king cakes and pralines — the Pelican State has plenty of homegrown culinary creations you may have heard of, and a few more you probably haven’t.
Grab a napkin and get to know these famous Louisiana dishes:
What they are: square-shaped pieces of fried dough, topped with powdered sugar, typically served in orders of three. The basic beignet is made with fewer ingredients than you can count on one powder-covered hand, though you can also find these bad boys stuffed with savory or sweet ingredients at restaurants and cafés across Louisiana.
Where to find them: Café Du Monde in New Orleans’ French Quarter is the unofficial world capital of beignets. New Orleans even has a Beignet Festival (yes, it's powdered sugar heaven!), held in December, that you won't want to miss.
What it is: a submarine-type sandwich made with French bread. Order it “dressed” if you like your po’boy with mayonnaise, lettuce, pickles and tomato.
Where to find it: the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival in New Orleans, held in November. Mother’s Restaurant, also in New Orleans, serves roast beef po’boys with a type of gravy known as debris (pronounced day’-bree). Chris’ Po'boys in Lafayette is among the best restaurants in Cajun Country to satisfy your po’boy cravings.
What it is: a sandwich on round bread containing Italian salami, Italian ham, minced garlic, olive salad and cheese. You’ll often find them served in whole, half and quarter sizes. If you’re going to eat a whole muffuletta, come hungry — these sandwiches typically measure almost a foot around!
Where to find it: Seek out Central Grocery in New Orleans’ French Quarter, where the muffuletta was invented. Visitors to north Louisiana shouldn’t miss the legendary “Muffy” sandwich at Fertitta’s Delicatessen in Shreveport.
4. King Cake
What it is: a round, cinnamon-filled cake made with braided dough, covered in icing and colored sugar and containing a little plastic baby. The three colors symbolize justice (purple), faith (green) and power (gold). You’ll see king cakes in bakeries and grocery stores throughout Louisiana between the Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras.
Where to find it: Manny Randazzo’s King Cakes in Metairie is the king of Louisiana king cakes, though you can also find them at stores from Shreveport to the Gulf Coast, and all points in between. Other standouts include Atwood’s Bakery in Alexandria, Daily Harvest Bakery & Deli in Monroe and Haydel’s Bakery in New Orleans.
5. Crawfish Étouffée
What it is: a Creole dish of rice smothered in a stew of roux, crawfish, herbs and vegetables. The roux (called a “blonde roux” for its lighter color than the kind typically used in gumbo) is a mixture of butter and flour, mixed with celery, bell peppers and onion.
Where to find it: In New Orleans, find crawfish étouffée at Bon Ton Café and Jacque-Imo’s. Outside the Crescent City you’ll find mouthwatering étouffée at The Chimes in Baton Rouge and at Boudreaux & Thibodaux’s in Houma.
What is it? An irresistible combination of rice, roux (butter or oil mixed with flour), seafood or meat, vegetables, spices and often okra. There are about as many variations on gumbo as there are people cooking it up, but in general, Creole-style gumbo incorporates tomatoes and more exotic ingredients, while Cajun-style gumbo often includes locally harvested meats, fish and spices. Fun fact: gumbo is the official dish of Louisiana. Watch this 60-sec gumbo recipe video.
Where to find it: Gumbo is so ubiquitous, you’re bound to find it wherever in Louisiana you’re traveling. Head to Rocky and Carlo’s in Chalmette or Robin’s Restaurant in Henderson for some of the best bowls in south Louisiana. Some of the best bowls in New Orleans can be found at Restaurant R’evolution and the Gumbo Shop. In northeast Louisiana, Warehouse No. 1 in Monroe is your go-to spot for great seafood gumbo.
What is it? Rice, pork and spices in a smoked sausage casing. Boudin is served in links or in boudin balls, which are deep-fried cousins of the iconic Cajun delicacy.
Where to find it: Earl’s Cajun Market in Lafayette serves up excellent boudin and plate lunches. Head to Scott, Louisiana which is the Boudin Capital of the World. Stop Billy's Boudin and Cracklins or Don's Specialty Meats. Boudin can also be found on many menus throughout Louisiana.
What is it? Pork butt, shank and fat, seasoned with salt, garlic and cracked black pepper. True andouille is smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane, giving the meat a sweet, dark flavor.
Where to find it: LaPlace is the place to find true Louisiana andouille. Jacob’s World Famous Andouille and Bailey’s Andouille sell it by the pound. In October, head to LaPlace for the Andouille Festival, an extravaganza that has been running for over 40 years.
What is it? A Creole take on Spanish paella, containing chicken, sausage, long-grain rice, and the combination of onions, bell peppers and celery known as the “trinity.” Served traditionally out of a big black pot, it’s one of the spicier signature dishes you’ll find in Louisiana.
Where to find it: Start in Gonzales, a town known as the world’s capital of jambalaya — the Jambalaya Festival is held there every May. Dwyer’s Café and Randol’s, both in Lafayette, are other sure bets for fresh jambalaya.
What they are: a sugary, buttery candy made from butter, brown sugar and pecans, cooked in a kettle and dried on wax paper. French nuns brought these Creole treats to New Orleans in the 1700s.
Where to find them: Aunt Sally’s Pralines in New Orleans’ French Market is among the most famous. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with a package from Louisiana Praline Company in Baton Rouge or at Bernard’s in Baker.