Confused about what’s Cajun and what’s Creole?

Though you might hear the terms Cajun and Creole used interchangeably, they are in fact, two distinct ethnic groups, each with its own history, traditions, culture, and of course, food. The two cuisines do share some common ingredients but differences can be difficult to point to, so here’s a quick breakdown of the basics.

What’s the difference between Cajun and Creole?

To be clear, both cuisines come from Louisiana, but one easy clue is that, generally speaking, Creole dishes will use tomatoes and traditional Cajun dishes will not. Another basic way to tell the difference is how locals talk about it—Creole as “city food” and Cajun as “country food.” But let’s dig a bit deeper.

What is Cajun food?

Cajun food can be traced back to the Acadiana region of southern Louisiana where the French settled. Settlers here were further away from the city hub and therefore had fewer ingredients available to them. Cajun food is often referred to as “country food,” often distinguishable by its one-pot dishes using lots of shellfish, game, pork, and lots of seasoning. Country cooks learned to use every part of the animal in their cuisine. Other tell-tale signs of Cajun food are smoked meats and the Cajun “Holy Trinity” of roughly diced onion, green bell pepper, and celery, which is used in many traditional dishes including the region’s famous jambalaya.

Other traditional Cajun dishes include boiled crawfish, alligator meat, catfish, dirty rice, étouffée, fried fog legs, gumbo, pecan pralines, pepper jelly, crawfish bisque, andouille sausage.

What is Creole food?

Creole culture is older, by about a half century, dating back to when New Orleans was first settled. Creole food is what some refer to as “city food.” It’s largely a blend of Spanish, African, Italian, Portuguese, Caribbean, and Native American influences. Having began in the Big Easy, where people had a wider selection of ingredients including spices, butter, and tomatoes, dishes could be more complex. As a result of the butter and cream, the cuisine tends to be richer to include things like New Orlean’s famous beignets.

Other traditional Creole dishes include banana pudding, shrimp bisque, gumbo, smothered pork chops, Oysters Bienville, and shrimp remoulade.

Where can I eat Cajun and Creole food?

Cajun and Creole cuisines have influenced chefs all over the country, so it shouldn’t be surprising to find some decent dishes that have popped up outside the Pelican State. That said, there’s no better way to experience a cuisine than by immersing yourself in the culture from which it came. So head on down to Louisiana and New Orleans to experience this literal melting pot of flavors and traditions.

Also see, This is why we eat ham on Easter.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.