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Traditional Mardi Gras Recipes to Try at Home

We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.

While this year’s carnival season in New Orleans looks a lot different than the parties, parades, floats, and beads of typical years, we can all still celebrate safely — and laissez les bon temps rouler — from home. To honor Fat Tuesday, enjoy a taste of the Crescent City’s Cajun and Creole favorites with these six classic Mardi Gras recipes.

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Beignets

French doughnuts Beignet covered with sugar powder on a wooden table.
Credit: Kcuxen/ Shutterstock

Made famous by the incomparable Cafe Du Monde, beignets are a treat made to share — you can’t keep them a secret when you have powdered sugar all over your face and clothes. Pillowy and soft, beignets are a close cousin to Mexico’s sopapillas and a delicious breakfast treat with a strong cup of chicory coffee. Make preparation easier by putting together the yeast dough the evening before, then let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, you’ll have nothing to do except roll out and cut the dough, then give the squares a quick fry and a generous dusting of powdered sugar. You will also need a candy or deep fry thermometer to make sure the oil is hot enough to create the perfect puff. And if you don’t feel like making beignets yourself, you can always buy mix from the Cafe Du Monde.

Get the recipe here.

5

Red Beans and Rice

New Orleans style red beans and rice.
Credit: sandoclr/ iStock

Mondays were washing day in traditional Cajun households, so a slow-simmering pot of red beans was just the thing for a hands-off dinner that didn’t require a lot of attention while scrubbing clothes all day. And although there’s no shame in resorting to the occasional box of Zatarain’s, home-cooked red beans and rice are worth the extra effort, especially for Mardi Gras. The red beans (we recommend Camellia brand) need to be soaked four hours or overnight but can be quickly cooked unsoaked in an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker. Andouille sausage is a traditional ingredient, but you can also skip it for a filling vegetarian feast. Collard greens and cornbread are great accompaniments to round out this tasty dish.

Get the recipe here.

4

King Cake

king cake with crown surrounded by Mardi Gras beads.
Credit: Lynne Mitchell/ iStock

This sweet treat is a must for Mardi Gras, and people in New Orleans start tucking in from Epiphany (January 6) all the way through Fat Tuesday. From grocery stores to gourmet bakeries, everyone has their favorite version. The king cake is inspired by the traditional French galette du roi, made of puff pastry and almond cream, but Louisianans tend to prefer a yeasted coffee-cake style, decorated in sugars colored purple, gold, and green. A surprise treat (sometimes a plastic baby, sometimes a bean or pecan) is tucked inside, and the person receiving that slice is declared king for the day — and expected to host the next party with King Cake. The recipe below won’t steer you wrong (forget about the cherries, though), or you can always order one from Gambino’s.

Get the recipe here.

3

Gumbo

Mardi Gras dinner of gumbo with shrimp.
Credit: Derek Hatfield/ Shutterstock

Ask anyone in Louisiana what the best gumbo is, and you’ll probably hear: “My grandmother’s.” But if you don’t have a Louisianan grandmother, you can still whip up a delicious version with the recipes below from two famed New Orleans restaurants, Mr. B’s and The Gumbo Shop. While the proteins used in gumbo run the gamut (hunting families’ pots may feature duck, while coastal dwellers pack theirs with shrimp), it always starts with a roux and the “holy trinity” of onion, celery, and bell pepper. The stew is usually thickened with okra or filé (powdered sassafras) — or both. Ladled over a scoop of white rice, gumbo is love in a bowl.

Get the recipes here.

2

Seafood Boil

A traditional Southern seafood boil.
Credit: bhofack2/ iStock

A Mardi Gras seafood boil is a thing of beauty, and perfect for feeding a crowd. This isn’t the year to haul out the world’s biggest stainless steel pot, but you can still enjoy a boil on a household-sized scale. One of the best things about seafood boils is that they’re flexible and easily customized. Our favorite recipe involves shrimp, sliced andouille sausage, potatoes, corn and — this is key — artichokes. To serve your boil, cover a table with a thick layer of newspaper, drain, dump, and dig in. It’s best with melted butter, plenty of paper towels, and lots of Abita beer.

Get the recipe here.

1

Hurricane

Fun and tropical mardi gras hurricane cocktails.
Credit: Sean Locke Photography/ Shutterstock

Synonymous with New Orleans, this rum-heavy fruit punch packs a wallop stronger than a lot of storms, so enjoy with caution. Created at legendary French Quarter watering hole Pat O’Brien’s, the traditional Hurricane is a concoction of light and dark rum, passionfruit syrup, orange and lime juices, simple syrup, and grenadine. Passionfruit syrup can be hard to come by, so you can also pick up Pat O’Brien’s mix at liquor stores or online. For a more sophisticated sip, go old school and mix up a Sazerac, which was invented right on Royal Street and may actually have been the world’s first cocktail.

Get the recipe here.

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