Seafood by the Seasons in New Orleans
In New Orleans, there’s always room for seconds, and you’ll find more places to eat than days in the year. Whether you stumble upon down-home delicious po-boys at the back counter of the convenience store or eagerly await your reservation at a James Beard Award-winning culinary institution, the flavors here run the gamut. And just about all of it centers around the freshest catches from the Gulf and surrounding waterways that help give the Crescent City its name. Take a deeper dive into when you should mark your calendar to experience fresh seafood in New Orleans.
The Big Catch: The Seafood Industry in Louisiana
New Orleans’ storied history stretches back 300 years, but the region’s seafood industry goes back even further. Generations of fishermen have made their living on the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana’s inland bayous and waterways for more than 400 years. That tradition is still going strong today, as Louisiana remains the nation’s second largest seafood supplier. Whether trawling for shrimp, harvesting fresh oysters, or reeling in Redfish, one out of every 70 jobs in the state is in seafood, and local farmers and fishermen help contribute to Louisiana’s $2.4 billion seafood industry.
Stirring the Pot: Adding Dat NOLA Flavor
Of course, just as long as the fishermen have been bringing in the nets, locals have been simmering and seasoning the day’s catch for dinner. Bringing together the distinct Creole and Cajun flavors, New Orleans cuisine is synonymous with the city’s heritage and tells a story with every bite. In fact, po-boys, for example, date back to the 1920s, where legend has it, the sandwich fed workers during a streetcar strike.
With new spins on traditional favorites and top chefs making their name here, it’s only a matter of choosing where to eat.
Boil It, Dress It, Shuck It: What’s on the Menu in The Crescent City?
The hardest part about eating out in New Orleans is deciding on just one thing to order. (Why limit yourself?) Explore some of the city’s favorite ingredients, the best times to enjoy them, and what dishes to look for on the menu.
Louisiana is the largest supplier of Gulf white shrimp, and the shrimping industry accounts for 15,000 jobs in the state. While there are six species of shrimp native here, brown and white shrimp are what you’re likely ordering, as they account for 90% of the population.
- January, April–November
What to Order:
- Fried Shrimp Po-boy
- BBQ Shrimp n’ Grits
- Shrimp Remoulade
70% of oysters that are caught in the U.S. come from the Gulf Coast, creating more than 4,000 jobs in Louisiana. While there are more than 200 species of oysters worldwide, one of the most popular is the Eastern Oyster native to the Gulf.
- October-April but available year-round in Louisiana
What to Order
- Raw Oysters
- Chargrilled Oysters
- Oysters Rockefeller
New Orleanians really love their mudbugs! Louisiana was the first state to name an Official Crustacean when the crawfish took the title in 1983. And 80% of the 110 million pounds of crawfish harvested each year stay right here in the state to be consumed locally.
- January-June, November-December
What to Order:
- Crawfish Monica
- Crawfish Etouffee
- Boiled Crawfish
While more than 4,500 species of crabs are found around the world, the blue crabs found here are of the most sought after. And more than 80% of the blue crabs harvested from the Gulf come from the shores of Louisiana.
What to Order
- Crabmeat Imperial
- Seafood Gumbo
- Crab au Gratin
Just a Little Lagniappe
Year-round Seafood Staples
No matter the season, there’s always something fresh to try. Opt for one of these year-round classics.
Louisiana boasts the world’s largest alligator population, with more than 1 million living in the bayous and swamps. All those gators help provide an economic impact of $104 million annually.
What to Order
- Fried Alligator
- Alligator Sausage
- Alligator Pie
Snapper, grouper, drum, catfish, trout, even tuna—there are more than 100 types of fish native to Louisiana for you to enjoy any time of year. Fried or whole fillet, take your pick!
What to Order
- Blackened Redfish
- Stuffed Flounder
- Fried Catfish
Festivals Where Seafood Takes Center Stage
With more than 130 festivals annually in New Orleans, you just have to follow your nose to find delicious eats, paired with live music, art, drinks, and good times. It’s a recipe that always tastes just right. Here’s just a sampling of the seafood-inspired fests you don’t wanna miss.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Come for the music and stay for the food! Enjoy global and local headliners, handmade arts and crafts, beloved local cuisine, and an endless celebration of New Orleans culture.
- When: The last weekend in April and first weekend in May
- What to Eat: Crawfish Monica, Crawfish Bread, Soft-Shell Crab Po-Boy
NOLA Crawfish Festival
A neighborhood celebration featuring local brews, music, and the first ever New Orleans crawfish eating contest.
- When: During the week between Jazz Fest weekends
- What to Eat: Boiled Crawfish
More than 20 local restaurants serving up oysters every way you can imagine, plus shucking contests, live music, and live demonstrations.
- When: Annually at the start of June
- What to Eat: Chargrilled Oysters, BBQ Oyster Po-Boy, Oyster Tacos
French Quarter Festival
Three days filled to the brim with free local music and tasty treats in the heart of the historic French Quarter.
- When: Annually in April
- What to Eat: Shrimp & Alligator Sausage Cheesecake, Crawfish & Goat Cheese Crepes, Seafood Stuffed Mirliton with Creole Sauce
Treme Creole Gumbo Festival
An annual free festival stirring together colorful artwork, traditional New Orleans jazz, and a spicy mix of the city’s best gumbo purveyors.
- When: Annually in November
- What to Eat: Seafood Gumbo (of course!), Shrimp and Oyster Gumbo, Smothered Okra and Shrimp