The Best Mardi Gras Eats from Julian Brunt

Most folks celebrate Mardi Gras with a parade, good friends and food. If you are wondering what you should prepare for your Mardi Gras party, there is no need to look any further afield that the traditional Creole recipes that have been served for generations. These recipes are tried and true, and simple to make.

These recipes may seem a bit retro, but there is a reason they have become traditional. They are delicious and hearty, just right for a parade that might be chilly and rainy. Red beans and rice can be made for a small army and at a small expense, same with étouffée, but if you just must get fancy, give homemade crab cakes a try. Crab meat is expensive this year, but few things are better.

Red Beans and Rice or Cornbread

You can used canned beans for this recipe, if you must. It will save you quite a bit of time, but canned vegetables tend to be slightly overcooked. If you use canned beans, add them 10 minutes before the recipe is done. If you go for cornbread, instead of rice, use a store-bought mix (unless you have a made from scratch recipe), just remember to sear the batter in extremely hot oil (bacon grease) before baking.

  • 1 cup chopped smoked Conecuh sausage
  • 2 rough chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 rough chopped bell peppers
  • 3-5 cloves chopped garlic
  • Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • 1-pound dried red beans or 3-4 cans dried beans
  • 10 cups chicken stock, or water (for dried beans, half for canned beans)
  • 4 cups cooked white rice

Sauté the sausage until brown in a little oil. Remove and set aside. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the same pan, season to your taste and cook for 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the dried beans and stock and simmer, lid on, until tender. If you are using canned beans, add the stock, and 1 can of the beans, and simmer for 30 min. Add the rest of the beans and proceed with the recipe. About 15 minutes before the beans are done, add the sausage, simmer 5 minutes longer and serve.


Some people make the roux first, then cook the vegetables in the roux. I like to cook the vegetables for a long time, which would burn the roux, so I make it separately. If you are quick on your feet, make the roux and sauté the vegetables at the same time, just don’t forget to stir the roux!

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 diced green bell pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup rice, 2 cups chicken stock

Season the shrimp and sauté in hot oil for 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. Sauté the onion and bell pepper in oil (same pan), seasoning as you go, for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and re-season as necessary. Combine rice and liquid and steam, lid on for 20 minutes. Make the roux by combining butter and flour and cooking over a low-medium heat, stirring frequently. As the roux browns and is almost done, reduce the heat so that it does not burn. Combine dark brown roux and red sauce, simmer for 15 minutes more. Taste and re-season again. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes. Plate the étouffée and top with rice and green onions.

Crab Cakes

There is some debate over what kind of crab meat to use for making crab cakes: lump, claw or jumbo lump. In the end, I think it is personal preference, and, how deep your pockets are. Jumbo lump is expensive this year.

  • 1-pound crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • 1/3 cup mayo (homemade preferred)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg,
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges
  • Butter for frying

Combine the crabmeat, mayo, bread crumbs and the egg, season to your liking, then form into equal size cakes. Melt a generous amount of butter in a large sauté pan, and brown the crab cakes. Remember, the crab is already cooked, so all you are doing is browning, and setting the egg. Serve at once, with a wedge of lemon.

Jazz this recipe up by combining avocado, lemon juice and mayo to make a delightful sauce for the crab cakes. A pinch of cayenne pepper might help!


Written by Julian Brunt

Julian Brunt is a food and travel writer that has been writing about the food culture of the Deep South for over a decade. He is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, grew up in Europe, traveled extensively for the first fifteen years after graduating from the University of Maryland, University College, Heidelberg, Germany. Today, he's a contributor for multiple publications, including Our Mississippi Home. He's also appeared on Gordon Ramsay's television show, "To Hell and Back in 24 Hours."


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