In a state with deep historical roots and vibrant culture, it’s no surprise that Louisiana has grown legendary for its French-inspired cuisine and local favorites, capable of satiating anyone’s taste buds.
It’s the kind of place where people wonder what’s for dinner before they’ve made it through the first two meals of the day — and they have plenty of eateries to choose from.
Louisiana had 9,533 food and beverage eateries in 2018. In fact, the food service industry accounts for 11% of the state’s economy, expected to grow by 7% by 2029.
To say that Louisianans enjoy good food is an understatement. When foodies visit, they should do so with empty bellies and a fork in hand. Here are five reasons why Louisiana is a foodie haven.
Delicious French Fare
Many forget New France — the North American region spanning modern-day Hudson Bay in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico to the North Atlantic and Great Plains — once occupied by French colonists.
In 1682, Frenchmen claimed and named the Louisiana Territory in honor of King Louis XIV, recognizing the potential for shipping at the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans shortly after. What remains of that time is the stunning French Quarter and a city steeped in French culture, architecture and food.
This history is obviously a plus for those craving delicious French fare at their every beck and call. Louisiana delivers excellent French-inspired offerings, whether it’s a simple butter croissant and French roast to start your day or indulging in Parisien eggs and crepes.
Hub for Cajun and Creole
In addition to traditional French cuisine, cajun and creole foods are equally popular. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the cultures are distinctly different.
Cajuns were exiled Frenchmen from Canada who came to Louisiana in the 1700s. Many people recognize them by their accents and Zydeco music. Conversely, Creole refers to those with European, African, Hispanic and Caribbean heritage. Both ethnic groups have greatly influenced food in Louisiana.
Foodies can easily tell the two cuisines apart — cajun dishes are usually meat-heavy, one-pot jambalayas with a tomato base. Crawfish boils are also a classic dish.
Creole is considered more worldly and leans into sauces, herbs and ripe produce. Locally-caught seafood is typical of creole dishes.
3. Boasts Southern Favorites
According to a 2021 survey, about 31.2% of Louisiana residents classified themselves as Black or African American — meaning there are numerous traditional southern favorites to feast on.
Soul food is quite popular throughout the state, where foodies can order a friendly helping of fried chicken, okra, yams and biscuits and gravy. Taking inspiration from South Carolina and Georgia low country eats, seafood and shellfish are staples.
Louisiana’s southern food derived from the slave age, when enslaved people were forced to catch food their food and take pork scraps. They used the ingredients they had available and turned them into something irresistible.
4. Home of the Po-Boys
What’s a trip to Louisiana without a po-boy sandwich? The history of po-boys is as unique as the food itself — with numerous versions that provide an air of mystery in its origins.
However, most people say that brothers Clovis and Benjamin Martin, former streetcar conductors, came out with the sandwich in 1929 due to the streetcar driver strike. The brothers promised to feed the 1,100 union workers for free, giving them leftover roast beef scraps and gravy on French bread. The name came from the many hungry, poor workers who’d come in to order the sandwich.
In Louisiana — particularly New Orleans — the po-boy is iconic. Today, you can order several po-boys, from fried seafood to smoked sausage and ham. A unique variation is the French fry po-boy, which tops French bread with French fries, gravy and other condiments.
All po-boys are served with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise.
5. Hotspot for Fresh Seafood
Since Louisiana sits on the Gulf of Mexico, delicious seafood is served just about anywhere — the top ingredient that makes the state a foodie haven.
With a wide variety of local catch available, it’s an unwritten rule that visitors order the gumbo.
A Louisiana staple, gumbo is a hot, aromatic stew with a thick roux sauce served over rice. Several types of gumbo include various portions of meat, sausages and vegetables. However, seafood is one of the most popular kinds.
Seafood jambalaya is another family-style rice dish you can order with Louisiana’s fresh seafood and shellfish. Jambalaya is common in cajun cooking and is particularly popular in the Bayou.
Packing heat from a hint of cayenne pepper, paprika and andouille sausage, jambalaya might also use diced fish fillets, scallops, oysters, shrimp, crawfish and crab. Everywhere you go, you’ll likely find interesting variations of this dish.
Eat Well in Louisiana
Foodies looking to visit somewhere with plenty of food options will want to consider Louisiana. No matter where your travels take you throughout the state, you’ll never run out of delicious choices and local eats.