New Orleans Food You Have to Eat

New Orleans is an iconic American city, with a culinary scene to rival any competitor. Founded in 1718 by French colonists, New Orleans was previously the capital of French Louisiana before the United States acquired it through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. New Orleans is famous for its Creole cuisine, unique dialect, distinct music and annual festivals like Mardi Gras.

New Orleans is nicknamed the Big Easy. It is built along the vast Mississippi River, which is the largest river in the country. A favorite pastime in New Orleans is indulging in the city’s wonderful culinary scene. Here are some New Orleans foods you have to eat, with recommendations on where you should try them.

Alex and Bell standing in front of St Louis cathedral


Beignets are a type of donut made with deep-fried choux pastry. They are covered in powdered sugar and served fresh. Beignets are an iconic New Orleans dessert that you have to enjoy during a visit.

Where to Eat Beignets in New Orleans?

Alex and Bell sitting under the Cafe Du Monde awning

Cafe Du Monde is a New Orleans institution. It is the most famous place to eat beignets and while that doesn’t often equate to the best, Cafe Du Monde is reliably delicious and inexpensive. If you visit during a busy time, just hover around as tables open up quickly. Their chicory coffee hits the spot alongside delicious powdered sugar topped fried dough.

Try and grab a table nearest to Decatur Street as it offers a great view of Jackson Square. Pro tip: after taking your photos, put your camera away. Otherwise, it can get covered with powdered sugar!

Crawfish Étouffée: New Orleans Food

Étouffée means “smothered” in French. It typically refers to a stew where the main ingredient (usually seafood) is simmered in a rich sauce. Crawfish Étouffée is made with crawfish tails, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, garlic, seafood stock, thyme and hot sauce over rice. It is a classic New Orleans dish, and one of our personal favorites.

Plate with Crawfish Étouffée and rice

Where in New Orleans Should You Try Crawfish Étouffée?

There are many great places to enjoy delicious Crawfish Étouffée all over New Orleans. Mambo’s is a great choice for travelers because it is centrally located right on Bourbon Street. You can enjoy anything mentioned on this list over a quintessential Nola vibe. Mambo’s also has an excellent dessert menu with offerings like Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie, Praline Brownie and New Orleans Bread Pudding.


Muffaletta’s are one of the most iconic New Orleans sandwiches. Of course New Orleans has more than one amazing sandwich to consider! The origins of this sandwich lie with Italian immigrants who first opened deli and grocery stores along the French Market’s riverfront. Muffaletta’s are stacked with mortadella, soppressata, salami, coppa, cheese and olive salad between round Sicilian sesame seed bread. This multi-layer sandwich of delicious meats and olives is a party of flavor in your mouth.

Where to Eat a Muffuletta in New Orleans?

Cochon Butcher is currently regarded as the best deli in New Orleans. It’s also a reliably excellent place to enjoy delicious muffulettas and other sandwiches. It gets busy and sometimes they run out of the muffuletta ingredients after the lunch rush so go early!

Muffaletta on a plate, with bottles of hot sauce and cafe in the background

Head to Central Grocery & Deli If you want to try the muffuletta where it originated. The grocery store was founded in 1906 by Sicilian immigrant, Salvatore Lupo. He is credited with creating the muffuletta. Located on Decatur Street in the middle of New Orleans’ French Quarter, it’s a third generation family-run operation that has not changed too much over more than a century.

Po’ Boy Sandwich: New Orleans Food

The other sandwich you must try is a Po’ boy, a traditional Louisiana sandwich. Po’ boys are made with New Orleans style French bread. The bread typically has a crisp crust and fluffy center. The most popular po’ boys are roast beef or fried seafood, often shrimp, crawfish, fish filet, oysters or crab. Po’ boy varieties come with many other fillings, from commonplace ham to even alligator! Here are some great places to enjoy a po’ boy.

Where in New Orleans Should You Eat a Po’ Boy?

Napoleon House is a fantastic venue to enjoy a delicious po’ boy in a historic setting in business since 1914. The building is a 200 year old landmark that exemplifies its French Quarter surroundings. Nicholas Girod, mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815 was the building’s first occupant. He offered his residence to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1821 as a refuge during his exile. Napoleon did not make it, but the name stuck.

Try their grilled alligator sausage po’ boy served with Tabasco Pepper Jelly & Creole Mustard. It is a delicious and unique sandwich. To drink, go for a Pimm’s Cup Original, made with British Gin, lemonade, a splash of lemon-lime soda and garnished with cucumber. Napoleon House is a good place to try many of the dishes that New Orleans is famous for.

Chargrilled and/or Fried Oysters

Oysters are a ubiquitous delight around the Big Easy. Fried oyster po’ boys are popular in restaurants and sandwich shops. Or ditch the breading and have chargrilled oysters topped with a special blend of cheese and herb butter sauce. Frankly, after trying these, I’m not sure how one can easily go back to eating raw oysters. Both are excellent options and there are many great places to enjoy them.

Where Should You Eat Chargrilled Oysters in New Orleans?

Chef flame grilling oysters at Acme oyster house

Conveniently located in the heart of the French Quarter, Acme Oyster House is a fantastic place to devour chargrilled oysters. Often there’s a line out the door, but it usually moves quickly and it is worth the wait. Grab a seat at the bar for a close up view of fresh oysters being continually shucked. Don’t miss watching the oysters flaming over fire in the back of the house.

Recap of New Orleans Food

New Orleans rocks at great food, excellent music and fun times. Be sure to have a meal on Frenchman Street. There are several excellent restaurants to dine over great live music. Marigny Brasserie is an excellent Frenchman Street option.

Bell at a table with drinks and mussels with art and musicians behind her

A popular pastime in New Orleans is discussing dinner over lunch. New Orleans takes food seriously and deliciousness is in abundance. Other ubiquitous Creole favorites include jambalaya and gumbo.

If you want to save money on your travels, read our article on Travel Hacks to Save Big Money.

Where to Stay in New Orleans?

Green street car in the streets on New Orleans with tall buildings

There are many excellent luxury and mid-range hotels in the French Quarter and downtown New Orleans. On our most recent trip we stayed at the 4 star Ace Hotel. The Ace Hotel is an excellent option for a comfortable stay that is outside the ordinary. Highlights of this property include excellent on-site dining, gourmet cafe, and multiple happening bars for libations. The rooftop pool offers views around New Orleans. Rooms include the biggest mini bar we’ve ever seen, as well as an additional full-sized refrigerator to store your own food and drinks!

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  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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2 thoughts on “New Orleans Food You Have to Eat

  1. It’s my home actually I miss home family entertainment fun relaxing spending time with friends french quarters bourbon street the best food seafood Gumbo Red Beans & rice.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Lamar! That’s cool that you’re originally from New Orleans. We can see why you would miss it. Great food, music, nightlife and locals are generally really friendly too. All the best to you!

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