In the heart of the bayou, Louisiana’s heritage is a vibrant blend of cultures and traditions from all over the world.
Most prevalent is the heavy French and West African influence which can be felt in almost every aspect of the region and adds to its timeless allure. The descendants of the Caribbean slaves and European colonizers who settled in the area would come to be known as Creoles, a community unique to the state with their own language, religions, and of course, food.
Notable dishes like gumbo and crawfish are a mainstay on restaurants menus, but to get a real helping of Louisiana culinary history, locals will encourage you to try the étouffée.
This rich, savory stew is named after the French word meaning “to smother,” and begins with a signature staple of bayou cooking, called a roux—a mixture of flour and fat cooked together and used as a base to thicken sauces. It’s then seasoned with Creole spices and loaded with vegetables and puréed tomatoes, which is then all poured over a bed of fluffy white rice.
While the dish has changed over time and in different kitchens, at inception it was a concoction made from staples of slave cuisine—for the most part, aside from farm scraps, it relied heavily on greens, beans, starches, and vegetables like okra which was brought to the Americas by African enslaved peoples. Eventually, the addition of regional seafood like crawfish and shrimp were added to bring the recipe from the plantations to the plates of people all over the state.
This étouffée recipe gets back to the roots of the roux using a hearty vegetable base—generally a seafood stock—and traditional spices with the addition of savory smothered mushrooms to offer an enticing plant-based taste of history and flavor in every bite.
Check out more Black American recipes made vegan here.