Mardi Gras foodies love delicious, New Orleans-inspired cuisine
For Mardi Gras Foodies, Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” means colorful costumes, boisterous parades, and, of course, delectable food. Part of the worldwide celebration of Carnival, Fat Tuesday got its start as a Roman Catholic tradition that anticipated the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, known as Lent. Aptly named, Fat Tuesday refers to the last day to partake of fatty, decadent foods before the Lenten season of penance and reflection begins.
Today, Fat Tuesday is just as famous for its food as its wild parties, and New Orleans is the epicenter for all of it. Here are three traditional New Orleans dishes and a bit of history on how they became Fat Tuesday favorites.
1) King Cake
King Cakes first appeared in France in the 12th century. Created in honor of the “Three Kings” of the Christmas story, they are baked in a circular shape, filled with sweet cream or fruit, and covered in a light glaze.
Traditional King Cakes contain a hidden object like a coin, figurine, or bean. Whoever finds the hidden object is declared “King for the day” and is said to have good luck all year.
New Orleans put its own spin on the King Cake by hiding a plastic baby in the cake to represent the Christ child and covering the cake with colored sugar in the traditional Mardis Gras colors of gold, purple, and green. Whoever finds the hidden baby is expected to host the next King Cake party.
Here’s a recipe for a light and airy traditional King Cake to celebrate Fat Tuesday in style.
2) Seafood Gumbo
Fat Tuesday isn’t all about sweets. Savory NOLA favorites like seafood gumbo combine rich spices and fresh Louisiana seafood in a pot full of comfort-food heaven. The name “gumbo” comes from the West African word for “okra,” which suggests that the dish was once built around okra as the main ingredient.
Today, gumbo serves as the official state food of Louisiana, and there is really no wrong way to prepare it—from juicy andouille sausage to plump Louisiana shrimp, it’s always a crowd favorite. Served over a bed of white rice, it’s the perfect opening act to a hearty, Fat Tuesday meal.
Try this simple seafood gumbo recipe for a taste of traditional NOLA flavors.
Nothing says NOLA like these pillowy-soft pastries. With just the right amount of sweetness and sturdiness, beignets are an excellent standalone dessert or decadent breakfast food, paired with a hot cup of coffee.
Pronounced “ben-yays,” the square pastries are made with yeasty, sweetened dough that rises to light, golden perfection before it gets dusted with a liberal helping of powdered sugar. They first originated in France around the 16th century but eventually made their way to the United States, where they became a staple in New Orleans bakeries and restaurants.
Several NOLA cafes are famous for their beignets, but perhaps none more so than Cafe du Monde, a popular French Quarter cafe. Cafe du Monde, with its distinctive green and white awnings, has been serving beignets to New Orleans residents and guests for over 150 years.
Here’s a simple copycat recipe for the famed Cafe du Monde pastries.
As they say in New Orleans, “let the good times (and the good food) roll!”