Cajun vs. Creole Cooking

Cajun vs. Creole Cookingbhofack2 /123RF

Cajun cooking and Creole cooking have many similarities. Still, they are different, and those who live in South Louisiana below Interstate 10 know the history and styles that accommodate the perfection.

Both Cajuns and Creoles collide with one another regarding the explosive flavor of their dishes and culture. 

There is no way to choose which one is better in Cajun cooking versus Creole cooking. We can only tell you the differences because each one is unique and both are well known. Perhaps the most notable difference is that Creole food has more of a tomato-based cuisine than Cajun food, which does not rely on tomatoes.

We are eager to discuss the similarities, differences, and history of each culture that makes the Cajuns and Creoles unique. Each stands alone and can hold a spot on America’s favorite dishes. Many outsiders try to mimic the cuisines, but it is something about the bloodline of each culture that makes it special. 

A Brief History of the Cajun and Creole Culture

The French-speaking Acadians came from Nova Scotia and were exiled by the British in the 1700s. Their culture and food followed them from Nova Scotia to Canada to South Louisiana, settling between 1765 and 1785. Others settled in the West Indies and France, but the majority settled in Southwest Louisiana.

To understand the Cajun and Creole Cuisine we know today, we must understand the history because each dish tells the story passed down from generation to generation.

According to the British, the Acadians were labeled rebellious, and the British wanted the land with no trouble. In 1755, the British locked almost all the men inside the local Catholic Church and burned it down while sending the women, children, and some men on ships to be exiled.

As the new generations began in the late 1700s to early 1800s, the Cajuns settled throughout South Louisiana. Those who remained in the Southwestern part remained Cajuns.

At the same time, those who mingled with the African Americans, American Indians, Spanish, Germans, and Italians became known as Creoles (or mixed cultures) and settled on the Southeastern side of Louisiana by New Orleans.

The Similarities Between Cajun and Creole Food 

Much of the food is the same, like crawfish, rice and gravy, Jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans and rice. Both are seasoned well but must not be confused with spicy hot. Yes, a few dishes are extra spicy, but the misconception comes with the word “spices.”

Both Cajun and Creole dishes use what is called “the holy trinity” of cooking, and it is nothing religious, as some may think. It is a seasoning blend of bell peppers, celery, and onions, and some may substitute the celery with garlic or add it to the mix. The extra spices come from seasonings that are either homemade secrets or store-bought brand names.

One thing is for sure that labels Cajun and Creole in their likeness. Both cultures have hundreds of years passed down from family secrets that have been added to over the years. Both are proud of their cooking and are eager to share their culture and food with other people.  

The Differences Between Cajun and Creole Food 

The most significant difference between Cajun cuisine and Creole cuisine is tomatoes, and perhaps the biggest argument is found when it comes to cooking gumbo. Gumbo’s base is a mixture of roux, which is flour and oil cooked and stirred over until it darkens. The key is not to burn it and continuously stir the mixture.

The best way to describe gumbo is a unique Cajun or Creole soup with seafood or chicken and sausage as the meats. Creoles throw tomatoes in the gumbo, and Cajuns almost find it a mortal sin and frown upon the mixture. Gumbo is just an example, but many Creole dishes have tomatoes in their sauces and meals, whereas Cajuns hardly use tomatoes in their cuisine. 

Another noticeable difference is subtle, but it is there. Creole cooking is also known as “soul food,” which derives mainly from African Americans because the food will touch your soul. Most dishes will have a darker and richer flavor, but not by much. 

All About Some Popular Cajun and Creole Dishes

As we discussed gumbo in the previous section, others are worth mentioning. Both cultures cook them, but we will describe what some of them are. They are as follows:

  • Jambalaya;
  • Red Beans and Rice;
  • Rice and Gravy;
  • Crawfish.

Jambalaya

Jambalaya is best described as a “throw everything in the pot” kind of dish. The common meats found in each Jambalaya dish are seafood, sausage, pork, and or chicken. All meats are browned as it makes a special sauce.

The “holy trinity” is added with the rice as it slow-cooks to perfection. The rice soaks up the juices from the meat and seasonings as it gets its color and flavor. It is mainly served with black-eyed beans and yams (sweet potatoes).

Red Beans and Rice:

Red beans and rice originated with the Creoles, but Cajuns cook it too. The beans are cooked as it makes a special sauce when some beans are mashed. It also has “the holy trinity” and is cooked with seasonings and sometimes with liquid smoke.

Many people add smoked sausage, tasso, or ham to the red beans. The rice is cooked separately, and the red beans and meat is poured over the rice. It is usually served with cornbread and coleslaw. 

Rice and Gravy:

This is a Cajun specialty in South Louisiana. The meats are endless as to what makes the best gravy, and it can be cooked with chicken and smoked sausage, fresh sausage, beef, pork, or chicken. All meats are browned and almost fried in the pot, with water added slightly over the top to make the gravy.

Rice is cooked separately as the meat and gravy are poured over the rice. The “holy trinity” is used with a fair amount of seasoning. Side dishes that go with rice and gravy are usually corn and a choice of beans.

Crawfish:

Crawfish is probably the number one thing Cajuns and Creoles go crazy over, and it is versatile for many dishes. There is crawfish etouffee, crawfish fettuccine, boiled crawfish, crawfish pies, and many more. Most people out of Louisiana call them mudbugs, but they are purged and cleaned to perfection.  

No one can laugh once they have tasted this delicacy. The flavor is no different from seafood, and it has a kick like no other that tourists flock to try. Once they try it, they are hooked for life. 

Festivals and Celebration of Cajun and Creole Cuisine  

The hospitality of Cajuns and Creoles is like no other in the world. Their dishes are cooked with a tremendous amount of love for people, whether family or tourists. Hence, comes the celebrations throughout the year when festivals take place for each dish.  

All meat is celebrated before what Catholics call Lent, and it is a day before known as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). During Lent, traditional Catholics in Louisiana give up meat on Wednesdays and Fridays and replace it with seafood. Perhaps all food is celebrated as the world finds out what Mardi Gras and Lent is at one time.

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