must eat foods in New Orleans
must eat foods in New Orleans

New Orleans is a foodies paradise. I had heard about the amazing food and I could not wait to try it for myself! There are many foods unique to New Orleans that you must try when visiting. I definitely recommend having a few days to get through this list. There are plenty of options to try something new at each meal! I put together this post with all the must eat foods in New Orleans.

  • Budget Tip– Eating in New Orleans can be very expensive. One tip I would recommend if you are traveling with someone is to split your plates. A lot of the portions were quite large and restaurants I went to had no problems with asking to split plates. 
  • Try a food tour! I decided to book a food tour for my husband and I as a way to try some different food as well as learn some of the history behind Creole and Cajun food (and what the difference is). I highly recommend a food tour! 
  • I recommend Free Tours By Foot  this is the tour that I took and had a great experience. The Free Tours cost nothing to sign up and at the end of your tour you pay the guide what you feel is a fair price. During the tour you buy your samples of food that you want to try. That way it is affordable for everyone! The guide was very knowledgable and even emailed us a list of recommended restaurants to try after our tour. (Also check our their other free tours!)

Ok, lets get to the good food now!

Beignets

You may already know about the infamous beignets of New Orleans… but if not they are puffy deep fried delicious square donuts smothered in powdered sugar and delightful to the taste buds! They are prepared fresh and best eaten paired with a cafe au lait (coffee w milk) and definitely one of the must eat food in New Orleans!

Best beignet spots:

  • Cafe Du Monde– the most famous beignets in New Orleans, visit the original stand at the French Market. The line will be long, but *pro tip* there’s a to go line on the backside of the building that moves faster. Or try visiting later in the day or on a week day!
  • Cafe Beignet– there are multiple locations in the French Quarter, but I recommend visiting the one on Royal St. The beignets are delicious, but I think the charm of the decor is what made this my favorite! They also serve other food options (like breakfast sandwiches) and are much less busy than Cafe Du Monde!
  • The Vintage– Located on Magazine St. in the Garden District, the charm of this cafe is undeniable. They also serve bites to eat, coffee and alcohol. 
must eat foods in New Orleans
Cafe Beinet on Royal Street
must eat foods in New Orleans
Cafe Du Monde

Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice in New Orleans is a tradition that goes so far back that no one’s really sure how exactly it began. But the legend goes that ham was usually eaten on Sundays, and the leftover ham bone was cooked with red beans and rice the next day. Therefore there is still a tradition to eat red beans and rice on Mondays. Though you can eat it any time of the week!

Gumbo/Jumbalaya/Etoufee

Gumbo is an amazing stew combining meat or seafood and veggies with a sauce or gravy and usually served with or over rice. Recipes will differ slightly depending if you eat the Creole or Cajun version. 

Jumbalaya differs from gumbo as jambalaya is a rice dish. It contains the same meat or seafood and veggies and cooked with the rice. 

Etoufee is similar to gumbo but made with a thicker roux to create more of a gravy texture. Also served along side rice. 

You can find these must eat foods in most New Orleans restaurants. One great way to try them is as a sampler where you can try a little of each. 

must eat foods in New Orleans
Acme Oyster House- sampler of gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice and grilled smoked sausage

Muffaletta

This Italian inspired sandwich is an iconic New Orleans dish created by Italian immigrants. It is a sandwich made on round sesame bread layered with olive salad, salami, ham, swiss cheese, provolone, and mortadella. It is a large sandwich so you can find it sold whole or halves and quarters. A half is plenty to split between 2 people. And you can have it served cold or toasted. 

Where to get one:

Central Grocery and Deli– where it originated! You’ll find them pre wrapped grab and go style.

Alberto’s in the French Market– option to have it warmed up!

Napoleon House– fancier sit down style restaurant. 

Oysters

New Orleans boasts the best and freshest oysters. There is no shortage of restaurants with oysters. 

Some recommendations:

Acme Oyster Bar– a famous Oyster Bar. During the weekend there was a line down the side walk for a table. We went on a Monday afternoon and were able to be seated right away!

MRB Bar and Kitchen– This was a place my husband and I happened upon near the French Market that we ran into when in stated raining on us. We grabbed a drink and decided to try their Oysters St. Philip- fresh Louisiana oysters with garlic butter, cracker crumbs, collard greens and parmesan cheese and chargrilled. They were so delicious!

must eat foods in New Orleans
Acme Oyster Bar- chargrilled oysters with crab

Pralines

Pronounced “praw-leens” not “pray-leens” if you say it wrong the locals might pretend to not know what you are talking about! These confectionary cookies made from butter, brown sugar, and pecans are a loved New Orleans treat. 

Some recommendations:

Leah’s Pralines– a family owned business that still makes pralines by hand the old fashioned way.

Aunt Sally’s– since 1935 Aunt Sally’s has been making authentic pralines with favorite flavors Creole triple chocolate, creamy bananas foster and creamy cafe au lait. 

Po-boys

This was one of my favorites from this list of must eat foods in New Orleans! Po’boys are a traditional sandwich from Louisiana made with a variety of fillings like sausage, ham, shrimp, catfish and other seafood. No matter the filling it must be made with the special Po’boy bread. Dressings usually include tomato, pickles, lettuce and mayo as well as a spicy sauce.

Some recommendations:

NOLA PoBoys– here I ordered a classic shrimp PoBoy and it was so delicious. I think the special poboy crackle bread is what really makes these sandwiches

Killer PoBoys– This place has a more new wave spin on the PoBoy crossing the traditional sandwich with a vietnamese Banh mi sandwich. I had the BBQ chicken confit and it was so so good!

must eat foods in New Orleans
NOLA Poboys- 8" fried shrimp poboy with red beans and rice and seafood gumbo
must eat foods in New Orleans
Killer PoBoys- seared gulf shrimp poboy and BBQ chicken confit poboy

Crawfish (when in season)

Seafood boils are a Louisiana tradition. If you are visiting New Orleans during the spring months you will be in perfect timing for crawfish season! Crawfish season generally runs from January to July. I visited New Orleans in December (2021) so we were just shy of crawfish season. I hear the best place to eat crawfish is a crawfish boil which is usually a private event. Otherwise stick to places that specialize in doing a crawfish boil. 

Here are some recommended spots:

Franky and Johnny’s

Cooter Brownslocated uptown in the Garden District. Enjoy seasonal crawfish, beer as well as elevated bar food. 

Alligator/Frog Legs (if you're adventurous)

This one isn’t exactly one of the must eat food in New Orlean unless you are adventurous (like my husband) and like to try exotic foods then New Orleans is the perfect place to try alligator and frog legs. You can often find alligator and frog legs at many restaurants. Both alligator and frog legs are said to be comparable to a chicken flavor. I tried half of an alligator bite at the French Market (because I’m only a little adventurous with food) and it did taste like chicken but a little chewier. Which I didn’t personally care for. 

Here’s some recommended places to try alligator and frog legs:

Cochon– a higher end cajun restaurant for meat lovers. Located in the Warehouse District. 

Dat Dog– offers hot dogs made of alligator sausage

The Original French Market Restaurant and Bar

Vendors in the French Market

must eat foods in New Orleans
Deep fried alligator bites from a vendor in the French Market

I hope this post about the must eat foods in New Orleans was helpful in planning what you are going to eat on your trip! The food truly blew me away with how delicious it was and I can’t wait to eat in New Orleans again in the future!

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must eat foods in New Orleans
must eat foods in New Orleans
must eat foods in New Orleans
must eat foods in New Orleans