Mardi Gras Food: Is It All Bad?
Updated: Jul 10
Mardi Gras 2020 is just around the corner and you can practically smell the seafood boil, beignets, and king cake! Mardi Gras literally translates to "Fat Tuesday" in French, which is historically known as the final day of indulgence; it's the last day to eat all the fattiest, sugary, and alcoholic (or rather, anything left in the kitchen) before the Christian Lenten fasting begins on Ash Wednesday.
While the tradition of taking extravagance regarding such rich foods has sustained and still goes strong, your favorite Mardi Gras foods don’t have to be all that bad for you. Here are four healthier traditional and alternative takes and additions to add to your float of feasting fun this Fat Tuesday—letlaissez les bon temps rouler!
Gumbo is the quintessential Louisiana dish: a stew based with the “holy trinity” of vegetables: celery, bell peppers, and onion, made with a dark roux, and containing seafood and either fowl or sausage as an add-on depending on which style of cuisine it falls under, Cajun or Creole. As a dish that is a staple in Louisianian culture, it also has a stronghold in the Mardi Gras food realm and doesn’t need much modification to be considered a healthier meal.
If a vegan gumbo is what you’re searching for, this Holy Cow Vegan Fat-Free Gumbo recipe might be just what you’re searching for. A roux is made from flour and a fat, usually butter or lard, and isn’t the healthiest thickener for sauces, but The Healthy Cooking Blog’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo recipe has a healthier version of a roux. If you’d like to forgo the roux entirely, your dish wouldn’t traditionally be considered a gumbo, but just a stew. However, Southern Living has a delicious lighter Shrimp and Okra "Gumbo" recipe. Take your pick of delicious variations on a staple Mardi Gras meal!
A healthier, and often over-looked, appetizer that can easily be turned into proper Mardi Gras food is a stuffed pepper. Often filled with rice, beans, and tomatoes, but easily personalized to fit any dietary desire, this lower-carb vegetable powerhouse would make a great addition to your Fat Tuesday menu. Eating Well has a delicious recipe for Stuffed Mini Peppers with panko breadcrumbs and pimiento cheese.
If you’re looking for a more Cajun take on stuffed peppers, Better Homes & Gardens’ Cajun Stuffed Baby Sweet Peppers recipe is a proper hearkening to Cajun cuisine with two of the most important ingredients: crawfish and spices galore. One of the best things about Stuffed Peppers is their versatility and their ubiquitous state, being found in many different cuisines, so it’s sure to be a big hit with all diners!
Jambalaya is another staple Louisiana dish of vegetables, spices, meat, and rice that is as customizable as it is ready to be on your Mardi Gras menu. Delish has a Cajun Jambalaya recipe that is delicious, filling, traditional, and a fair score on the health scale. If you’re looking for more of a Creole style, Daring Gourmet’s Creole Jambalaya recipe is the way to go!
While Jambalaya is typically known for being chock-full of meat and seafood, Taste of Home has a delicious plant-based Vegan Jambalaya recipe that will surely satisfy hungry party-goers. Another recipe renowned for its versatility and cross-cultural cuisine presence, it does traditionally appear in a Mardi Gras menu and can be as healthy as you’d wish it to be!
While a majority of the focus is on the main dishes, a healthy vegetable side dish can pack a punch with a crowd and become a hit. Collard Greens is a stereotypical Southern dish and certainly has earned its place as such. This recipe from All Recipes for Collard Greens is one of the best ways to eat your vegetables, and namely, your greens.
One of the vegetables that are the reigning Louisiana king, however, is okra. Generally, Okra is breaded, fried, and served on its own, but that isn’t necessarily a healthy way to go about it. Yummly’s Oven-Fried Okra recipe for this dish still brings the fried feeling but with less oil, making it a better contender for a lighter holiday side.
Okra, as is normally served on its own, can tend to be a little lackluster in the spice department, though still delicious. Taste of Home offers a more, and differently, flavorful take, with their Roasted Okra with Smoked Paprika recipe. Vegetable sides, like collard greens and okra, are a great way to round out a meal, adding distinctly delicious flavors, and can easily become one of the stars of the show.
Is It All Bad?
Basically, Mardi Gras food, in general, isn't too healthy for you, but you can make it that way! Check out some of the recipes we listed, and you'll be able to eat some tasty Mardi Gras food, while still maintaining your healthy lifestyle habits.
Now start cooking!