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Food

17 festive Mardi Gras recipes: Jambalaya, gumbo and more

Mardi Gras, which is French for "Fat Tuesday," is traditionally a chance to have fun before Ash Wednesday and the Christian observance of Lent (a period of fasting and penance leading up to Easter). The biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States is in New Orleans, where people mark Fat Tuesday in the best possible way: good eating. These Creole and Cajun recipes, including slow-cooker jambalaya, gumbo, po'boy sandwiches and beignets, are all bursting with flavor and will have you celebrating in style wherever you are.

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When it comes to comforting Southern food, there's a reason why jambalaya is a go-to dish around Mardi Gras. Spicy, smoky and super hearty, it's a definite winter warmer! This version is made in a slow cooker, so it's a super-easy dinner year-round.

Tujague's Creole Gumbo

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Creole gumbo: Make this iconic New Orleans dish

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Creole gumbo: Make this iconic New Orleans dish

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This classic New Orleans stew is bursting with shrimp, crab, oysters and sausage. In true Creole fashion, this version from the famous New Orleans restaurant Tujague's incorporates meat and seafood and is thickened with filé — ground sassafras — instead of okra.

Hearty Cajun Étouffée

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Make this seafood étouffée to celebrate Mardi Gras the Cajun way

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Make this seafood étouffée to celebrate Mardi Gras the Cajun way

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The secret to this seafood stew is the addition of homemade crawfish stock. Chef Isaac Toups uses crawfish in this version of the classic dish, but it can also be made with shrimp or other shellfish.

Beignets

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Fried beignets and grilled peaches: Make these sweet desserts at home!

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Fried beignets and grilled peaches: Make these sweet desserts at home!

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This simple doughnut recipe can be customized in a variety of ways by adding different spices to your powdered sugar coating. Served warm with a scoop of ice cream, these tasty fritters are the perfect end to a meal.

RELATED: Make drool-worthy Mardi Gras eats that put the 'fat' in Fat Tuesday

Oyster Dressing Grandmère
Oyster Dressing Grandm?re
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
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This dressing, or stuffing, tastes just as good on Mardi Gras as it does on Thanksgiving, thanks to the oysters chef John Besh adds.

Shrimp Po'Boys with Bacon Coleslaw on Garlic Bread

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Make garlic bread prawn po'boys with homemade coleslaw

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Make garlic bread prawn po'boys with homemade coleslaw

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Take the iconic Louisiana sandwich to another level by serving it on garlic bread. Add bacon to coleslaw and pile that onto the sandwiches and you've got a winner!

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp
Shell-on shrimp
Samara Linnell
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These barbecued shrimp are so simple to cook, yet make a flavorful main dish served with rice.

Gumbo-Laya

The Cozy Apron
Gumbo-laya

If you can't decide between jambalaya or gumbo this year, have the best of both worlds with this hybrid recipe. You're going to want to make a lot — the flavors mingle and deepen with time, so leftovers taste even better.

Seafood and Okra Gumbo

Mary Foreman / Deep South Dish
Seafood and okra gumbo

Shrimp gumbo is a delicious weeknight meal. This gumbo kicks it up a notch with shrimp, crab, oysters and andouille sausage for a truly special holiday meal.

Grandmother Grace's Fried Chicken

No dish better represents southern cooking than fried chicken. This buttermilk fried chicken recipe by chef John Besh is as classic as it gets.

Strawberry Beignets
TODAY Show: Tory McPhail, executive chef of Commander's Palace, cooks up chicken and beignets for Mardi Gras -- February 17, 2015.
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
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Ponchatoula, Louisiana is known as the strawberry capital of the world, and the fresh strawberries stirred into the batter of these fluffy beignets give them a bit of tartness and lightness.

New Orleans-Style Shrimp Boil

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SORTEDfood make a shrimp boil with mussels and fried pickles

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SORTEDfood make a shrimp boil with mussels and fried pickles

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Crawfish might be difficult to find depending on where you live, but that shouldn't stop you from having a classic seafood boil — shrimp boils are popular in Louisiana, too, thanks to the state's access to wonderful Gulf shrimp. All the vegetables and seafood look beautiful served family style on a large tray.

Momma Evelyn's Special Shrimp and Rice
Rev Run's shrimp and rice
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
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This dish comes together in no time with the help of some store bought marinara sauce.

Sazerac Recipe
Homemade New Orleans Sazerac Cocktail with Bitters and Rye
Shutterstock
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Raise a glass this Mardi Gras with this classic cocktail, invented in New Orleans.

Crawfish Boil Fried Chicken

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Make fried chicken, strawberry beignets for Mardi Gras

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Make fried chicken, strawberry beignets for Mardi Gras

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Don't worry about missing out on bold crawfish boil flavor if you don't eat seafood. Just use Creole seasonings to brine your chicken! In this recipe from chef Tory McPhail of the famous Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans, the chicken is coated in flour twice for an extra crispy texture.

Monday's Red Beans & Rice
Re fried beans
Brandon Goodwin / TODAY
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These beans get two whole hours on the stove to simmer, and the result is a creamy comfort dish perfect for your Mardi Gras celebration, or even a regular weeknight meal.

Turkey Gumbo
Turkey gumbo by David Slater, chef de cuisine at Emeril's
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Gumbo isn't all about seafood, as this delicious turkey version demonstrates. If you have leftover cooked turkey, this recipe is a perfect way to use it up.

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