What is Cajun?

  • 300 years of history.
  • French settlers to Canada, Acadians – who fled when the British took control of that country traveling to nearly the Gulf Coast.
  • Indian slang for acadian, in the same sense of Injun for Indian.
  • A term used to describe these early settlers, their way of life, customs, cookery, music and dance.
  • Cajun cookery, most often compared to French country-style cuisine, evolved as a melting pot cookery. The love of food was a French way of life. Spices, beans, and a penchant for the robust were Spanish influences. West Indians for the Caribbean brought hot peppers. Africans contributed okra from the mother land, and the Choctaw Indians contributed file, ground sassafras used as a thickening agent.
  • Cajuns were a rugged people, often swamp fisherman and trappers, who lived off the land and bayous (waterways) of the countryside. They most often cooked their catch over an open fire in one pot – a big black cast-iron vessel in which they simmered together the flavors of their meats, seafood’s, vegetables and seasonings. Because they did not have refrigeration, they used aromatic quantities of spices and herbs to preserve their food. Most of their cookery contained rice staple which grows plentiful in the Mississippi River delta area. This earthly, robust and hearty style has grown phenomenally in popularity.
  • Cajun does not mean spicy, it means flavorful. Each Cajun seasons his dishes to suit his own taste, the same way most people deal with salt. Peppers in combination with spices, herbs, fresh vegetables and the highest quality of ingredients assures a flavorful meal every time.
  • By contrast, the Creoles were the city aristocrats of the New Orleans area who sought to recapture the gastronomy of Paris. Their cuisine was primarily a mixture of French, Spanish and black cultures. Parisian recipes were transformed with spices and tomatoes by the Spanish – and again transformed by the Blacks who most often prepared them. They sautéed meat and seafood and served it with sauces, local vegetables and starches were served separately – in Parisian style.

Where is Cajun Country?

  • South central Louisiana, USA
  • Near the Gulf of Mexico, in the Mississippi River delta area
  • About a one hour drive southwest (west of New Orleans)
  • Does not include New Orleans, home of the Creoles

Learn the Cajun Lingo

Andouille (ahn-doo-ee)

Cajun smoked pure-pork spicy sausage.


A cooking technique originated for fish but also works ideally for steaks and poultry as well.  Best done outdoors or in a kitchen with good ventilation.  Blackening is a process.  However, blackening seasoning can be used as a topical seasoning as well.

Etouffee (a-too-fay)

Literally “smothered” or slow cooked.

Gumbo (gum-bo)

A Cajun soup traditional in Louisiana.  Gumbo may be thickened with a roux base, okra base or with file.

Jambalaya (jum-buh-lye-uh)

A rice dish highly seasoned and strongly flavored with any combination of beef, port, fowl, smoked sausage, ham or seafood.  According to the Acadian Dictionary, the word jambalaya comes from the French “jambon” meaning ham, the African “ya” meaning rice, and the Acadian language where everything is “a la.”

Roux (roo)

A mixture of cooked flour and oil.  A roux is what creates the distinctive taste and texture that is characteristic of Cajun food.  It is cooked over a low heat for hours to achieve a smoky, subtle nuttiness.

Autin (o-tan)

Three generations of well seasoned Cajun cooks.

Crawfish (crawdaddy, mudbug)

A delicate seafood.

Fais Do Do (fay-doh-doh)

Literally “go to sleep,” all night party.

Gumbo File (fee-lay)

Ground sassafras used as a thickener and flavor enhancer.

Lagniappe (lan-nyap)

A little something extra – usually a gift.

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