When planning a New Orleans vacation, there are a few New Orleans Foods you must try – so today, I’m sharing my Top 12 Must Eat New Orleans Foods, plus some honorable mentions, to help you with planning your own New Orleans trip!
Best Food in New Orleans
New Orleans is a food mecca, with so many vibrant food cultures coming together to create something that is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
It’s not just Cajun and Creole food here (though those are truly amazing), you have Vietnamese, African, French, Italian and Spanish influences that have come together to create foods that are truly representative of the unique character of New Orleans.
But perhaps my favorite aspect of New Orleans foods is that even the fanciest dishes on this list can be found anywhere from gourmet restaurants to hole-in-the-wall neighbourhood joints.
Be sure to grab our free printable checklist at the bottom of the post!
To get you excited about your New Orleans adventures, here are some of my favorite books set in New Orleans:
And, some of my favorite New Orleans cookbooks:
- My New Orleans by John Besh
- Jamie Oliver’s America (has several recipes inspired by his time in New Orleans)
10 New Orleans Foods You Must Eat
Gumbo is a stew that features okra, plenty of meat, and the holy trinity of Cajun cooking: celery, onions and sweet bell peppers. The seasoning will change depending on if you have a Cajun or Creole version.
Beignets are pillowy soft yeast-based donuts that are often served with powdered sugar and sometimes a bit of honey. A great beignet melts in your mouth, and you can easily devour three or four before even realizing it.
While there are many versions of a Po Boy – a few things remain the same: crusty New Orleans-style French bread; dressed with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise; and these sandwich are always huge, packed and super filling. Original versions contained fried oysters, but you can find them with fresh seafood, smoked pork, meatballs, etc.
Unlike the German “mock turtle soup,” Creole Turtle soup contains turtle meat, as well as onion, garlic, green peppers, celery, and spices. (Many restaurants also add a hit of sherry which really sets this soup off.) Turtle soup has a beef-like taste, while the turtle meat retains a unique texture, similar to squid.
Muffulettas came to popularity in New Orleans with the Sicilian workers who wanted to enjoy a hearty deli spread, but had to eat lunch on their job sites. These large, round sandwiches are packed with a variety of Italian deli meats, cheese and a distinctive giardiniera-based olive spread (with carrots, celery and cauliflower and plenty of spices). The salty, acidic flavor of the olive spread cuts through the fattiness of the meat and cheese to make this sandwich perfectly balanced.
Étouffée means “smothered” in French, so it’s fitting for this rich, seafood-filled gravy that is often served over rice. The seafood used varies – crawfish, shrimp, crab, even alligator, and so does the base – it can have a traditional French roux of butter and flour, or a spicy tomato paste base. Both are delicious.
Soft Shell Crab
Hands down, my favorite New Orleans staple (other than beignets). Soft Shell Crab is served in a variety of ways, but the most popular is breaded and fried whole crabs served with a variety of dips or perched on top of a stew. You can eat this delicious crab whole, shell and all!
There are also fancier versions, including pecan-crusted soft shell crab, and when in season you can often find it in Po Boys!
Also known as crayfish or crawdads, crawfish is a way of life in New Orleans! Crawfish taste like a cross between shrimp and crab, despite their lobster-like appearance. They are sweet, briny with a slight mineral flavor due to their shells.
Boiled crawfish are available from a variety of different merchants, all with their own take – from spicy, Cajun crawfish boil, to buttery versions, to Vietnamese takes. Every version will be messy and require plenty of napkins.
Traditional Bananas Foster features bananas that have been sautéed in sugar, rum, and liquor – and in some restaurants, the dish is flambeed tableside, before being served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
There are many twists on Bananas Foster that you can find throughout the city, including Bananas Foster bread pudding, waffles, ice cream, french toast, etc.
Banh Mi or Pho
Vietnamese food has long been a vibrant part of New Orleans food culture. You can sample authentic Vietnamese food in New Orleans, but I think the magic happens when you try dishes that are a fusion between classic Vietnamese and New Orleans.
Ya-Ka-Mein is often grouped with the Vietnamese offerings, but it’s roots are actually Chinese and it was heavily adapted by African-Americans living in New Orleans. It’s a spicy, beef-based soup with noodles (often spaghetti or ramen), a blend of soy sauce, Creole spices and green bell pepper, onion and celery, and often features a hard-boiled egg and green onion. It can be found at all times of day, including breakfast.
The below list of foods are all highly recommended, but many of them can easily be found outside of New Orleans. If you don’t have access to these foods locally, definitely try them in New Orleans – you’ll be glad you did.
- Fried Chicken
- Boundinee or Andouille sausages
- Red beans and rice
Must-Have New Orleans Drinks
Sno Balls are New Orleans’ take on the classic snow cones, featuring ice, cane sugar syrup, and often condensed milk. Different vendors will also have fun add-ons, like Marshmallow Fluff, available. These are perfect for staying refreshed and cool on a hot Louisiana day.
Chicory Coffee is a must – especially if you plan to indulge in a few beignets! Adding it to coffee creates a richer, somewhat nutty and earthy, flavor – especially when enjoyed as a traditional cafe au lait.