Mardi Gras Appetizers To Celebrate The Carnival Season

Crawfish Dip
Photo: Greg DuPree

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Try these festive Mardi Gras appetizers before the fasting begins! We included Creole favorites like BBQ shrimp, mini muffulettas, and Oysters Rockefeller, plus new twists on old classics like shrimp boil skewers and andouille hush puppies. Even if you live in a town where Mardi Gras isn't observed, you can still throw your own Carnival celebration! Start off with these amazing Mardi Gras appetizers and finish with your own homemade King Cake. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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Mini Muffulettas

Mini Muffulettas
Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Amy Burke

You can easily make these Mini Muffulettas the day before the party. Just assemble, place in zip-top plastic freezer bags, and refrigerate overnight. Store-bought craft paper and simple twine create clever sandwich wrappers.

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Mini Crab Cakes With Garlic-Chive Sauce

Mini Crab Cakes
Jennifer Davick

Does mini mean we can have more than one of these easy and delicious crab cakes? After forming crab cakes with a binder and flavors from sliced scallions, Old Bay seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce, the cakes cook on a medium-low heat griddle in batches until golden brown. This app comes together from start to finish in 18 minutes and makes 16 crab cakes.

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Shrimp Boil Skewers

Shrimp Bowl Skewers
Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

These mini shrimp skewers pack all the flavor of a Creole shrimp boil into a few bites. Smoked sausage, red potatoes, and shrimp boil in Old Bay-spiked water, then threaded onto skewers. A Creole-spiced corn, pepper, and onion medley is spooned on top.

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West Indies Crab Salad

West Indies Crab Salad
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Torie Cox

This recipe originated in Mobile, Alabama, the city where Mardi Gras began. A sweet and sour vinaigrette brings out the crab’s natural sweetness. If you’re using fresh lump crab straight from the shell, you can spread the crabmeat on a baking sheet and broil for 45 seconds, any remaining shells will turn orange for easy removal.

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Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies

Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies
Hector Manuel Sanchez

You're going to love this twist on classic hush puppies that has a bit of a kick from Andouille sausage. Buttermilk, beer, and white cornmeal make a light and tangy batter. Fry in batches in hot vegetable oil in a Dutch oven, drain, and keep warm until ready to serve.

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Easy BBQ Shrimp

Easy BBQ Shrimp
Southern Living

The key to this easy shrimp appetizer is in the tangy marinade. To infuse the shrimp with flavor, mix the marinade of soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and onion, pour over shrimp, and cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Then grill or broil for 6 to 8 minutes, and serve with cocktail picks.

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Muffuletta Deviled Eggs

Muffuletta Deviled Eggs
Hector Sanchez; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

There's always a welcome place for a tray of deviled eggs at Southern parties, and this sandwich-inspired spin is delicious. Mirroring the iconic muffuletta sandwich, these deviled eggs mix in olive salad and get topped with crispy salami. Make up to 24 hours ahead of serving.

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Lump Crab Mornay

Lump Crab Mornay
Iain Bagwell

This creamy dip will bring you right to the bayou. Fresh crab, scallions, a pinch of red pepper, sherry, and parsley blend into a mornay sauce and then served with toast points. A decadent dip indeed, and it only takes 20 minutes to make.

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Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller
Southern Living

Created by Jules Alciatore at the famed New Orleans restaurant Antoine's, Oysters Rockefeller dates back to 1899. This recipe is a riff on the original’s key components—a blend of herbaceous ingredients (spinach, green onions, and parsley) and spiked with an anise-flavored liquor. These bacon and spinach topped oysters are broiled on rock salt for just 4 to 6 minutes until browned before serving.

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Shrimp-Stuffed Mirlitons

Shrimp-Stuffed Mirlitons
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

There is actually a festival in New Orleans dedicated to the mirliton, and if you haven't tried this interesting squash, this recipe is the perfect primer. Also known as chayotes, these green pear-shaped squash have the texture of an apple with a cucumber-like flavor. Halved and stuffed with a shrimp and ham mixture, these bake for about 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees.

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Grilled Cajun Shrimp Kabobs with Sausage

Grilled Cajun Shrimp Kabobs with Sausage
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Lydia Pursell; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Adapt these quick skewers to an appetizer portion with mini skewers. Cajun seasoning and fresh herbs provides a delicious boost to these shrimp, sausage, and veggie skewers, while grilling them for a few minutes on each side seals in even more flavor. Instead of serving them as an appetizer, try the skewers with grits or rice for a fast, low-country themed weeknight dinner.

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Crawfish Cakes

Crawfish Cakes
Southern Living

This spicy Louisiana riff on crab cakes will be a fun surprise for guests. Make your crawfish cakes mini and serve with toothpicks for a grab-and-go appetizer. Included is a cilantro-lime cream sauce that cools down the spicy Cajun seasoning in the cakes.

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Baked Oysters with Bacon, Greens, and Parmesan

Roasted Oysters with Bacon-Saltine Topping
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Bacon is an amazing complement to Gulf oysters, which look beautiful on a platter with coarse sea salt to prevent them from wobbling around and retain heat. Included in this recipe are oyster-shucking tips, but your fishmonger can do it for you too. You can prepare up to a day in advance, as they only take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake in a high heat oven.

