Classic Cajun Food and 4 Cajun Recipes
There are not many exact recipes in Cajun cooking, because most of it is done to taste not to measurements, and the same dish can be prepared a different way each time, even by the same chef. This is because Cajun cuisine is an art form and the result of the dish depends on the mood of the chef as well as what happens to be in the refrigerator and cupboards. This means creating classic Cajun food is largely about getting a ‘feel’ for the ingredients and flavors.
Although there are plenty of adaptations and tweaks you can make when making classic Cajun food, if you do want to follow a recipe it can be hard to find the right ingredients outside the New Orleans area. The fresh spices and seasonings can be hard to get, along with ingredients like Andouille sausage and fresh crawfish.
If you want to learn how to make classic Cajun food though, it is essential to get the ingredients so check grocery stores with Cajun seasonings or visit a specialty food market. A lot of Cajun recipes need time to simmer so set the scene with some jazz music and prepare for a wonderful eating experience like no other.
Louisiana Classic Cajun Food and Cooking
This cuisine began with some French residents in Nova Scotia expelled by the Brits in 1755. They were nomads for years then settled in the swamplands of Southern Louisiana, adapting their native cooking methods to whatever ingredients they could find in their new home.
Classic Cajun food is the food of hardworking country dwellers who are not unfamiliar with tough conditions. This practical, strong food is the hallmark of these Arcadians, the name given to the settlers. The word Arcadian was later shortened to Cajun.
A lot of classic Cajun food can be prepared in one pot. There are a lot of recipes that are hard to find in print because they have been passed down verbally from generation to generation, changing slightly with each one adding their own touches. The independent nature of the Cajun people is reflected in this cuisine and there are many recipes for common dishes, since every chef adds their own special flair.
Famous Cajun Recipes
Jambalayas and other rice dishes, etouffees, gumbos, and Cajun stews are famed now only in the United States but all over the globe, and a lot of these dishes begin with a roux to flavor and thicken them.
There are 3 kinds of roux in classic Cajun food – light, medium and dark, and the color deepens as the mixture is cooked. Light and medium roux are used mainly for thickening sauces, gumbos and etouffees, while the darker one is used for flavor.
Seafood is popular in classic Cajun food because it is native and available in the swamplands of Southern Louisiana, so plenty of recipes will include ingredients like shrimp, red fish, crawfish, crab, speckled trout, and oysters.
Other staple ingredients include rice, pork, beans, homemade sausages, black-eyed peas, beans, yams, tomatoes, figs, pecans, oranges, and okra. Game features in some Cajun dishes, such as turtles, frog, wild turkey, and duck.
Cajun Spices and Seasonings
What about Cajun spices? Actually not a lot are used in Cajun cooking and the bold, rich flavors come more from the long simmering times that the addition of spices. Cayenne pepper features in a lot of the recipes though, and this fiery spice is made from cayenne chili peppers.
Black and white pepper is also used in this cuisine, as is file powder or gumbo powder. This is made of dried, ground sassafras leaves. Another seasoning is Creole mustard which is spicy and coarse. Hot pepper sauces like Tabasco are typically found on the Cajun table.
This cuisine is unique to Southern Louisiana and classic Cajun food still retains the French influences from the original migrant settlers while making good use of its own local ingredients. This flexible, varied cuisine includes everything from comfort food to gourmet, exotic dishes, and there is something to tempt every palate.
- 1½ lb (680g) peeled, deveined large shrimp
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Mix the thyme, oregano, garlic, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag, shaking to mix.
- Add the shrimp and shake to coat.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over a moderate-high heat.
- Add the shrimp and cook for 4 minutes or until cooked through.
- When they are bright pink and the meat is no longer glossy or transparent in the middle, they are done.
Photo by Jodie Bowie, on Flickr
- 10 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to ½-inch thick
- 2 cups (500ml) vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian-style seasoning
- 2 tablespoons lemon pepper
- Garlic powder, to taste
- Mix the oil with the Cajun seasoning, Italian seasoning, lemon pepper and garlic in a dish.
- Add the chicken and turn to coat.
- Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the grill until hot and lightly oil the grate.
- Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade.
- Cook the chicken for about 7 minutes per side on the grill or until the juices run clear.
Photo by JeffreyW, on Flickr
- 28 oz (800g) can undrained diced tomatoes
- 2 cups (300g) chopped cooked smoked sausage
- 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 chopped large onion
- 1 chopped green bell pepper
- 2 chopped celery stalks
- 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups (320g) hot cooked rice
- ¾ lb (340g) raw peeled deveined medium shrimp
- Put all the ingredients except the rice and shrimp in a 3½ to 6 quart crockpot.
- Mix well then cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
- Stir in the shrimp, then cover and cook on low for 1 hour or until they are pink and firm.
- Serve over the rice, adding some warm crusty French bread too, if liked.
Andouille sausage is the type usually used in this dish because of its smoky, spicy aroma, but you can use leftover ham instead.
For attractive rice presentation, grease the inside of a ½-cup measuring cup with cooking spray. Press hot rice in there then unmold on to a warmed plate, spooning the jambalaya around the rice.
Photo by Ian McKellar, on Flickr
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, in thin strips
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 thinly sliced green onion
- 1 or 2 cups (250 to 500g) heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- 4 oz (115g) cooked linguine
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, to garnish
- Put the chicken and Cajun seasoning in a bowl, tossing to coat.
- Sauté the chicken in butter for 6 minutes in a skillet or until tender.
- Turn down the heat and add the cream, onion, tomatoes, salt, basil, pepper, and garlic.
- Briefly warm this mixture through, then spoon over the hot pasta.
- Add the parmesan on top and serve right away.
Photo by Angels, on Flickr