French explorer Robert Caveiler first set foot on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1682 and claimed it for the Crown. By 1718, a settlement was started, becoming known as La Nouvelle-Orleans. Thus begins our culinary journey in this remarkable area in the United States. Take the influence of Native American, French, African, and Spanish cuisine, mix it with locally available ingredients, and add a few hundred years, and you have something completely unique in New Orleans food tours.
New Orleans Food Tours That Are Worth the Cost
When you travel to a new city, one of the best ways to learn about its culture and history is through the food. It's all part of the experience of travel. Luckily, New Orleans does not disappoint when finding elevated food options or homestyle basics. While trying a new restaurant is recommended, another way to sample the local cuisine is through a food tour.
What Makes New Orleans a Foodie Destination?
When diving into New Orleans' food culture, exploring the iconic dishes that define the city is essential. Gumbo, for instance, is a must-try. This hearty stew, thickened with either okra, filé powder, or a roux, combines cooking elements from various nationalities. Another staple is Jambalaya, a flavorful mix of rice, meat, seafood, and vegetables, showcasing the Spanish influence with a distinctly local twist.
“It's a melting pot of cultures that is heavily influenced by French cooking, some African, Native American, and even some Italian influences as well. It's a fusion of many different cultures that created diverse flavors and a unique cooking style,” says Gus Martin, executive chef at Cajun restaurant Tujague and native New Orleanian.
Evolving Cuisine Is the Heart of New Orleans
The culinary landscape of New Orleans is experiencing a subtle yet significant transformation, particularly in how modern trends influence its cooking. “People are definitely eating a lot healthier nowadays. Our challenge as Chefs is to develop the same flavors but elevate things to be less heavy than before,” says Chef Martin. “We have to find creative ways to incorporate ingredients and limit the use of creams, butter, and rich foods. We want the same flavor profile but need to elevate things to be on the healthier side.”
This evolution is evident at Tujague's. While cooking is primarily influenced by French culinary techniques, the chefs in his culinary experience strive to incorporate diverse inspirations. The abundant Gulf seafood offers ample opportunities to experiment and diversify the menu. “We have our classics like Gumbo, Turtle Soup, and Shrimp & Grits. We also do a few more modern things, like our Pan Seared Maple Leaf Duck dish with fresh Louisiana citrus and cherry demi.”
New Orleans Food Tours
Food tours make great samplers before deciding what you'd like to try more of. If you'd prefer to dive straight into the local restaurants instead, look at New Orleans restaurants, you must try or give Tujague's a try for a special evening.
1 – New Orleans Food Walking Tour of the French Quarter
Destination Kitchen offers a three-hour walking tour in the French Quarter, led by an expert guide, exploring renowned restaurants and food venues. This tour includes insider views of famous kitchens and various food tastings, including classic New Orleans dishes like gumbo, boudin, and beignets. You also have the option to purchase unique local cocktails, such as the Pimms Cup. The tastings generally add up to a full meal, and you get a chance to walk it off between stops. It costs $75 per person.
2 – New Orleans Cocktail and Food History Tour
This highly-rated half-day food and cocktail tour with Doctor Gumbo Tours is priced at $140 per person and welcomes a maximum of 16 guests. Experience Louisiana's rich culinary heritage as you visit six unique spots, tasting up to ten dishes from classic Creole eateries. Your ticket also includes four full-sized drinks. As you wander through the iconic French Quarter and along the vibrant Bourbon Street, your guide will offer enlightening commentary, blending gastronomic delights with historical insights.
3 – New Orleans French Quarter Food Adventure
Two and half hours and $79 will give you an opportunity to embark on this New Orleans food tour with Intrepid Urban Adventures. With a focus on how food, culture, and history intertwine in this vibrant city, the tour includes tasting New Orleans' diverse multicultural heritage through its cuisine. Highlights feature a visit to America's oldest public market, savoring the iconic dish of gumbo, and experiencing the locals' favorite French doughnut, the beignet. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to sample exclusive traditional delicacies found only in Cajun country. The adventure consists of four food stops with five unique food samples.
