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20 Healthy Cajun Recipes That Bring New Orleans to You

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20 Healthy Cajun Recipes That Bring New Orleans to You

If you like spicy seafood, sausage, and rice and pasta, then you need to try these healthy versions of classic Cajun recipes.

Mark Twain said that “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish étouffée, and shrimp creole…it’s hard not to love this cuisine.

What is is hard to do, though, is make this type of food fit into any type of sensible meal plan (“It’s not da seafood dat makes you fat–it’s da butta!”).

Well, that’s why I created this list of recipes, which use some creative substitutions to make lighter, healthier versions of all your Cajun favorites.

Enjoy!

Cajun Shrimp Pasta

Cajun Shrimp Pasta recipe Picture courtesy of Grandbaby Cakes

Pasta for dinner again? With this linguine dish, you’ll make everyone at the table a fan again no matter how often you’ve served spaghetti.

You can tell kids it’s like a Cajun alfredo, but it also has grown-up flavors from a generous amount of white wine. This makes a lot of food, so you can prepare it for a big family dinner and might still have leftovers for the next day.

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 andouille sausages, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

1/2 red pepper, sliced

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. hot sauce

Cajun seasoning to taste

1 box (1 lb.) linguini, cooked

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 494

Protein: 26 grams

Carbs: 48 grams

Fat: 17 grams

 

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Healthy Cajun Jambalaya

Healthy Cajun Jambalaya Picture courtesy of Recipe Runner

Forget about the jambalaya rice mix that comes in a box. It’ll never deliver as much flavor as a from-scratch recipe like this, which is loaded with chicken, ham, and shrimp.

This also has a lot more heat than you’ll get in any pre-packaged jambalaya, but luckily it’s the kind that’s not overwhelming so you can still taste all the amazing flavors.

Serves 6

Ingredients

8 oz. chicken breast, diced and cooked

8 oz. ham steak, diced

8 oz. medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried marjoram

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) petite diced tomatoes

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 455

Protein: 45 grams

Carbs: 41 grams

Fat: 12 grams

 

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Cajun Sweet Potato Fries

Cajun Sweet Potato Fries Picture courtesy of Minimalist Baker

The right seasoning blend will liven up any dish, including plain potatoes. Of course, French fries are good with just salt, but there’s no reason not to dress them up every once in a while.

These are especially good to serve for game day. Serve with spicy mustard, or stir a dash of sauce into ketchup.

Serves 3

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 233

Protein: 2 grams

Carbs: 36 grams

Fat: 10 grams

 

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Cajun Mahi Mahi with Mango Pineapple Salsa

Cajun fish recipe Picture courtesy of Joyful Healthy Eats

This isn’t the typical Cajun fish recipe. Rather than staying in the bayou, this recipe goes tropical with Mahi Mahi and a pineapple topping.

The fish filet is coated in Cajun seasoning and then pan-seared for just a couple minutes on each side.

From start to finish, this healthy dinner takes just 15 minutes to make.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Cajun Mahi Mahi:

1 1/2 lb. Mahi Mahi filets

1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning

1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder

2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

Pineapple Salsa:

1 cup fresh diced pineapple

1 mango, finely diced

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

Salt to taste

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 175

Protein: 22 grams

Carbs: 11 grams

Fat: 6 grams

 

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Cajun Chicken & Rice

cajun chicken and rice recipe Picture courtesy of Kevin and Amanda

Chicken and rice can sound like a flavorless dinner. Yet, it’s anything but bland when you make it the Cajun way.

In addition to the chicken and rice, you just need onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and a generous amount of Cajun or Creole seasoning. When you need a quick meal to help you refuel after a workout, you’ll want to remember this recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked rice

2 cups chicken broth (or water)

1 tsp. salt

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts

Cajun seasoning to taste

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups diced onions and bell peppers

1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chiles

1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 610

Protein: 49 grams

Carbs: 60 grams

Fat: 18 grams

 

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Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta Soup

Cajun Chicken Soup recipe Picture courtesy of Carlsbad Cravings

Most Cajun soups are rich and filling like a stew, but this one is on the lighter side with chicken and veggies. And it comes together quickly, taking only 15 minutes to prep and being ready to eat in less than an hour.

Since this only includes one type of meat, it’s not as rich as gumbo or jambalaya. That said, bacon bits make an awesome garnish.

