Mardi Gras Recipes for Your Next Celebration

Mardi Gras is on March 1, and as some New Orleanians are fond of saying, “Everywhere else, it’s just Tuesday.”

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Do you air drum in the driver’s seat? Do you wear sequins and glitter on weekdays? Have you been accused of being “extra” on more than one occasion? Carnival is probably for you.

As connoisseurs and know-it-alls will tell you, the first American Mardi Gras did not take place in New Orleans. (Mobile, Ala., claims that honor.) But it was New Orleans that spread its reputation and the holiday, of course, requires food that can move, as there are parades to see and royalty to greet as you make your way through the revelry.

Here are a dozen recipes (and a few more, for lagniappe) to celebrate Mardi Gras, whether you’ll be in the Crescent City or ending a long day of Zoom meetings.

Carnival is a marathon, not a sprint. Spiced and filling red beans and rice — the traditional Monday dish in New Orleans — fit the bill for a bit of pregaming on Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras. This recipe, from the journalist Pableaux Johnson, has been perfected over years of Monday gatherings at his grandmother’s kitchen table, with spicy andouille sausage and a smattering of herbs used to great effect. If you’d prefer something even more hands off (and vegan), turn to Sarah DiGregorio’s pressure cooker red beans and rice.

Recipes: Red Beans and Rice | Vegan Pressure Cooker Red Beans and Rice

The neutral ground, or median, on St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras morning smells like Popeyes. Fried chicken is portable and easy to eat with one hand while you raise another to reach for beads tossed from passing floats. Try Melissa Clark’s make-ahead fried chicken, double dredged in flour for a supremely crunchy crust. If you’d rather not fry on a weeknight, bake a batch of Lindy Boggs’s chicken. The congresswoman served this dish at an annual garden party in New Orleans for many years.

Recipes: Make-Ahead Fried Chicken | Lindy Boggs’s Oven-Baked Chicken

The beauty of a jambalaya is its ability to take on whatever you toss in as you clean out your refrigerator: sausage, ham, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, oysters, you name it. Bring a bit of sparkle to a Tuesday night with this weeknight jambalaya from Vallery Lomas, which you can easily make vegan.

Recipe: Quick Jambalaya

In New Orleans, there is a healthy appreciation for gumbos of all kinds: duck and andouille, green, vegetarian. This Creole gumbo from the chef Leah Chase, adapted by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, is brimful of seafood, beef, pork and chicken, which creates a “brackish and silky and delicious” broth unlike any other.

Recipe: Creole Gumbo

While Bourbon Street flows with hurricanes and hand grenades year round, cocktail lovers turn to some of the city’s older creations, like the Sazerac. Its blend of rye and bitters is balanced with lemon, sugar and absinthe or Herbsaint, depending on who mixes your drink. No one will bat an eye on Mardi Gras if you pour yours in a go cup.

Recipe: Sazerac

This Italian sandwich, full of cured meats and made famous by the Central Grocery, only gets better as it rests at room temperature. Maybe that is why it’s so beloved. Just be sure to double wrap the sandwich in paper if you are taking it to a gathering, as the oil from the tangy olive salad is going to leak through the sesame bread no matter what.

There is something about po’ boy bread in New Orleans: light and airy as a feather, but with a crust that shatters under the slightest pressure. Like magic, it works as an ideal delivery vehicle for fried shrimp, fried green tomatoes, fried oysters or roast beef, like in this version from Mahony’s on Magazine Street. It will easily feed a crowd, or keep a family of two in po’ boys for a week; serve it dressed — shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayo.

Recipe: Mahony’s Beef Po’ Boys

This recipe from Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans has been wowing Times readers since it was first published in 1957. It doesn’t hurt that there are pyrotechnic feats involved. The cook flambés the buttery bananas, drenching them in a bit of banana liqueur and rum before setting them aflame.

Recipe: Bananas Foster

Up there with Roman stick candy, candy apples are another treat to look forward to along the parade routes. Erin McDowell’s recipe skips the fire engine red dye of commercial apples, and delivers nostalgia and flavor with a satisfying cinnamon and vanilla candy coating.

Recipe: Candy Apples

King cake season can be short or long depending on when Mardi Gras falls on the calendar, but Fat Tuesday is the end of the season, which means you have less than a week to eat your fill. The chef Dominick Lee caramelizes apples for this cake, adapted by Kayla Stewart, which he covers with a cream-cheese frosting flavored with orange blossom water. (Substitute almond extract for the orange blossom for a less floral frosting.) Making a king cake is a fun family project, and you can find the plastic babies in the baby shower section of your local party supply store. Note: The trinket is hidden in the cake after it’s baked.

Recipes: Caramelized Apple King Cake

Drinking a strong, slushy, boozy drink on the neutral ground is a hallmark of Carnival revelry in New Orleans. This buzzy pick-me-up keeps the party moving, and it’s inspired by the one served year round at Molly’s at the Market in the French Quarter. If you’d rather just grab a high-octane coffee, you can’t go wrong with this recipe for cold brew. Use coffee with chicory for even more New Orleans flavor.

Recipes: Frozen Irish Coffee | New Orleans Cold Drip Coffee

Hot, golden and covered in confectioners’ sugar, beignets are the best way to start the day and to end an evening. Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter is known for piling drifts of sugar on top of its beignets, while its rival Morning Call leaves it to customers to decide how much sugar to add. This recipe from Kay Chun leaves it to the cook to decide how to dust it. This batch serves a crowd and is made in a Dutch oven, no deep fryer required.

Recipe: Beignets

Carnival is as much about the music as it is the pageantry. Here is a playlist to listen to as you cook up your own celebration.

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