Mardi Gras in the U.S. town New Orleans is a time when marching-band parades fill the streets, elaborate floats roll down the avenues, and partygoers don beads and feather boas. Carnival vibes extend to the city’s equally famous food and drink culture; the Big Easy bursts with festive flavors from Twelfth Night to Fat Tuesday. And it’s not just king cake being consumed around the clock—bagels, beer, and blended beverages are all also served with a Mardi Gras twist.
Mardi Gras bagels
What better way to hit the parade route than with a purple, green, and gold bagel? These colorful spirals of baked goodness are a perfect alternative to king cake for breakfast. Keep it simple with a cream cheese spread—scallion, red velvet, plain, you name it—or go all out with bacon, egg, and cheese. Bagel Boy Nola delivers these psychedelic creations right to your door, or pick some up during carnival season at their pop-up shop on Saturdays.
Take away the bread and add more caffeine to get this yummy cup of joe. Served at local coffeehouses like PJ’s and CC’s, this king cake-inspired blend satisfies your carnival cravings with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. Try it hot, iced, or frozen, but most importantly grab one for a pick-me-up between all the partying.
This confectionary delight combines two desserts mastered and made famous by the French—the macaron and the king cake. In true Mardi Gras fashion, these petite pastries borrow their sweetness from king cakes, and are painted purple, green, and gold—the official colors of carnival. Although these eye-catching treats are baked fresh at places like Sucré during Mardi Gras, there are many homemade recipes to keep the party going in the kitchen.
King cake cocktails
It’s not Mardi Gras without drinks. This cocktail version of a king cake will make your taste buds sing. Whether it’s a king cake “bevvy” from the Bourbon House, a king cake martini by Emeril Lagasse, or a recipe whipped up at home, this luscious drink has the same cinnamon and vanilla kick as the traditional dessert. Another round before the parade? No judgement here.
There’s nothing that a donut with purple, green, and gold sugar can’t fix. Some have a sweet cream-cheese filling with glaze drizzled on top; others are plain cake donuts covered in festive fairy dust (carnival-colored sprinkles). Wondering what the plastic babies are for? They’re normally baked inside the king cakes; tradition says that whoever gets the slice with the baby has to buy the next cake. Luckily for you, each of these donuts has one, which means more for everybody!
Some say nothing goes better with a cold beer than spicy crawfish. Now, New Orleanians seem to think Mardi Gras is a pretty good match, too. As a growing number of carnival brews go to show, the Crescent City is serious about pairing flavors with festivals. From Mardi Gras Bocks to king cake ales, there’s no lack of beers to enjoy on and off the parade route. Now just make sure to bring a koozie (insulating sleeve) to keep it cold.
Festive ice cream
King cake ice cream should probably be a thing all year round—just in case Ben & Jerry are reading this. Vanilla ice cream mixed with cinnamon and chunks of king cake is a Mardi Gras party in your mouth. Add in purple, green, and gold sprinkles, and this frozen fiesta might just be your all-time favorite.
The motherlode of Mardi Gras desserts
Bananas aren’t normally what come to mind during carnival season, but when they are cooked in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and rum, it makes complete sense as a Mardi Gras specialty. In New Orleans, when bananas are prepared in this sauce, it’s known as Bananas Fosters. When this melt-in-your-mouth dessert is topped with a king cake donut and pecan ice cream, it might as well be Christmas Day—better yet, Fat Tuesday.