Important Note: When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Content, pricing, offers and availability are subject to change at any time - more info.
New Orleans is such an iconic food destination. This is due to the melding of the different cultures that created a unique cuisine that you will only find in the area. Creole and Cajun recipes are influenced by Native Americans, French and Spanish settlers, African slave culture, and Caribbean flavors. That’s quite a mix and it is excellent.
I have traveled to New Orleans a couple of times and the food never disappoints me. I also had to opportunity to live with a family for a summer that was from the south. Their background was impressive. On the father’s side were West Indian and African. The mother’s side was Native American, African, and European settlers.
My friend’s mom cooked dinner every night and we sat at the dining room table as a family. There was no getting out of this ritual unless we all went out for pizza. This was a family of 3 generations sitting around one table. I ate like royalty and I had to be adventurous with my limited palate. We ate jumbo shrimp jambalaya that was made with a Creole sauce that had been simmering for hours. I assisted with making this on Saturdays, our day off from work. There was a lot of sauce. What didn’t get jarred or frozen we ate with many different Louisiana-style dishes during the week. These included rice and beans, smothered chicken, and grillades with grits.
Creole sauce is actually not hard to make and doesn’t really need to be cooked all day. It does have a lot of ingredients, including a tomato base. The success of this sauce comes from the TLC you put into it. Take your time prepping the ingredients for Creole sauce and stir it often until all the spices are soft and infused into the tomatoes.
I learned to make Creole sauce with canned tomatoes. This was mainly because the fresh tomatoes weren’t always that great in the area. But my temporary momma used only one brand that she said was the best. To be honest, there weren’t many brands to choose from back then. Today, there are so many great canned tomatoes to choose from. What I do remember is that the tomatoes she used had pretty much no additives or scary preservatives. Oh, and it was always crushed tomatoes.
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 large celery rib diced
- 1 small green bell pepper seeded and diced
- 3 cloves of garlic peeled and minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- One 28-ounce can of good crushed tomatoes preferably San Marzano
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/3 cup scallions finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 Tbsp hot sauce more if desired
- 2 Tbsp butter
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- Warm the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté until the vegetables have softened, approximately 3-1/2 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, oregano, thyme, and paprika. Continue to sauté until the garlic softens and the herbs and spices are fragrant.
- Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, tomatoes, chicken stock, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine. Increase the heat to high. Once the sauce starts to boil, add the scallions. Reduce the heat to a rolling simmer and cook for 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the parsley and hot sauce. Cook for another minute.
- Turn the heat off and swirl in the butter until it melts and the sauce is shiny.
- Serve the sauce warm with your favorite creole dish. Or, allow to cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Notes and Tips
- I have a friend who grew up in Louisiana and we were both in a dinner club in NYC. A dinner club, back in the day, was a group of people who rotated hosting dinner once every couple of months. My friend always made creole food because that is what he knew. He learned quickly that the seasoning had to be adjusted for those of us not from the area. If serving people who don’t like heat, place the bottle of hot sauce on the table rather than adding it to the sauce.
- I like making this sauce a day ahead and storing it in the refrigerator in a sealed container. The sauce becomes better as it rests and all the flavors meld together.
- If you have extra sauce, portion it into containers or resealable baggies and freeze it for up to 5 months.
Substitutions & Suggestions
- Olive Oil: I cook with olive oil a lot. It is delicious and healthy. If you want to be really authentic, you might use peanut oil for this sauce recipe.
- Herbs and Spices: If you have fresh oregano and thyme, by all means, use the fresh in place of dried herbs. Double the quantity with fresh herbs and add them when you add the tomatoes and stock. If you want to save a step, you can use a jarred or homemade Creole or Cajun seasoning blend in place of the spices.
- Canned Tomatoes: If you have access to really fresh ripe tomatoes, that is a great option. I suggest plum or Roma tomatoes for this sauce recipe.
- Parsley: Famous NOLA chef and restaurateur, Emeril Lagasse, makes this sauce with fresh basil leaves instead of parsley.
- Hot Sauce: I am fairly basic when it comes to hot sauce. I always have Tabasco in my fridge. Frank’s Hot sauce is good too. But my temporary family used only the Pickapeppa brand because it is very Caribbean. They kept a bottle of it on the kitchen table that was used on pretty much everything except breakfast cereal.