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What Is Creole Sauce?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Creole sauce is a staple of Cajun cuisine and is used in making or topping a number of dishes commonly found in and around New Orleans. The sauce is usually made with a tomato base, which can consist of canned tomatoes as well as tomato sauce. A number of spices and ingredients are added to create the final sauce, which is typically cooked down until thick enough to cover other foods. Creole sauce can be used as an ingredient in a number of other foods, such as on rice and beans, topping grilled sausage, chicken, and fish, or in a sandwich.

Often called “red sauce” or “red gravy” in Cajun cooking, Creole sauce typically begins with what is commonly referred to as the “trinity” in Cajun cuisine. This trinity consists of onions, celery, and bell peppers diced small and combined in various amounts, though for this type of sauce, it often consists of one part peppers to two parts each of onions and celery. These diced vegetables are cooked in a small amount of oil or butter until softened and the onions become translucent. A roux of butter and flour can sometimes be added at this point, though some recipes withhold completely.

Bell peppers are typically used in creole sauce.
Bell peppers are typically used in creole sauce.

Minced garlic is often added to the Creole sauce along with the trinity, though it is typically added last since burnt garlic takes on an unpleasant taste. Once these ingredients are cooked through, canned or freshly chopped tomatoes are added; some recipes call for tomato sauce as well. A bay leaf and thyme leaf can also be added, as well as salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper or a combination of all three often found as “Creole seasoning.” Simple recipes may then instruct the cook to simply simmer this mixture down until it becomes thickened.

Creole sauce is popular in New Orleans.
Creole sauce is popular in New Orleans.

Many recipes, however, call for the addition of chicken or fish stock to the sauce, which is then brought to a boil, the heat reduced, and allowed to simmer until thickened. Recipes that call for the addition of stock are often those that use a roux to further thicken the sauce. The finished sauce is then seasoned to taste, and any bay and thyme leaves are removed before serving. Rice and beans are often served with Creole sauce, though it can also be poured over grilled chicken, sausages, and fish, and is a popular condiment on fish or shrimp sandwiches called “po’ boys.”

Discussion Comments


@Wisedly33 -- Sure. It's Alton Brown's oven roux recipe and it works every time.

Preheat your oven to 350. Get either a cast iron Dutch oven (preferable), or a really heavy, oven-safe pot, and whisk together a half cup of all-purpose flour and a half-cup of oil. Whisk it until smooth, put the pan on the middle rack in the oven, and cook for 90 minutes, stirring it about every 30 minutes. You should stir it about three times during the cooking. Works every single time. Good luck!


@Scrbblchick -- Would you care to share your roux method? I will do a light or even a medium roux, but a dark roux scares me. I'd love to have a roux recipe that works. I don't have any problems with a creole sauce, but a dark roux intimidates me, and I'd love to make gumbo.


Never had a creole sauce on a po' boy, but I have had it as the base for shrimp creole and shrimp etouffee. It's not terribly difficult to make. In fact, most Cajun/creole recipes that come out of the home kitchen tradition aren't difficult. They may have a lengthy cooking time, but they're not hard to make.

I even have a good method for making a roux, so I can usually handle a creole sauce for shrimp creole or similar. The tomato based sauces are my favorites.

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    • Bell peppers are typically used in creole sauce.
      By: indigolotos
      Bell peppers are typically used in creole sauce.
    • Creole sauce is popular in New Orleans.
      By: missgrace
      Creole sauce is popular in New Orleans.
    • Lobster in Creole sauce.
      By: Monkey Business
      Lobster in Creole sauce.
    • A key ingredient in the "trinity" of Cajun cuisine is celery.
      By: andersphoto
      A key ingredient in the "trinity" of Cajun cuisine is celery.