Serves 8

Ingredients

6 oz. mini farfalle pasta

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin

3 tsp. Cajun seasoning

3 Tbsp. butter

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

1 small red onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup flour

32 oz. Cajun broth (or another broth)

1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained

1 cup (4 oz.) grated Parmesan

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into strips

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 450

Protein: 29 grams

Carbs: 33 grams

Fat: 23 grams

 

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Crawfish Boil

cajun crawfish boil recipe Picture courtesy of Cajun Crawfish

Nothing says you’re in the bayou like a big pot of boiling crawfish.

You could prep them with just water and salt, but you’d be missing out on some easy opportunities to add flavor. Along with the crawfish, add mushrooms, onions, potatoes, corn, and a whole head of garlic.

Save time by seasoning with a prepared mix that’s designed for a crab boil, or use the ingredients below to make your own.

Serves 10

Ingredients

Seafood Boil:

Handful of fresh mushrooms

4 lemons

3 lbs. crawfish (or seafood mix)

8 small onions

8 small potatoes

8 ears of corn

1 head garlic

Crawfish Spice Mix:

1 Tbsp. black peppercorns, freshly ground

1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, freshly ground

2 Tbsp. whole cloves, freshly ground

1 1/2 Tbsp. whole allspice, freshly ground

4 Tbsp. cayenne pepper

2 Tbsp. garlic powder

2 Tbsp. paprika

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. dried thyme

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

1 Tbsp. dried dill

6 bay leaves, crumbled

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 287

Protein: 29 grams

Carbs: 39 grams

Fat: 2 grams

 

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Cajun Lasagna

Cajun Lasagna recipe Picture courtesy of Creole Contessa

As much as Cajun cuisine relies on rice, it also includes plenty of pasta. Even then, you can’t imagine how good the unlikely combo of Cajun flavors and lasagna can be.

At first glance, this looks like a classic Italian lasagna. But it’s got quite a few secrets. This Cajun turkey lasagna includes andouille sausage, lots of spices, and five kinds of cheese.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 lb. ground turkey

1 lb. andouille sausage, casing removed

1 box (1 lb.) lasagna noodles, dried

1 red onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 bunch Italian parsley, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

1 large can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

1 1/2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning

1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1 cup (4 oz.) grated Parmesan

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded jack cheese

2 cups (8 oz.) grated mozzarella

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, beaten

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 670

Protein: 49 grams

Carbs: 39 grams

Fat: 37 grams

 

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Cajun Red Beans & Rice

cajun beans rice recipe Picture courtesy of Maura McEvoy

Chef John Besh grew up in southern Louisiana and is dedicated to preserving the region’s rich culinary culture. Luckily, you don’t have to go to his restaurants to get a taste.

Pick up Besh’s Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes to make dishes like Cajun crawfish bisque, garlicky baked crab claws, and gumbo with duck, andouille sausage, and oysters – all of which would go great with this version of red beans and rice.

besh-big-easy

Serves 12

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. bacon fat (or oil)

1 onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 lb. dried red kidney beans, soaked in water overnight and drained

1 smoked ham hock

3 bay leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tabasco to taste

4 cups cooked white rice

2 green onions, chopped

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 249

Protein: 13 grams

Carbs: 41 grams

Fat: 4 grams

 

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Slow Cooker Sausage Seafood Gumbo

Cajun Sausage and Seafood Gumbo Picture courtesy of Taste of the South Magazine

Gumbo has taken on such a strong identity of its own that, like chili, it’s hard to remember it’s technically a stew. But that’s exactly what it is: a Cajun stew that can have everything from seafood to sausage, okra to peppers – and often all of those ingredients at once.

No matter what, it should start with a roux, a simple gravy with flour and either butter or oil. Then it all goes into a pot (or in this case the slow cooker) to stew for a few hours before being served with rice.

Serves 10

Ingredients

1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped yellow onion

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno peppers, minced

4 cups chicken broth

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme, divided

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

4 bay leaves

1 can (14.5 oz.) fire-roasted tomatoes, liquid included

2 lb. medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined

3/4 lb. fresh crab claws, steamed

1 tsp. Creole seasoning

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 440

Protein: 35 grams

Carbs: 16 grams

Fat: 26 grams

 

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Bayou Dirty Rice

cajun rice recipe Picture courtesy of Mommypotamus

For a true taste of the bayou, dirty rice has to be full of down-home Southern flavors. And in this version, that’s accomplished with a combination of pork sausage, bacon, and chicken liver.

Before you turn up your nose at the idea of eating offal, consider the nutritional benefits. It’s more protein than anything else and contains a lot of iron, vitamin A, and four B vitamins.