4 – New Orleans Signature Tastes of the French Quarter Food Tour
Tastebud Tours allows you to explore up to six handpicked eateries, each renowned for their exceptional Creole, Cajun, and French-inspired dishes. The tour allows a maximum of 16 participants and lasts three hours, ensuring personalized attention and an engaging atmosphere. Not just a tour but an award-winning experience, Tastebud Tours has been lauded as The People Choice, standing out among New Orleans' food tours. Adults can purchase drinks during the tour, embracing the local custom of ‘To Go Cups' —yes, walking around New Orleans carrying cocktails is legal. $65.75 per person.
5 – The Premier New Orleans Food Tour
Embark on a gastronomic three-hour journey through the heart of the French Quarter on this unique walking food tour with The Premier New Orleans Food Tour. You'll have the opportunity to learn the subtle yet distinct differences between Cajun and Creole cuisine. This tour stops at some of the city's oldest restaurants and quaint sweet shops, each offering a taste of authentic local flavor far removed from typical tourist spots. It has a maximum of 12 participants per group and costs $72.
New Orleans Cooking Classes and Demonstrations
Cooking classes are a great way to learn about the local cuisine, making it one of the best things to do with friends in New Orleans.
6 – New Orleans Demonstration Cooking Class & Meal
The New Orleans School of Cooking is conveniently located a few blocks from Jackson Square in the French Quarter. In this unique cooking demonstration class set in a 19th-century molasses warehouse in New Orleans, you'll dive into the rich culinary world of Creole and Cajun cuisine. Guided by a local chef, learn the art of preparing classic Louisiana dishes such as gumbo, Jambalaya, and pecan pie. The experience includes a full meal, allowing you to savor generous samples of each dish paired with a local beer, sweet iced tea, or coffee. You'll also be provided with recipes to take home. Dietary restrictions can be catered for but cost an extra $5 on top of the $42 fee per person.
7 – New Orleans Hands-on Cooking Class & Meal
If just watching someone else cook doesn't work for you, and you'd rather don an apron, The New Orleans School of Cooking has another class to try. For $162 a person, you can take a three-hour cooking lesson in an intimate group setting with a maximum of 10 guests. Together, you'll create a multi-course Louisiana meal that you can enjoy with a wine or local beer. You'll also get to take home the recipes and apron. Advise the school if you have any dietary requirements when booking.
8 – Hands-on Cajun Cooking Class & Lunch
Chef Dee Lavigne of the Deelightful Roux School of Cooking will help you master the art of iconic dishes like Jambalaya and Bananas Foster. You'll also enjoy a curator-led Southern Food and Beverage Museum tour, adding depth to your understanding of the region's culinary heritage. Your $115 per person ticket includes French bread from a local bakery and Luzianne Iced Tea.
9 – New Orleans Vegetarian Class
Why should the meat-eaters have all the fun? Indulge in the unique flavors of Louisiana with a New Orleans vegetarian twist, where Cajun cuisine meets plant-based deliciousness. Your cooking adventure will include Gumbo Z'Herbes, a traditional dish bursting with greens. You'll also learn to prepare Corn Maque Choux, a savory, sweet medley of corn and spices, followed by a delicious Pecan Praline Bread Pudding with a rich Salted Caramel sauce. This class by Mardi Gras School of Cooking is $150 per person and includes wine, beer, or soda with your meal.
10 – Brunch Class
Step away from the Gumbo and Jambalaya and find out what New Orleanians enjoy during the day. Learn to make New Orleans Style Shrimp and Grits,
Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce over a Crab Cake and Praline bacon—aka Pig Candy. This class is also run by the Mardi Gras School of Cooking and costs $150 per person. If that wasn't enough, you also get a choice of champagne, cocktails, wine, beer, sodas, and water.