Louisiana’s cuisine is unique and delicious, that much is true. But with the Bayou State’s melting pot of cultures, it’s easy to get confused about the various terms associated with its cuisine. We’re here with a cheat sheet on breaking down the sometimes complex terminology.
The term “Creole” means different things to different people. In the early days, when Louisiana was a territory in transition between French, Spanish, and American rule, it simply meant that a person was born in the colony.
Today, there are still multiple definitions of “Creole” and one of the more general meanings is a person or people of mixed colonial French, African American, and Native American ancestry. The term “Creoles of Color” refers to the descendants of enslaved and free people of color in Haiti.
The term “Cajun” is derived from “Acadian.” After being exiled from their native France, the Cajuns landed in Nova Scotia, a province of Canada. Eventually, they were expelled from Nova Scotia and landed in south Louisiana. People from many backgrounds married into the culture, including Germans, Italians, Free People of Color, Cubans, Native Americans, and Anglo-Americans.
French or patois, a rural dialect, was always spoken. Due to the isolation of the group in the southern locations of Louisiana, they have retained a strong culture to this day.
When it comes to food, there is certainly overlap between Cajun and Creole cuisine. But there are also key differences. A simple distinction is that Cajun can often be considered “country” food, whereas Creole can be described as “city food” with influences from Spain, Africa, Germany, Italy and the West Indies combined with native ingredients.
Cajun cooking often consists of home-style dishes that are rich with ingredients at hand in the new world that Acadians settled into. Cajuns often use cast iron to make rich, hearty, one-pot meals like Jambalaya, Gumbo, and Étouffées.
On the contrary, Creole cooking, while also consisting of many one-pot dishes, can be a bit more sophisticated. Some popular Creole dishes include Turtle Soup, Trout a la Meunière, and Stuffed Mirlitons.
Another distinction? Tomatoes! Tomatoes are used in both cuisine styles, but Creole dishes tend to feature this ingredient with more frequency. Both styles are heavy on rice, seafood, and game traditionally found in Louisiana.
Both culinary styles rely heavily on cast iron Dutch ovens and skillets to achieve the signature flavors we know and love. Head to Houma, Louisiana, for a weekend spent sampling both Cajun and Creole cuisines at some of their many restaurants, cafes, and seafood stands! Plan your trip now at Houma Travel.