When you think of traditional food from Louisiana, you likely think of gumbo, po'boys or beignets. But what about boudin?
Pronounced BOO-DAN, boudin is a type of sausage found in Louisiana, in particular in the southwest portion of the state, which is home to the Cajun community. The delicacy is made with various cuts of pork plus rice, onion, pepper and seasoning, all stuffed into a sausage casing. Spice combinations are often well-kept secrets, passed down from generation to generation.
Liver and heart are often used because the Acadian people that settled there needed to use as much of the animal as possible during the boucherie, or the annual butchering process. The word boudin means "blood sausage" in French, where the tradition originated. But the comparisons mostly end there. The French boudin blanc incorporates milk and cognac.
Once the sausage links are created, boudin can be steamed, grilled, or smoked for different textures and flavors. Cooking isn't required since the meat and rice filling is heated beforehand, but it's generally served warm. Some people eat the entire boudin, casing and all, while others prefer to eat only the filling. The taste of boudin is akin to dirty rice, another Louisiana staple made with rice cooked with meat, cayenne pepper and salt. You'll find that people eat boudin for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Multiple kinds of boudin are found throughout the state. Boudin blanc (the pork and rice mixture) is the most common version, found throughout southwest Louisiana. Rarer is boudin rouge, which uses pig blood to create the sausage's red color. But boudin can be made with just about anything, including rabbit, alligator, seafood like crawfish and shrimp, or even cheese.
Boudin makes its way into all sorts of dishes. One Louisiana shop makes a boudin pie with sweet potatoes and pecans. Other cooks incorporate boudin into biscuits, king cakes, egg rolls or else use riced cauliflower instead of rice in the sausage.
Boudin balls, fried balls of sausage similar to the arancini of Italy, are a popular way to enjoy the dish. They're breaded in flour or breadcrumbs and deep-fried for easy on-the-go snacking. It's a nice "gateway" to boudin if you're not an adventurous eater. The best way to eat this is as soon as you get it! (Food historian Calvin Trillin once estimated that 80 percent of boudin bought in Louisiana doesn't make it home — it's eaten right in the parking lot.)
Boudin can be found in meat markets, restaurants and even gas stations, making it a favorite snack for road trips. It's a popular gift to take to gatherings, be they weddings, funerals or Mardi Gras festivities. Boudin Link is the best resource for locating the product, whether in Louisiana or beyond.