Cajun Chicken – A Tantalizing Dish Straight from Louisiana

Cajun cuisine originated amongst the Acadian settlers in Louisiana and has developed a unique blend of French, Spanish, African, and Native American influences. One classic protein that perfectly captures the distinctive flavors of Cajun cooking is chicken.

What is Cajun Cuisine?

Cajun cuisine hails from Louisiana and traces its roots back to the 18th century when nearly 10,000 French Acadians were expelled from Acadia (modern-day Canada). Many of these Acadian settlers, known as Cajuns, eventually migrated to South Louisiana and developed a fusion cooking style influenced by their French heritage as well as Spanish, African, and Native American cultures in the region.

Some defining characteristics of Cajun cuisine include the bold and abundant use of seasonings like garlic, onion, paprika, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Tomatoes, bell peppers and okra are some popular vegetable ingredients incorporated in Cajun dishes. Rice, pasta and cornbread are classic starch sides. Seafood such as shrimp, crawfish and catfish also feature prominently due to Cajun country’s proximity to the Gulf coast.

Chicken – A Versatile Protein for Cajun Cooking

Chicken is one of the most adaptable proteins for Cajun cooking. Its mild flavor makes it a perfect vehicle for bold Cajun seasonings. Chicken is also affordable and widely available making it a practical choice for home cooks. Whether frying, baking, grilling or slow cooking, chicken soaks up the flavors of Cajun marinades, rubs and sauces exceptionally well.

Marinades and Rubs

The first step to creating moist, flavorful Cajun chicken is applying a tantalizing marinade or dry rub.

Essential Cajun Seasonings

The foundation of any good Cajun seasoning blend includes garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt. Feel free to adjust the amount of heat with more or less cayenne. For a rub, use dried herbs like oregano and thyme in addition to the spices.

Sample Marinade Recipe

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Marinate chicken pieces for at least 1 hour, up to overnight.

Sample Dry Rub Recipe

  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Coat chicken pieces and refrigerate for 1 hour before cooking.

Tips for Marinating and Rubbing Chicken

For maximum flavor absorption, consider slicing chicken breasts into halves or thirds so they are not too thick. When using a rub, gently coat all surfaces of the chicken. Allow at least an hour for the flavors to penetrate, up to overnight for a marinade. Patting the chicken dry before breading or cooking helps the coating adhere.

Cooking Methods

Now that the chicken is properly seasoned, it’s time to cook. Cajun chicken can be prepared in various ways from frying to grilling.


For crispy fried chicken, start by soaking boneless pieces in buttermilk or lightly beating an egg. Dredge in flour, cornmeal or breadcrumb mixture. Fry in 350°F oil until internal temp reaches 165°F, 10-12 minutes. Drain on a rack or paper towel.


Baking at a high temperature of 400°F yields crispy skin similar to frying while avoiding messy oil. Lower heat of 300°F keeps the meat moist and tender. Baste with Cajun butter or glazes during cooking.


Grilling over direct high heat imparts smoky notes. For indirect grilling, bank coals or flames to one side. Add wood chunks like oak or hickory for extra smoke flavor. Keep basting with sauce until fully cooked.

Slow Cooking

Thighs and bone-in pieces work best prepared in a slow cooker on Low heat for 4-6 hours. Keep the chicken submerged in broth or sauce. Remove meat and shred or pull apart once very tender.

Sauce Recipes

No Cajun dish is complete without a rich, savory sauce. Here are a few classics to pair with your chicken:

Creole Sauce

Sauté diced tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, garlic. Season with bay leaves, thyme, red pepper. Simmer 20 minutes until thickened. Toss chicken in sauce before serving.

Cajun Remoulade

Stir together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, chopped pickle relish, paprika, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Chill for 30 minutes. Serve with fried chicken.

Hot Sauce Aioli

Whip mayonnaise, hot sauce, minced garlic, salt and pepper until light and fluffy. Spread onto grilled or baked chicken.

Serving Suggestions

There’s no wrong way to enjoy Cajun chicken! Here are some popular preparations:

  • Over rice pilaf or pasta salad
  • In po’boys with pickles and sauce
  • On buttered buns with slaw
  • With sides like dirty rice, beans, greens
  • Added to jambalaya, gumbo or etouffee
  • Wrapped in corn or flour tortillas for tacos or fajitas
  • Tossed into salads with veggies and vinaigrette
  • Used in enchiladas, burritos or sandwiches


Cajun cuisine has developed a unique blend of flavors in Louisiana influenced by French, Spanish, African and Native American cooking traditions. Versatile chicken is the perfect vehicle for showcasing bold Cajun seasonings whether deep fried, baked, grilled or slow cooked. Enjoy experimenting with different cooking methods and matching sauces to discover your favorite interpretations of this iconic Louisiana dish.

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