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 cups white rice

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

3 Tbsp. coconut oil (or lard)

1 lb. ground pork, unseasoned

1 cup chicken livers, diced

3 slices bacon, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery stalks, chopped

1/2 cup green bell pepper

2 green onions, chopped

Cajun seasoning and salt to taste

4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar. (or liquid whey )

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 476

Protein: 33 grams

Carbs: 53 grams

Fat: 13 grams

 

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Creole Crock Pot Meatballs

cajun meatball recipe Picture courtesy of Creole Contessa

You might be surprised by what all goes into these Cajun meatballs, but stick to the recipe, and you’ll be even more blown away by the flavor.

These are definitely spicy with a combo of jalapeno pepper, Tabasco, and chili sauce. But the heat gets rounded out by other ingredients like the pepper jelly and beer in the sauce.

Serves 12

Ingredients

Creole Meatballs:

1/2 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground beef

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 large egg, beaten

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsp. garlic, minced

1 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning

Salt and Tabasco to taste

Sauce:

1 bottle (12 oz.) chili sauce

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 Tbsp. Creole mustard

1/2 cup pepper jelly

Few shakes of Tabasco

1/2 cup beer

2 Tbsp. liquid smoke

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 187

Protein: 18 grams

Carbs: 16 grams

Fat: 4 grams

 

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Homemade Cajun Seasoning Mix

homemade Cajun seasoning Picture courtesy of That Girl Cooks Healthy

To make many of the recipes on this list, you’re going to need a delicious seasoning mix to start. Instead of grabbing a bottle at the supermarket – which could have been mixed and packaged last year – it’s easy to create your own Cajun seasoning blend at home.

You can also make a spice mix on the cheap if you can find a bulk section, such as at a natural grocery store.

Makes 1/4 cup

Ingredients

2 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. garlic pepper

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. Himalayan pink salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. red chili flakes

1/2 tsp. dried thyme (optional)

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: N/A

 

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Beefy 15-Bean Chili with Cajun Sour Cream

cajun chili recipe Picture courtesy of 365 Days of Crockpot

Think chili can’t get any more filling than it already is? You haven’t seen the Cajun version of chili before.

As with all Creole cooking, this is about going as big and as bold as possible. It has not just one or two kinds of beans but a whopping 15 varieties. Of course, it’s not like you can get 15 cans of different kinds of beans, so look for the dried bean mixes made for soups.

Serves 10

Ingredients

Cajun Chili:

1 bag (20 oz.) Cajun 15-bean soup mix, soaked overnight

1 Tbsp. salt

6 cups water

2 1/2 lbs. beef stew meat

2 tsp. canola oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tsp. salt

3 cloves garlic

1 can (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sour Cream:

3/4 cup sour cream

1 Tbsp. lime juice

2 tsp. hot sauce

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 536

Protein: 52 grams

Carbs: 47 grams

Fat: 15 grams

 

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Rice & Gravy

cajun rice gravy Picture courtesy of Divine Lifestyle

To make a quick dinner out of Cajun rice, you don’t actually need a whole heap of seasonings. This simple dish only requires a short list of ingredients – and the green onions and garlic are optional.

Start by making the rice, and meanwhile, cut up some steak to brown in the bottom of a heavy stockpot. Make the gravy in the pot with the meat, and serve over rice.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb. round steak

1 large onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Minced green onions and garlic (optional)

2 cups cooked rice

1 Tbsp. oil

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 412

Protein: 37 grams

Carbs: 30 grams

Fat: 15 grams

 

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Shrimp Étouffé

cajun shrimp etouffee recipe Picture courtesy of Img Kid

Although this dish has an extremely French name, it hails from Louisiana and coastal parts of Mississippi.

You can use any kind of shellfish to make an étouffé, but you definitely can’t go wrong using this classic to make Cajun shrimp.

For other uniquely Creole flavors, check out more of the amazing recipes at NOLA Cuisine, including an oyster omelette, homemade andouille sausage, and muffaletta, which makes a great sandwich bread.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Shrimp Stock:

Shells and tails from 2 lb. shrimp

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 garlic cloves

1 lemon, sliced

2 fresh bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp. black peppercorns

Shrimp Étouffé:

2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup celery, finely chopped

1/4 cup bell pepper, finely chopped

1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup fresh tomatoes, diced

1 1/2 cups shrimp stock

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 bundle fresh thyme

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. hot sauce

1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced

3 Tbsp. minced Italian parsley

2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 cups cooked rice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 462

Protein: 40 grams

Carbs: 36 grams

Fat: 17 grams

 

GET THE RECIPE

 

 

Creole Gumbo with Crab, Shrimp & Sausage

cajun gumbo recipe Picture courtesy of Simple Comfort Food

Gumbo tends to be loaded with seafood no matter how or where it’s made, but usually that means a lot of shrimp and a little bit of something else. Not so with this recipe.