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Crab Cake Hush Puppies

Crab Cake Hush Puppies
Oxmoor House

If you thought hush puppies couldn't get any more addicting, try this crowd-pleasing recipe. This classic Southern fried cornmeal battered app gets a seafood twist with fresh, lump crabmeat. After frying in batches until golden brown, serve these salty snacks with a rémoulade or cocktail sauce.

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Deviled Crab Melts

Deviled Crab Melts
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Torie Cox

If you love crab but are burnt out on crab cakes, these crunchy crostinis are our new favorite way to serve it. Fresh basil, cilantro, and lime zest add bright flavors to the richer ingredients in this snack. Sourdough bread gets topped with lightly spiced crab, fresh tomatoes, and Monterey Jack cheese, and then broiled until the topping is melted and slightly browned.

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Shrimp-Okra-and-Sausage Kebabs

Shrimp-Okra-and-Sausage Kebabs
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Tina Stamos

Sprinkled with Cajun seasoning and brushed with a hot sauce mixture, your Louisiana friends will love these kebabs, which you can put on mini skewers for easy serving. Thread kebabs with large peeled and deveined shrimp, andouille sausage and small, halved okra pods, after tossing the ingredients in Cajun seasoning and olive oil. Grill on high heat until the okra is charred and the shrimp is cooked through, about 1 1⁄2 minutes per side.

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Creamy Crab Dip

Creamy Crab Dip
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Get your seafood fix with an updated version of your retro crab dip recipe—the one that featured layers of crabmeat, cream cheese, and cocktail sauce. Cream cheese is swapped for a mixture of sour cream and mayonnaise spiced with Old Bay seasoning for a low-country flavored take. Serve as an app with crunchy celery sticks or as a meal topped over baked potatoes.

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Mini Crab Cakes with Cajun Sauce

Cheesy Mushroom Tartlets
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

The best part about these pretty little crab cakes is that they can be prepared up to five days in advance. When making mini-sized cakes, lump crabmeat will bind together better than jumbo crabmeat. Serve in small lettuce leaves, with Cajun spiced sauce, and garnishes of chives and lemon wedges.

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Shrimp with Honey-Garlic Sauce

Shrimp with Honey-Garlic Sauce
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Christina Daley

Skip the shrimp cocktails and go straight for this easy seafood appetizer that's ready in just 15 minutes. Honey mixed with soy, garlic, and lemon juice make a sweet, sour, and salty glaze for the shrimp. Serve with hot cooked rice, broccoli, and lemon wedges for a colorful, healthy meal.

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Grilled Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Grilled Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner

These lettuce wraps are the ideal light, and refreshing, appetizer for your Mardi Gras menu, and they only take 20 minutes to prepare. Grilled shrimp, lightly pickled vegetables, and a creamy sauce are layered onto lettuce leaves to enjoy as a light lunch or appetizer. To help with meal prep, prepare and chill the shrimp, pickled vegetables, and sauce one day ahead.

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Shrimp on Seasoned Crackers with Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese

Shrimp on Seasoned Crackers with Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Now this is one flavor-packed snack. What better way to welcome your guests?! Basic saltines get an upgrade from a coating of olive oil and spices, then topped with a layer of cream cheese, peppered jelly, and sautéed, seasoned shrimp. Then watch your guests devour these bite-sized treats in no time.

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Hot Crab-and-Artichoke Dip

Hot Crab-and-Artichoke Dip
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey

This dip is coming in hot, but once it hits the table, it won't be around for long. Crab combined with artichokes, cream cheese, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese is full of texture, flavor, and creaminess. Avoid canned crabmeat, and opt for freshly picked unpasteurized crabmeat at your local seafood counter, or frozen fresh crabmeat, for the best tasting dip.

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Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers with Chipotle Comeback Sauce

Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers with Chipotle Comeback Sauce
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

You can prepare these skewers and the sauce a day in advance so all there is to do before your party is fire up the grill. Make extra Chipotle comeback sauce for when a sweet, smoky flavor is needed, from a dip for fried chicken strips or to add kick to a salad or sandwich. To make this app into a heartier meal, try them as po' boys by stuffing a hoagie with the grilled shrimp, and then top with lettuce and the comeback sauce.

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Shrimp-and-Andouille Gumbo Dip

Shrimp-and-Andouille Gumbo Dip
Brian Woodcock; Styling: Rachael Burrow

Classic gumbo is turned into a praise-worthy appetizer in this warm dip. Unlike gumbo that can stew for hours, this dip takes just 30 minutes with all your favorite ingredients from the iconic Louisiana dish—Andouille sausage, red bell pepper, celery, green onions, sliced okra, garlic, shrimp, and Creole seasoning. Serve with your dippers of choice—breadsticks, veggie strips, crackers, or sliced baguette would all work well.

