Food & DrinkNew OrleansTravel

12 Essential Foods to Eat in New Orleans

Taking a look back, New Orleans made it onto our list of Top 5 Alternative LGBTQ-friendly Cities to Visit. Because New Orleans has always been a city that championed the arts and celebrated culture, this has always fostered a lively gay social scene and drew many LGBTQ artists and performers to the city.

But not only is the city known as a destination and home to many queer artists and culture enthusiasts, but it’s a very good place for foodies as well! New Orleans is definitely a place where we Bears can eat, dance and be merry! Did we mention EAT?

If you plan to visit New Orleans, then you definitely need a little NOLA food guide. Here is a list of all the essential foods you should try when visiting the city.


You can’t go to New Orleans and not have gumbo! Originating from the African word for Okra, gumbo saw its origins as a boiled or stewed okra dish with rice. Today gumbo is made with a Roux — a flour and fat used in many French dishes. Gumbo is loaded with chicken, sausage, seafood, and seasoned with salt and various Creole or Cajun spices.


Right next to gumbo, jambalaya is another Big Easy staple. Jambalaya is a rice, seafood and pork dish, eaten by Louisiana locals. The rice, seafood and pork are cooked with onion, celery, pepper, herbs, and spices to give it the bang you need! Some historians and food enthusiasts compare jambalaya to Spanish paella, suggesting that the dish may have been developed during the Spanish period of New Orleans’ history. 


Served on crusty New Orleans style fFench bread and dressed with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, these sandwiches are overflowing with fresh gulf seafood, smoked pork, meatballs, and pretty much any type of meat you want. But don’t call it a sub, a hoagie or a hero. No one will know what you’re talking about! It was originally created to feed streetcar workers on strike, which is where the name “Po’Boy” comes from!


Étouffée means “smothered” in French. It’s a dish that combines seafood (usually crawfish) with roux and butter; and  onions, green peppers, and celery into a rich, easy seafood-filled gravy that is served hot over rice. It’s delicious!


Crawfish are a traditional New Orleans seafood that is served boiled, sauteed, baked or fried in different varieties and dishes. From crawfish bread and crawfish etouffee to freshly boiled with unique seasoning, crawfish is loved in numerous forms. But to really enjoy crawfish the New Orlean way, you need to get to cracking. How do you peel your own crawfish? It’s easy.. Pinch the tail, suck the head!

Red Beans and Rice

This slow-cooked dish combining red kidney beans with rice, and spices is a legacy of the African and Caribbean arrivals to the city. The tasty combo might be served at Popeye’s, but you want to get the authentic thing right in the heart of the city. Nothing says a weekday evening like a pot of red beans and rice!


Muffulettas are large, round sandwiches filled with Italian deli meats, cheeses, and homemade olive salad. Today, many restaurants serve muffulettas warm, rather than the deli-style sandwich that was originated by Salvador Lupo. They’re so large whole muffuletta will feed four people with an average appetite making it a great option for sharing. If you have a group lunch, a Muffuletta is the way to go!


Beignet is the French word for “fritter”, and these tasty golden brown treats have been served in New Orleans since 1862. They are made with a yeast dough, rolled to the perfect thickness, cut into squares, fried and and covered in powdered sugar. They are absolutely delicious!


Resembling fudge and containing pecans, the New Orleans praline has evolved from the French sugar-coated almond treat. Pralines are a perfect way to indulge in your love for sugar. It’s one of the best tasting things you’ll ever put into your mouth!

Chicory Coffee

Coffee has a long tradition in New Orleans. Chicory, the ground root of the Belgian endive, was frequently served as a coffee substitute, as well as blended into the coffee before brewing. New Orleanians have truly nurtured this taste for chicory coffee. Once you taste it, you’ll understand why!

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster was invented at New Orleans’ famous Brennan’s Restaurant in 1951. Brennan’s chef Paul Blangé and manager Ella Brennan, created the dish as a way to help a fruit vending relative to had a bunch of extra bananas. The desert was then named after a well known patron of the restaurant, Richard Foster.

King Cake

New Orleans King Cakes are sweet circular treats covered in colorful icing, and are synonymous with Mardi Gras season. King Cakes are baked with a little baby trinket inside, which is said to represent the Christ child. The person that gets the slice with the baby inside must purchase the next King Cake. 

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.