Before the fasting begins, feast to your heart's content on Fat Tuesday. 

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At its core, Mardi Gras is essentially a reflection of the New Orleans' experience, ancient traditions, and diverse culture. However, most of us have to come to appreciate it as a celebration of pure indulgence. Beyond Bourbon Street, colorful beads, and lavish balls and parades, lies a deep connection to food—rich, dense, and satisfying dishes to sustain revelers before Ash Wednesday and the fasting season of Lent begins. Thus, the aptly named Fat Tuesday, which is the last day to enjoy all the meaty and fatty delicacies you can muster up. Because, frankly, 40 days is a long time to go without eating our southern favorites.

We couldn't let the good times roll without offering some New Orleans-inspired meals to prepare you for the ultimate cheat day of decadence. Whether you call it Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, here, food and religion marry together for one last pre-Lenten hurrah. Feel free to take your pick from these 12 recipes—just indulge responsibly.

Related: Cooking Class: New Orleans Beignets

1. Andouille Sausage Jambalaya with Shrimp

Jambalaya is a quintessentially Creole dish that's typically filled with shrimp, rice, and various spices any Cajun food lover would enjoy. Here, our slow-cooked version is packed with shrimp and sausage for the perfect surf-and-turf approach to Fat Tuesday.

2. Traditional King Cake

The flavor of New Orleans is baked into this round pastry dessert that's decorated in colorful icing reminiscent of the purple, green, and gold spirit of Mardi Gras. It wouldn't be Carnival and Mardi Gras season without king cake and its lucky surprise inside.

3. Crawfish Étouffée

The French word etouffeemeans to smother or braise. During crawfish season, you can't go wrong with etouffee, a popular stew common of southwest Louisiana that's served over a bed of fluffy rice. This hearty dish will satisfy any seafood lover.

4. Warm Gumbo Dip

Shrimp, pickled okra, Parmesan cheese, and creole seasoning combine together for a delicious appetizer that will keep you coming back for more.

Related: Shrimp and Okra Gumbo Recipe

5. German Chocolate Pancakes

Pancakes are practically synonymous with Fat Tuesday, just like king cake. We transformed classic layered German chocolate cake into irresistable flapjacks that are worth waking up early for.

6. Best Ever Seafood Gumbo

Recipe: Best Ever Seafood GumboSimmering andouille with the stock lends the base a tasty depth; adding the seafood at the last minute means it's perfectly cooked. This recipe is packed with fresh seafood—the ingredient list calls for a pound of fresh lump crabmeat and three pounds medium-size raw shrimp. Save prep time by buying frozen sliced okra and thawing before you add it to the gumbo. While the ingredient list is rather lengthy, we assure you, your effort will result in major payoff when you take your first bite. The recipe yields about 5 quarts. Freeze additional servings in freezer bags to pull out on busy weeknights.
Photo: Cedric Angeles

We're not being bombastic here—this really is our best seafood gumbo. Why? Not only does it yield a satisfying bowl, but very little effort is required to make this dish.

7. SL's Stovetop Crawfish Boil

A sink, stove, and one big pot is all you need to make this authentic Louisiana dish. But we love a crawfish boil because it gives us an opportunity to gather with family and friends in the backyard over crawfish, corn, potatoes, and all the delicious fixings.

8. Shrimp Po'boys

Tender shrimp is fried and seasoned to perfection in this recipe, and stuffed into split baguettes to make a Fat Tuesday-worthy sandwich.

9. Praline Bread Pudding

This is the epitome of comfort food and southern indulgence. It's full of pecans, brown sugar, and nutmeg. The praline sauce drizzled on top offers the sweetest ending to a feast.

10. Pan-Seared Shrimp with Chive Grits and Salsa Verde

This recipe can pull double duty for breakfast or dinner because of the spicy seasoning and jumbo shrimp.

11. Cajun Chicken Cassoulet

Shake things up with an easy one-pot Cajun chicken dish that doesn't disappoint. Unlike the slow-cooked French version, this meal cooks up much quicker.

12. New Orleans Beignets

Soft, light, and pillowy—need we say more? You don't have to travel to New Orleans to enjoy bite-sized, powdered sugar-coated beignets. No, your search for the revered pastry ends here with this tasty, fool-proof recipe.