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Old Bay Rémoulade with Crudités and Shrimp

Old Bay Rémoulade with Crudités and Shrimp
Johnny Autry; Prop and Food Styling: Charlotte L. Autry

Serve fresh veggies and peel-and-eat shrimp with Old Bay rémoulade from Southern Living’s Ivy Odom, for a light, tasty appetizer as an ode to summer days by the water. There’s loads of zip in this dip from a blend of sauces, capers, horseradish, garlic, and Old Bay seasoning blended with mayo. This dip can be made up to one week in advance, just store in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Crispy-Shrimp Salad with Avocado Dressing

Crispy-Shrimp Salad with Avocado Dressing
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners

You may argue that a salad with protein is filling enough to be a main course, but we think that a small portion of this salad paired with the right entrée (like our Andouille Sausage and Smoked Chicken Gumbo) is a match made in heaven. This salad benefits from the tangy, zippy avocado dressing that gets drizzled over panko-crusted shrimp and a simple mixture of mixed baby greens, cucumber, and radishes. If you fall in love with the dressing, make it again as a dip, a sandwich spread, or a taco topping.

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Shrimp Cakes

Shrimp Cakes with Smoky Horseradish Sauce
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Lydia Pursell; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Your guests may be expecting crab cakes, but one bite of these cakes will be a wonderful surprise of shrimp and a little heat from paprika. After forming the cakes, chill for 15 minutes or up to 4 hours before cooking. The horseradish paprika sauce can be made 5 days ahead, and you may want to use it again for a fried fish sandwich.

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Cheesy-Spinach Crab Dip

Cheesy-Spinach Crab Dip
Oxmoor House

If you like your dips hot and spicy, increase the amount of ground red pepper in this recipe, or add crushed red pepper flakes. This cheesy dip is rich, but many of the listed dairy ingredients are reduced or fat-free. To prep, just combine and simmer in the slow cooker for 2 hours on low.

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Mini Shrimp Rolls

Mini Shrimp Rolls
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Everyone will be excited when you bring these sliders as an appetizer. Shrimp salad gets a bit of an upgrade on a toasty roll with fresh toppings. Bringing these rolls to a party? Prepare the components separately—the shrimp salad, toasted rolls, and toppings—and assemble before serving.

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Crab Cake Bites with Old Bay Mayo, Chive, and Lemon

Crab Cake Bites with Old Bay Seasoning
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Trust us, the Old Bay Mayo takes these cakes to the next level. The binder in this recipe is scaled back so the fresh jumbo crabmeat takes center stage. To set the mixture and help hold their shape, chilling crab cakes are essential.

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Air Fryer Popcorn Shrimp

Air Fryer Popcorn Shrimp
Southern Living

These light and crunchy shrimp make a fun party snack. The trick to crispy air fryer popcorn shrimp is to toss the panko bread crumbs in oil. Pick up frozen peeled, deveined raw small shrimp from your freezer aisle, which gets thawed and patted dry before getting dressed in the coating.

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Deviled Eggs with Pickled Okra

Deviled Eggs with Pickled Okra Recipe
Jennifer Causey, Prop Stylist: Lindsey Lower, Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Why not marry two Southern favorites—okra and deviled eggs—for an addictive Mardi Gras app? Pickled okra is used in these eggs for a salty, briny twist with brine added to the egg mixture, and thinly sliced okra top off the eggs at the end. For a smooth filling, use the fine holes of a grater to grate the cooked egg yolks.

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Lowcountry Shrimp-and-Sausage Muscadine Skewers

Lowcountry Shrimp and Sausage Muscadine Skewers
Courtesy of Food Network

The delicious combination of jumbo shrimp and smoked sausage get coated in a sweet and savory marinade and then grilled to crispy caramelization. Create the marinade by mixing wine (or cider) from native Southern muscadine grapes, honey, and a blend of spices in olive oil but reserve a ¼ cup for serving. This app serves 10, and it’s ready in 45 minutes.

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Deviled Crab

deviled-crab

Take a new look at deviled crab if you’ve been previously turn off by this dish, which is upgraded with fresh and local ingredients. Fresh lump blue crab meat, diced vegetables, chopped herbs, spices, and seasonings create a spicy mix. Carolina gold rice is the secret ingredient to help bind the mixture together. 

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Gulf Crab Cakes with Lemon Butter Recipe

Gulf Crab Cakes with Lemon Butter
Iain Bagwell

We don’t want heavy binders overloaded with mayonnaise and bread crumbs in our crab cakes, which mask the flavor and texture of fresh crabmeat. Here, fresh lump crabmeat and diced vegetables are the star in this recipe. Make sure sure to chill the cakes for 30 to 40 minutes before cooking, this helps them hold their shape.

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Crawfish Dip

Crawfish Dip
Greg DuPree

The slow cooker makes hosting so much easier because you can both make and serve this dip in it. This app is party ready in an hour with 15 minutes hands-on time and 45 minutes in the slow cooker. Crawfish (from frozen peeled crawfish tails), diced vegetables, spices, Creole mustard, hot sauce, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce jack up this creamy dip with bayou textures and flavors.

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