Anyone who spends any time on our blog knows that we often pick our travel destinations based on food. It is also easy to determine that taking food tours and cooking classes are some of our favorite things to do.
One of our best loved foodie destination, and one of the first trips we ever took solely for the cuisine, was to New Orleans. Ok, so there’s a lot more than just food about this city. There’s so much fantastic music, history, architecture, and nature to experience in and around New Orleans. But, in our hearts, we’re really all about the eats!
Cajun and Creole Food
There are two distinct cuisines native to New Orleans: Creole and Cajun. Creole food is a fusion of French, Spanish, West African, and Native American ingredients and techniques. It evolved in the city of New Orleans where the Creoles (descendants of the original European settlers) lived. Its heavy French influence is evident in the use of rich sauces and more complicated techniques. Some famous Creole dishes include seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and shrimp creole.
Cajuns are descendants of French Canadian Acadians who settled in the rural areas surrounding New Orleans. Cajun food is more rustic and more heavily spiced, but generally easier to prepare. There is also less seafood used in Cajun food. Some classic Cajun dishes you may know are jambalaya, red beans and rice, and boudin.
While there are tons of restaurants with (in our opinion) some of the best food in the world, you can appreciate the local food even more by taking a cooking class. New Orleans has plenty to choose from. Most have varied menus that combine Cajun and Creole options, making it possible to take multiple classes without ever eating the same dish!
Learning about the history of the food and the different cultures that blended to create some of the dishes in a destination, makes for a memorable experience. Plus, you can bring home your expertise and make jambalaya, gumbo, bread pudding, or dozens of other recipes at home. Which, we always say, it the best souvenir ever.
What type of New Orleans cooking experience do you want?
First off, what food are you interested in tasting? Most classes rotate through a selection of set menus, so make sure to check their schedule online to insure sure you’ll get dishes you’re interested in.
Do you want to have a presentation-type class, in which you have a “cooking channel” sort of experience of having the cooking done before you before you sample the results? Or, do you prefer a hands-on experience where you’ll be doing the chopping, sautéing, and plating (and of course, eating) yourself? Some of the below schools offer both options. These days, many schools offer remote classes as well!
What location are you interested in? Some of the classes outlined below are held in traditional old mansions in the garden district. Cooking and eating in these historic homes give a distinct and homey feel. Others are more commercial kitchens, with more modern conveniences, and even overhead video so you can see what’s happening in the individual pots without being right on top of them.
Below we outline many of the cooking schools and classes in New Orleans. Some of the options we provide are more geared toward enthusiastic amateur cooks, and some are programs that lead to professional certifications.
Of course, before just booking any of these experiences, double check their individual websites for the current menus and schedules – they change all the time.
Before you go….
Anyone who has eyed a vacation to New Orleans is well aware that the weather can, at times, be unpredictable or even volatile. If you are planning to visit New Orleans in the off-season (to avoid the crowds of Mardi Gras), this time may also coincide with hurricane season. Beyond weather, all sorts of things can happen that might cause you to interrupt or cancel your trip. To protect your travel investment, we recommend that you seriously consider travel insurance. We work with Allianz Travel Insurance, and they offer annual insurance which is the most affordable for frequent travelers.
Allianz Travel offers affordable rates starting as low as $130 annually for the basic plan, up to $450 for an AllTrips Premier plan for the whole family. Their OneTrip Cancellation Plus Plan includes trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage, as well as travel delay coverage and 24-hour assistance services. With travel insurance you can have peace of mind before and during your trip to New Orleans.
Our Favorite New Orleans Cooking Classes
Crescent City Cooks offers both demonstration classes and hands-on classes. The venue for the demonstration is small and intimate, so it allows for some interaction with the chefs. And of course, the smaller hands-on classes give you plenty of options for practicing your kitchen skills.
The Mardi Gras School of Cooking offers hands on classes, including specialty sauce classes, kids classes, and team building events. For something different, check out their traditional New Orleans brunch, where you prepare menu items like Shrimp and Grits, Crab Cake Eggs Benedict, and Bacon Pralines (while drinking endless champagne mimosas!)
Chef Amy Sins and her team at Langlois aren’t just cooks – they’re storytellers and food historians that educate and and entertain while demonstrating the best of New Orleans cuisine. While Langlois periodically opens up their historical building for in person classes, they also operate a “culinary roadshow” where the chefs will come to your kitchen for small private events.
The New Orleans School of Cooking is one of the longest standing kitchens providing both hands-on and demonstration cooking. We’ve been to many of their classes, and it’s one of our standard recommendations for friends and family members visiting the Crescent City. Their general store (attached to the cooking school) is worth browsing for all sorts of Cajun and Creole specialties. They produce our favorite Cajun spice mix, Joe’s Stuff.
Culinary Kids is unique because they specialize in children-friendly cooking, including specialty hands-on birthday parties and other events. This is a great way for parents to expose their kids to new foods and cooking in general, in a fun environment. If you don’t have kids, don’t worry! They also operate adult classes.
The Casa Pelican Cooking School teaches classes in their B&B kitchen in a historic home the neighborhood of Algiers Point, across the Mississippi from the French Quarter. They offer an assortment of classes ranging from basic, to seafood, to replicating New Orleans classics from popular local restaurants.
The Kitchen in the Garden offers an opportunity to picnic in the gorgeous botanical gardens with a menu cooked in their on-site kitchen.
Other Cooking Classes and Schools
Looking for cooking classes and food tours at other destinations? Check out our extensive list of reviews.
This post is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and we have received financial compensation. However, as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.