They’re the Same, Right?
Cajun and Creole sound similar, and they both come from Louisiana and are both well known variations of southern cooking.
It is no surprise that many people confuse the two, but for those who are aware of the vast differences, the claims that Cajun and Creole are the same is like equating expensive wine with mass market beer.
Once you learn what makes each of these cooking styles unique, you will be better able to appreciate them.
In order to understand the difference in these two cooking styles, you have to know the history behind Cajuns and Creoles. Cajun people are those who descended from Acadian settlers. The French had established a colony in Eastern Canada known as Acadia.
Today this area encompasses Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, but the people from that colony were eventually driven out when Acadia was ceded to the English.
The French Acadian people fled to the swampland of Louisiana and established their own colonies in the countryside there. These were often farming communities and the cuisine which arose from them has a hearty, comforting feel to it. Cajun food often takes advantage of local products such as crawfish (also known as crawdads and crayfish) and game.
Creoles were those who descended from the settlers of Louisiana directly from Europe, mainly Spain or France. Most Creoles remained in the larger cities and established their own genteel neighborhoods preserving their European heritage.
As such, they more closely maintained their ties to their European roots. Creole cuisine has a heavy European influence, especially from the rich dishes of French cooking.
When you think about Creole cooking think about New Orleans cuisine, and you will have a good picture of it. Examples of Creole dishes include those heavy in tomatoes and often seafood which are not as prevalent in Cajun dishes.
Here is the confusing part, Jambalaya and Gumbo can be found both in Cajun homes and Creole restaurants. These two dishes could easily be considered the quintessential “clean out the cupboards” dishes. Jambalaya combines rice, various meats and spices in a Louisiana version of the Spanish dish Paella.
Gumbo is a stew which has been thickened with okra (which means gumbo) and in Cajun kitchens, file. Some Creole cooks will add tomatoes to their gumbo. Like the thousands of versions of chili in homes across the nation, gumbo is a dish of ones personal tastes.
If you are looking for a genuine Cajun experience, you might want to consider a crawfish boil. Make sure to have large pots of water, pounds of crawfish (they are at their most abundant in April and May), corn on the cob, boiler potatoes, crawfish boil seasoning mix, newspapers, lots of beer, and music (preferably from a live band).
In order to have a successful crawfish boil, you will need a lot of friends around. These are community events and there is often more socializing than crawfish consuming happening.
There is a trick to eating these tiny “mud bugs”. You have to pull the tail away from the head, and pop the meat from the tail out. Some people will suck the juices out of the head as well. If this does not sound like your cup of tea, you might want to try the Creole recipe below:
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!