Creole originally referred to the descendants of Europeans who settled in New Orleans. The name later evolved to include people of mixed and black descent. Creole is more famous as a cooking style than a group of people today.
Creole food originates from Louisiana and is renowned across the state. This cooking style combines Spanish, French, West African, Caribbean, Indian, and native American influences.
When the different groups met in Louisiana in the 1800s, they taught and learned from each other in the kitchen. Eventually, Creole food was born. To date, Creole cooking continues to absorb new cultural influences, but it has not lost its authenticity of the early nineteenth century.
So what is Creole food, or what does Creole food taste like? Creole cooking uses the same holy trinity as Cajun – onions, bell peppers, and celery – as the base. It also uses lots of seasoning to give the food an edge. Because of the intense seasonings, Creole food is often mistaken to be spicy. But that’s not always the case.
Other significant aspects of Creole cooking are the use of ripe tomatoes, thick sauces (roux), and seafood.
Popular Creole Food
Creole food has found fame worldwide. If you visit New Orleans or a Creole restaurant, we guarantee that you must find some or all of these on the menu.
- Red beans and rice: The Creoles religiously served this dish on Mondays. They set aside the day to wash. Because they had so much to do and would be tired by dinner, they preferred to leave the beans on the fire as they worked. Soaking and boiling dried beans is mainly passive.
Traditionally, ham broth, andouille sausages, and leftover bacon add flavor to the beans. Of course, you must base it on the holy trinity and tomatoes to make it Creole.
The best rice to use is plain white rice. It goes perfectly with the flavorful red beans. And even though you make the rice in a different pot, it can pass as a one-pot meal. The rice pot almost comes together too quickly to count.
- Gumbo: You find gumbo in both Cajun and Creole cooking. It’s a stew (more like soup) almost always served over rice. To make the stew, you need the holy trinity, meats (chicken and smoked sausages, and sometimes crabs or shrimp). Creole gumbo usually has ripe tomatoes or tomato paste in it.
- Jambalaya: The master of one-pot dishes, jambalaya cuts down cooking and cleaning time while delivering explosive tastes in every bite. Jambalaya could easily be the most inclusive one-pot meal you’ll ever make. The rice is cooked in the stew.
Although different cultures influenced Creole food, jambalaya seems more rooted in West Africa.
- Shrimp and grits: Here’s one that doesn’t feature rice. Start the shrimp sauce with a roux for thickening. Serve over grits. Southern grits are stone-ground and cooked to a porridge consistency.
Cajun vs. Creole Food
Have you noticed that every time you look up Creole food, Cajun shows up too? It happens so often that some believe Cajun and Creole cuisines are similar. While there are some similarities, there are distinctions.
Cajun and Creoles are first cousins; Creole is more metropolitan, while Cajun is more country.
Cajun cooking was brought to New Orleans by the Acadians who moved from Acadia in Canada to Louisiana. They came with the recipes but not the ingredients. Ever innovative, the Acadians quickly adopted locally available ingredients into their cooking. Because they were far from cities and trading hubs, they lived off the land. That’s why Cajun cooking is a tad more rustic than Creole food.
They based their cuisine on generously seasoned shellfish, game, and pork.
- Both have the same base – the holy trinity.
- Both are flavorful.
- They use similar meats.
- Cajun and Creole seasonings can be used in either dish.
- They use a roux (a thick sauce made from flour and oil/butter).
As mentioned earlier, the Creoles had access to ingredients from other places besides New Orleans.
Here’s a comparison table
|Uses lots of tomatoes||Rarely has tomatoes in dishes|
|More of city food with imported ingredients||Country food with locally sourced ingredients|
|Creole roux is made with flour and butter||Roux is made with flour, and oil/lard (animal oil)|
Have you tried Creole or Cajun cooking? Which tastes better? You can have a feel of New Orleans right here in New York City. At 1803 NYC, we like to let either cuisine tell its own story. We serve only authentic Cajun and Creole food at our cozy restaurant.