No parade? No problem. Here's how to have a festive Mardi Gras feast right at home.

Even though we're past the Christmas holiday season, we could all use a few more reasons to celebrate this winter. And luckily, there's another lively holiday just on the horizon: Mardi Gras! While many of us have certain perceptions of a raucous celebration, Mardi Gras is so much more than just an excuse to let loose and drink copious amounts of Hurricane cocktails. It's actually a holiday steeped in family tradition, kid-friendly parades, and delicious food. 

The Mardi Gras 'Carnival' period technically begins 12 days after Christmas, but the day that most people associate with the most debauchery and celebration is Fat Tuesday (which this year falls on February 16, 2021). Mardi Gras celebrations traditionally represent  the culmination of the feasting period that falls before Christian Lent, but in modern times the day of indulgence transcends beyond religion to a holiday beloved by all. The parades might be canceled this year, but that doesn't mean that you can't get into the Mardi Gras spirit right at home. While cooking up a feast with your family isn't quite the same as partying on the infamous Bourbon Street, we're pretty sure no one will be disappointed with this spread.

What to Cook for Mardi Gras 2021

Creole and Cajun foods are traditional for Mardi Gras feasts—after all, the state of Louisiana was founded on Mardi Gras 1699, making the holiday the ideal celebration of the state's culture, especially its food. 

First things first: You can't have a Mardi Gras celebration without a King Cake, which is usually circular or braided to represent a crown. The plastic or porcelain baby that is hidden inside is meant to impart luck and prosperity to whoever finds it, as well as the responsibility of planning next year's party. Here are some other recipes you can make for your family this year to bring the spirit of Mardi Gras into your home.

Simple Beignets
Credit: Sarah Karnasiewicz

1 Beignets

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It’s hard to think of New Orleans without conjuring up an image of sizzling, puffy fried dough covered in powdery sugar. With just a few ingredients, you can serve up these delicious beignets at home and save the trip to the infamous Cafe du Monde for next year. 

Sazerac Pitchers
Credit: J Muckle; Styling: Rebekah Peppler

2 Sazerac Pitchers

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If you’re feeling in the party spirit, whip up a batch of the official (potent) cocktail of the City of New Orleans! 

Credit: Jen Causey

3 Crispy Broiled Oysters With Bacon

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This recipe is a take on Oysters Rockefeller, which was created at famed New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s in 1899. The original didn’t include bacon, so feel free to leave it out, but we think it makes for a delicious modern twist. 

Tilapia Po’Boy With Radish and Cucumber Salad
Credit: José Picayo

4 Tilapia Po’Boy With Radish and Cucumber Salad

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The po’boy sandwich has humble roots as an inexpensive sandwich intended to feed hungry workers on strike in the 1920s, but the hearty sandwiches are not to be passed over. Fried seafood is the most popular variety these days, and the radish and cucumber salad served alongside this winning recipe add just the right amount of refreshing crunch.

Credit: Antonis Achilleos

5 Chicken Sausage Jambalaya

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Jambalaya is a classic one-pot dish that originated in New Orleans, but pulls influence from French, Spanish, and African cuisines. This recipe calls for already cooked sausage, rotisserie chicken, and jarred salsa to make the quintessential dish easier than ever to prep. 

Slow-Cooker Seafood Gumbo
Credit: Susie Cushner

6 Seafood Gumbo

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Gumbo is another quintessential Cajun dish that, at first glance, looks similar to Jambalaya. However, gumbo is more of a soup served atop rice, while Jambalaya is a stew-type dish where the rice is cooked in the same pot as the other ingredients. This gumbo recipe includes bacon, okra, and shrimp for the ultimate southern dish. 

King Creole Tuna Steaks
Credit: Quentin Bacon

7 King Creole Tuna Steaks

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For an impressive, protein-based entree, serve up this hearty tuna dish smothered in Creole vegetable sauce. 

Red Beans and Rice
Credit: Con Poulos

8 Kidney Beans and Rice

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While there are versions of beans and rice in many regional cuisines, red beans and rice is the variety preferred in the Louisiana kitchen. This hearty and healthy recipe is the perfect side dish on your Mardi Gras table, and thanks to a hefty dose of garlic and Cajun seasoning, it packs a flavorful punch. 

Banana Rum Sundaes
Credit: David Prince

9 Banana Rum Sundae

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This indulgent dessert is a take on the traditional bananas foster, named for a former member of the New Orleans Crime Commission and a classic dessert in New Orleans all year round,  especially during Mardi Gras. 

traditional-mardi-gras-foods: King Cake
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10 King Cake

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It would be impossible to truly celebrate Mardi Gras without its quintessential dessert. If you’re feeling extra traditional, stash a small baby figurine inside your cake for a fun treasure hunt.