Recipe Spotlight

Boudin Balls Are the Ultimate Mardi Gras Party Fare

The iconic sausage, fried.
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Published Jan. 29, 2024.

To say that Cajun boudin is a pork sausage doesn’t do it justice—this mix of spiced pork, rice, and liver is a totem of Cajun cuisine and helps tell the story of one of the richest culinary traditions in America. 

Boudin is fully cooked before it gets stuffed into the casings, and the preferred method of consumption is to bite off the top of the casing and squeeze the soft, heavily seasoned mixture directly into your mouth. And if company is coming, you can spread it on crackers or ball it up, roll it in breading, and fry it into delectable morsels known as boudin balls

Recipe

Boudin Balls

How do you make this iconic Cajun sausage party-ready? Fry it.
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The history of boudin is just as rich as its flavor. Boudin’s roots can be traced back to the Acadians (or “Cadiens”), a group of French expatriates who came to Nova Scotia, which was known as Acadia at the time, in 1604. 

Eventually expelled to different parts of America in 1755, many ended up scattered throughout Louisiana, where they identified themselves as Cajuns and made use of the land’s bounty by hunting and fishing—and cooking. As with architecture and music, they adapted their cuisine to fit their new surroundings. (It should be noted that the word “Cajun” is not strictly used to identify just one region or group of people in Louisiana.)

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Among the foods they brought was boudin blanc, a white sausage made from pork (or veal or chicken), bread, cream, mirepoix (onions, celery, and carrots), and spices. Because rice was abundant in Louisiana, over time it replaced the bread as the starchy filler. Similarly, the wide availability of green bell peppers led Cajun cooks to lose the carrots and create the holy trinity, the vegetable mixture that became the foundation of much of Louisiana cuisine. 

Like any people living off the land, the Cajuns used every part of the animals they butchered; hence, chicken or pork livers came to be a staple in the sausage. Today boudin is sold in all manner of markets, grocery stores, and gas stations throughout Louisiana. 

Calvin Trillin on Boudin

The scribe Calvin Trillin is a champion of many foodstuffs, but he may be most passionate about boudin. Here’s an excerpt on the topic from his book Feeding a Yen (2003). 

“When people in Breaux Bridge or Opelousas or Jeanerette talk about boudin (pronounced ‘boo-DAN’), they mean a soft mixture of rice and pork and liver and seasoning that is squeezed hot into the mouth from a sausage casing, usually in the parking lot of a grocery store and preferably while leaning against a pickup. (Boudin means ‘blood sausage’ to the French, most of whom would probably line up for immigration visas if they ever tasted the Cajun version.) I figure that about eighty percent of the boudin purchased in Louisiana is consumed before the purchaser has left the parking lot, and most the rest is polished off in the car. In other words, Cajun boudin not only doesn’t get outside the state, it usually doesn’t even get home.”

There is nothing subtle about the best boudin, so I knew my version had to be assertively seasoned. Simmering chunks of heavily marbled pork shoulder in water with the trinity, salt, garlic, smoked paprika, white and black pepper, and cayenne created a deep base of flavor in the meat and liquid. Using some of that flavorful liquid—now pork stock—to cook the rice infused the grains with flavor. 

The preferred ratio of pork to rice and liver is hotly debated in Louisiana; my tasters (including a few former Louisiana residents) and I settled on 2 pounds of pork, 1⅓ cups of raw long-grain white rice, and 12 ounces of chicken livers for a sausage that was bold but balanced. Additional flavor comes from more flavorful pork‑cooking liquid (plus whatever fat was skimmed from it) and plenty of sliced scallions. 

You can stuff this filling into casings, poach it, and even smoke it if you like—there are many ways to enjoy boudin. But with Mardi Gras on the mind, I wanted party‑friendly boudin balls. To make them, you simply chill the filling, portion it into spheres, and then bread and fry them. 

This crowd-pleasing version is an absolute treat, especially when served with rémoulade for dipping

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