10 Festive Mardi Gras Recipes

From elaborate MoonPie sweets to cocktails with a kick, these Carnival recipes will get you in the Mardi Gras spirit.

Cheese straws in a bowl
Photo by Todd Douglas

1. Cheese Straws 

Tried-and-true cheese straws from the late, lovely Velma Croom

3/4 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese (Cracker Barrel preferred)
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Combine cheese and softened butter until well blended.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne. Stir into cheese/butter mixture (by hand or in a mixer). This should form a big soft ball of dough.
4. Pack dough into a cookie press. Squeeze out cheese straws, flat side down, onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Watch carefully. Do not allow to brown.
6. Remove cheese straws from cookie sheet to cool on waxed paper. They will become crisp as they cool. Break into 3-inch pieces.
7. Once completely cool, keep in an air-tight container, layering with waxed paper to keep them from breaking. Makes approximately 7 dozen

Mini muffins on a plate
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

2. Almond Miniature Muffins

Like many of the popular modern king cakes, these tasty, petite treats have a cream cheese filling tucked in the middle of each muffin.

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12 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 eggs, divided
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 cup butter
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chopped almonds, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat cream cheese, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons sugar and orange rind together. Set aside.
2. Cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
3. Stir flour and baking powder together. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to butter and sugar mixture, starting and ending with flour. Add almond extract and fold in almonds.
4. Fill each lightly greased muffin tin half full with muffin batter. Spoon a small spoonful (about 1/2 teaspoon) of cream cheese filling in each tin and top with remaining batter.
5. Bake about 8 – 12 minutes. Makes approximately 5 dozen mini muffins.

Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

3. Stop the Parade Conecuh Sausage

2 pounds Conecuh sausage
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons pineapple juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 15-ounce can pineapple chunks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 pinches crushed red pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Cut Conecuh sausage into bite-sized chunks and brown on medium-high heat in a skillet with olive oil and butter.
2. Add pineapple juice and white wine. Cook, rolling sausages in skillet, until the liquids thicken and sausages are glazed and browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer sausages to a warm platter.
3. Add pineapple to skillet in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt, peppercorns, crushed red pepper and brown sugar. Cook 3 – 4 minutes, turning to coat, and brown the pineapple until hot and caramelized. Pour over sausages and serve. Serves 12

Platter of fried shrimp and oysters
Photo by Jeff Tesney

4. Clifton Morrissette’s Fried Shrimp/Oysters

16 ounces medium-sized Bayou la Batre oysters, shucked, in their liquor (or 1 pound peeled, tail-on Gulf shrimp, preferably 16 – 26 count size)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
8 cups vegetable oil, or enough to fill a cast-iron pot with 2 inches of oil
2 cups Dixie Lily Fried Seafood Breader

1. Drain oysters. Place oysters in a large bowl and add buttermilk. Place in refrigerator and allow to soak at least 5 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or fryer with plain vegetable oil (not peanut oil) to 325 degrees. Do not allow oil to get above 350 degrees.
3. Pour the Dixie Lily Seafood Breader into a shallow baking dish. Remove seafood from milk and drop into the breader. Toss to coat and immediately place oysters into the hot oil.
4. Fry until golden brown, 3 – 5 minutes, then drain briefly on paper towels.
5. Serve immediately with cocktail, remoulade or tartar sauce for dipping. Serves 6 – 8

Stack of MoonPie bars on a plate
Photo by Jennie Tewell

5. ​MoonPie Bars

These rich, decadent squares will satisfy any chocoholic’s sweet tooth.

1 box yellow cake mix
2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, divided
6 chocolate MoonPies, chopped into small pieces, divided
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine cake mix, butter and 1 egg. Press into the bottom of a greased 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle with half of chopped MoonPies and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, vanilla extract and confectioners’ sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add two eggs, one at a time, and mix until completely incorporated. Pour mixture over crust.
3. Bake 40 minutes or until set. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and remaining MoonPie pieces. Once cool, cut into bars. Makes 12 – 15 bars

MoonPie trifle
Photo by Jennie Tewell

6. MoonPie Trifle

Layers of chocolate and banana MoonPies steal the spotlight in this festive take on banana pudding.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (5.1-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 banana and 3 chocolate MoonPies, cut into wedges
6 bananas, sliced
1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon.
2. Unroll crescent roll dough and separate into triangles. On a greased round baking sheet, position triangles next to each other with the points toward the center, overlapping about 1/4 inch, forming a large round.
3. Spoon the cream cheese filling in a circle, about half way between the edges and the points of each triangle.
4. Fold the point of each triangle toward the outer rim of the pan. Then pull the edges of the triangles toward the center of the roll, fully enclosing the filling and creating a ring of dough.
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.
6. In a large bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract and milk. Drizzle glaze onto cake and top with sprinkles. Serves 8 – 10

Ramekin of King Cake Bread Pudding
Photo by Jennie Tewell

7. King Cake Bread Pudding

Transform leftover king cake into a warm, fresh-baked dessert, topped with a sweet and simple glaze. Serve in ramekins for a polished presentation.

1 king cake, cubed (about 8 – 10 cups)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 – 3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
sprinkles or cinnamon, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter a large baking dish. Place king cake cubes in prepared dish and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time. Add condensed milk, half-and-half, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt, and mix well.
4. Pour mixture over king cake. Soak at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
5. Place baking dish in a large roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with enough hot water to reach halfway up sides of baking dish.
6. Bake for 55 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
7. In a large bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar, milk and almond extract to make a glaze.
8. Top bread pudding with glaze and desired garnish. Serves 6 – 8

Two glasses of Frozen Red Roosters
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

8. Frozen Red Roosters

Slushy and spirited, these frosty libations make the perfect eye-opening early morning cocktails.

1 1/2 quarts cranberry juice
1 (6-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed but not diluted
2 cups vodka

1. Combine all ingredients. Freeze several hours or overnight. Makes about 2 quarts

A cup of coffee punch
Photo by Todd Douglas

9. Coffee Punch

This decadent classic makes a sweet dessert or a lavish eye-opener.

1 1/2 pints vanilla ice cream, frozen hard (Breyer’s preferred)
4 cups hot coffee
coffee liqueur, optional (Kahlua or Tia Maria recommended)

1. Place ice cream in punch bowl, pour hot coffee over the ice cream.
2. Beat slightly with a whisk until ice cream is partially melted.
3. Pour into punch glasses, add liqueur, if desired. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Serves approximately 15

A glass of velvet milk punch
Photo by Elise Poche

10. Velvet Milk Punch

A splash of king-cake-flavored vodka makes this lush indulgence extra festive.

1 (fifth) king cake flavored Pinnacle vodka
1 cup Amaretto
1 half gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
1 quart whole milk
cinnamon sugar, for rimming glasses
cinnamon sticks, for garnish

1. In a large, freezer-safe container, mix together vodka, amaretto, ice cream and milk until well combined. Store in the freezer until ready to serve.
2. Before serving, wet rims of glasses and dip into cinnamon sugar to coat edge. Pour punch into glasses. Garnish with cinnamon sticks. Makes approximately 15 – 20

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