While most people know that Cajun and Creole are synonymous with Louisiana cuisine, not many understand the differences between the two groups.
French Acadian settlers that migrated from Nova Scotia and Quebec to Louisiana, and their ancestors, are often referred to as Cajuns. The word ‘Cajun’ is derived from the French word les Cadiens or les Acadiens.
It all started after the British gained control of Port Royal, known as the Conquest of Acadia, in 1710. Acadia was then renamed to Nova Scotia, and for the next forty-five years, the Acadians refused to sign a pledge of allegiance to Great Britain. So, as it goes, in 1765, Joseph Broussard led the first 200 Acadians to Louisiana.
Creoles, on the other hand, are European primarily from French and Spanish descent. In the early 1800’s most Creoles, and their ancestors, lived in and around New Orleans having come directly from Europe. While most people think of Creoles as being of French heritage, the fact is, there are many kinds of Creoles that come from many European countries. There is even a line of Creoles from Native American heritage. During colonial times ‘Creole of Color’ was a common term used to describe mixed-race heritage born in Louisiana.
In years past, the cooking styles were more distinct than they are today. Creole was a bit more sophisticated while Cajun was more rural. Creole was heartier with more meat and vegetables, for example while Cajun food was spicier and contained pretty much anything and everything in the kitchen.
Cooking Cajun can be a tall order for someone who didn’t grow up around that style of cooking. To be sure, authentic Cajun or Louisiana Creole cooking has to contain the same ingredients found in Louisiana, utilizing the same techniques and it has to be served in the same way (over a bed of rice, for example). Otherwise, it wouldn’t be Cajun/Louisiana Creole cooking and it absolutely would not taste as good. Try to imagine Green Chile Cheese Enchiladas with no green chile (or some substitute!) and you’ll start to get the idea. Also, try to imagine going to Louisiana and asking for green chile on your dinner. You would get a very strange look from d’oez Cajuns!
So, if you go to a restaurant that advertises Cajun cooking, there is a good chance it will be Creole, but truthfully, it doesn’t make that much difference anymore. The main thing, just like with New Mexican food, is that it has to be done right!