Creole and Cajun . . . What’s the Difference?

By Torri Sepulvado, Special Sections Editor

Creole and Cajun are sometime used interchangeably, but in reality the words refer to two separate groups of people.

Creoles are descendants from the upper-class French and Spanish colonists that came from Europe. The word Creole eventually included slaves born in the colonies and free people of color. Cajuns are descendants of the Acadians, French natives who settled in Acadia, or Nova Scotia. They were forced to relocate to South Louisiana after their home was taken by the British.

There is a distinct difference between the two, especially because during the 18th century these two groups of people were living extremely different lives. The Creoles were mostly inside New Orleans dealing with the growing population and the racism that came from having darker skin. The Cajuns were in the outlying bayous living, for the most part, off of the land.

One major difference was the development of the two groups’ food. Cajuns were hunters, and the bayou area provided no shortage of game to hunt. However, the spices and variety of food was limited for the Cajuns so they learned to heavily spice every part of the animal they killed to make the most of it. Creole cuisine was developed in the city by kitchen slaves that had a variety of spices and cooking methods available to create more complex dishes.

I’ve heard the difference between a Creole gumbo and a Cajun gumbo is tomatoes. A Creole gumbo is tomato based.

Each group grew into the distinct cultures you are able to see and experience in the New Orleans area.