Experience the Beauty of Boudin on Your Grill This Summer

For this Texan, Cajun boudin is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Boudin at a cookout


I grew up thinking that people everywhere ate boudin on a monthly basis, and was shaken to my core when I moved to New York and learned I’d have to pay $40 in overnight shipping if I wanted to cook my favorite Cajun dish. In my hometown of Beaumont, Texas, and throughout Southeast Texas and Louisiana, boudin is as common as I imagine açai bowls to be in Los Angeles. If I went to a cookout, odds are that I had my choice of hamburger, hot dog, or boudin. The word “boudin” means sausage in a few languages, but the only boudin I’m concerned with is a Cajun specialty, a sausage (though the term does not do it justice) filled with pork, rice, and regionally variable seasonings like peppers, celery, onions, and fiery spice blends. While it might sound somewhat standard, this humble food has a perfectly crisp-tender texture and flavor-packed interior that rivals the best smoked links I’ve ever had. It should be on your grill this summer.

This pork-rice-sausage combo owes its existence to the French. When the Acadians (an ethnic French group) migrated to Louisiana from Canada in the late 18th century — settling in the area that is today appropriately called Acadiana — they brought boudin blanc and boudin noir, two classic French sausages that are drastically different from the boudin I’m talking about here. A confluence of poverty, resourcefulness, and a developing rice industry led the Acadians and their Cajun descendants to add every scrap of usable pork along with filling, affordable rice into their sausage casings, creating their own distinct rendition of boudin over time.

The exact ingredients in a link of boudin can vary slightly, depending on the family recipe, brand of choice, or personal preference. Most traditionally, it has both ground pork shoulder and pork liver, but many people forgo the liver today (although I personally recommend it). Some boudin recipes call for just green onions, and some call for the entire holy trinity of green bell pepper, onions, and celery. Garlic is pretty much always included, and recipes will usually call for a few spices commonly used in Cajun cooking, like cayenne, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, and more.

Back home, most people buy boudin that’s already made and simply grill it themselves. You can find it at just about any grocery store or meat market in Louisiana and Southeast Texas, and it’s occasionally sold at gas stations too. Some home cooks — especially those more steeped in Cajun culture, like people living in Acadiana — will make their own boudin from scratch, but most consumers simply have a favorite brand. If you’re not near Cajun country, there are lots of specialty grocers that ship boudin nationwide. I’m partial to ordering from Market Basket Smokehouse because it originated in my hometown, but it’s easy to find Cajun food products online.

Fried Boudin Balls with Creole Mustard Dipping Sauce

Photo by Frederick Hardy II / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

You can also buy more extreme variations, like crawfish or jalapeño cheddar boudin. And of course I can’t neglect to mention the beloved appetizer of Southeast Texas and Louisiana — present at many a wedding on passed plates, as well as served up on plastic checkered tablecloths in strip malls — boudin balls. In my opinion, these crispy fried rice balls give arancini a run for their money. Rather than being piped into a casing, the boudin filling is rolled in bread crumbs, and deep fried. Boudin balls are crispy, rich, and delicious on their own, but they’re even better when served with a tangy dipping sauce like remoulade, a cold, creamy condiment with chopped pickles and spices such as cayenne and paprika mixed in.

The beauty of boudin lies in two things: the flavor and the feel. Juicy pork and mild, fluffy grains of Louisiana rice soak up the savory notes of onions, peppers, paprika, garlic powder, and the other aromatics or seasonings that have been mixed in. Some boudin is smoked, which adds an extra layer of complexity and depth to the experience. When you grill a link, the casing becomes browned and crisp, contrasting with the fall-apart-tender interior. Rice is crucial to achieving this textural feat, adding little morsels of soft starchiness throughout. 

My favorite way to eat boudin is wrapped in a tortilla, but there’s no wrong way to consume it: in a bun, with a knife and fork, or with your bare hands because you simply cannot wait are all acceptable. One Memorial Day Weekend after a few too many canned seltzers on the beach, I discovered that I could dunk my tortilla-wrapped boudin in queso, which I still believe to be the pinnacle of innovation. However you want to boudin, you do you and as long as you are in fact enjoying some boudin, I’ll be happy.

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