There’s shrimp all right, but there’s just as much crab meat in the mix. And of course there’s still smoked and spicy sausage too, achieving the Cajun version of a balanced meal: enough of every kind of meat.

Serves 16

Ingredients

5 quarts water

12 fresh crabs, boiled or steamed

2 lb. medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 lb. smoked sausage, sliced

3/4 lb. Creole hot sausage, sliced

2 lb. okra, sliced

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

5 stalks celery, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 lb. crab meat

2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning

4 bay leaves

4 Tbsp. filé powder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 cups steamed rice

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 605

Protein: 41 grams

Carbs: 34 grams

Fat: 33 grams

 

GET THE RECIPE

 

 

Cajun Boiled Peanuts

cajun boiled peanuts recipe Picture courtesy of The Foodie Patootie

In regions where peanuts are commonly grown, you’re likely to find this variation.

This method uses peanuts that aren’t fully mature or fully dried – not the roasted peanuts we’re more used to eating. Green or raw peanuts, as they’re called, or boiled with salt seasonings to get a salty, and in this case spicy, peanut snack.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 lb. raw peanuts in shells

1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/2 cup chopped jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup salt

2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning

1/2 cup red pepper flakes

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 227

Protein: 11 grams

Carbs: 9 grams

Fat: 19 grams

 

GET THE RECIPE

 

 

Cajun Corn, Sweet Potato & Cornmeal-Crusted Okra Salad

healthy cajun salad recipe Picture courtesy of Eats Well with Others

Cajun vegetarian food may sound like an oxymoron, but this delicious salad is definitely good enough to enjoy on its own – both in terms of flavor and nutrition.

But just because it’s a salad doesn’t mean it’s going to be light. This is still Creole cooking. While the dish is full of veggies like sweet potatoes, the okra is cornmeal-crusted and fried.

Serves 8

Ingredients

3 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

8 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. sweet paprika

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 lb. okra, stems removed before slicing

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 bell peppers, deseeded and diced

7 ears corn

8 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 573

Protein: 15 grams

Carbs: 77 grams

Fat: 25 grams

 

GET THE RECIPE 

 

 

Spicy Creole Shrimp Dip

cajun shrimp dip recipe Picture courtesy of George Graham

Cajun food doesn’t always need to be the main course, especially considering how rich the dishes tend to be.

Get all the flavor you love from Cajun shrimp in a tasty dip so you can enjoy just a few bites – or maybe polish off this appetizer for dinner (if you’re lucky enough to have leftover).

Just beware this zesty dip isn’t full the light-hearted. This shrimp bites back with Creole mustard and horseradish.

Serves 16

Ingredients

4 large eggs

2 lb. small shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 jar (16 oz.) Creole mustard

1 jar (5.25 oz.) prepared horseradish

1 cup canola oil

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup finely diced yellow onion

1 cup finely diced green bell pepper

1 cup finely diced celery

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dash of hot sauce

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 234

Protein: 12 grams

Carbs: 3 grams

Fat: 18 grams

 

GET THE RECIPE 

 

 

What did you think of these Cajun recipes? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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    What are some practical steps I could take to help overcome my binge Eating disorder?

  • This is more for information than anything, because I still love that you took some of my favorite meals and made healthy versions that I cant WAIT to try.

    I am from the heart of Cajun Country, Lafayette(And actually from an even smaller town 30 minutes south of that). Its even more cajun than New Orleans (which tends to be more creole than cajun, if we’re being specific).

    There is some minor differences between New Orleans “Cajun” cooking and Lafayette “Cajun” cooking even though we’re only 2 hours apart.

    1.) Your cajun “chicken and rice” looks more like the jambalaya we serve than the “jambalaya” does.
    2.) New Orleans gumbo has a darker more “stewy” feel and taste, which is actually impacted by the creole background in the area. Cajun gumbo is lighter and more like a soup. We also tend to favor fresh sausage over smoked(but smoked sausage isnt illegal). Granted, different gumbos will yield different textures (chicken and sausage(lighter more soupy) vs. seafood (darker a bit more stewy) vs. shrimp and okra (lightest) vs. duck and sausage, etc), but even then, you get a lighter base when its cajun made vs creole.

    But man, you couldnt have made a better article of recipes. I cant wait to try this stuff. Ill let you know how it holds up to “Momma’s cookin”

    • Hey Chris!

      Thanks for the clarifications. 🙂

      Lemme know how you like the choices…

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