Like its music, good food is found everywhere in Louisiana. Ask any visitor—or resident for that matter—about this state, and music and food are always mentioned as favorites. But while it is the reputation for tasty cuisine and musical genius that attracts travelers, it is the warm hospitality that keeps them coming back for more.

The food and, in particular, dishes’ peculiar names inspire curiosity for outsiders:

  • Gumbo(GUM-bo) is a hearty stew thickened with a browned roux (flour and oil mix), okra and file(ground sassafras leaves).
  • Jambalaya(jum-buh-LIE-uh) is a seasoned rice dish made with meat or seafood and is similar to Spanish paella.
  • Étouffée(eh-too-FAY), which literally means smothered, is meat with butter sauce and chopped vegetables.
  • Andouille(Ahn-DOO-ee) is a spicy sausage.
  • Boudin(BOO-dan) is a spicy rice and meat sausage.
  • Maque choux(Mock-SHOO) is a side dish with corn as the main ingredient.

Read that list again out loud and you will see why ordering your meal is almost as much fun as eating it.

The two most popular cuisines in Louisiana are Creole and Cajun, and telling them apart is difficult for locals and tourists alike. Variations of the same dish are often found in both Creole and Cajun cuisines. Creole is a fusion of European, African, and Caribbean cooking techniques using Louisiana ingredients that rose to prevalence in New Orleans in the early 1800s. Cajun is the cuisine of 18th century French-Acadian exiles who settled in the swamps, bayous, and prairies of south Louisiana. One insider tip to help you tell the difference is that tomatoes are more common in Creole dishes.

A common denominator in Louisiana’s cuisine is often seafood. The state has 400 miles—actually thousands of miles if you count bays and inlets—of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, making it one of North America’s most productive shrimp, oyster and crab fisheries. Meanwhile, inland marshes and swamps contribute catfish, crawfish and exotic reptile meats such as alligator (usually fried or blackened) and turtle (served in soup).

Since listing notable Louisiana restaurants and food stops will consume more bandwidth than allowed, a great way to eat your way across the state is the Louisiana Culinary Trails. The Trails include eight culinary road trips focusing on different regions of the state. Your best bets for Creole cuisine are the Creole Crescent trail in New Orleans and the Northshore Sampler trail north of Lake Pontchartrain. For Cajun cuisine, try the Bayou Bounty, Prairie Home Cooking and Seafood Sensation routes through the southern part of the state. Capital Cravings, the trail in and around Baton Rouge, is where Creole and Cajun meet and mix together wonderfully. Delta Delights and Red River Riches in north Louisiana delve into Cajun and Creole while incorporating traditional Southern cooking with regional delicacies, such as Natchitoches meat pies.

A ride along the culinary trails will ensure that you do not leave Louisiana hungry. As for any thoughts of diet and weight loss, don’t think about it and enjoy the best food in the world!