Food & Drink

The Gulf Coast’s Essential Seafood Dishes


Beyond the fried basket, Key recipes and cookbooks to learn from.

Words By Wildsam StaffIllustration by jess ruliffson

Wildsam

Updated

9 Jan 2024

Reading Time

3 Minutes

The Gulf Coast is a melange of cultures, each bringing its proverbial pots of traditions and merging over centuries. Along with generations of fishers, shrimpers and oyster farmers, the region created one of the country’s most unique and admired culinary canons. The Gulf has one certainty even when times are low: As sure as the sea and sky roil, the gumbo will boil.

Gumbo

Creole cooking's cornerstone. Metaphorical stew mirrors Gulf’s mixed cultures. Best versions have chocolate-colored roux as the base, okra or filé powder for thickener, and plenty of oysters, crab and shrimp.

The Dooky Chase Cookbook

Crawfish Boil

Come spring, pots spill spicy combo of crawfish, potatoes, corn and sausage onto newspaper-covered tables. Cajun tradition using crustacean long consumed by Native tribes. Vietnamese revolutionized formula with tear-jerking heat, garlic butter.

Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking From Donald Link’s Louisiana

West Indies Salad

Credited to Mobile Bay-area restaurant owner Bill Bayley, who as a merchant mariner in the Caribbean picked up idea for chilled salad of crabmeat with oil, vinegar and sliced onion.

Recipe Jubilee!: Junior League of Mobile

Chargrilled Oysters

Oysters cooked over a fire (sometimes broiled or baked) in shell with some combo of butter, cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs. Go by the names of Bienville, Rockefeller, etc.

Good Catch: Recipes & Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida’s Waters

Shrimp Scampi

An Italian-American innovation easily adapted to wherever immigrants and their progeny settled. On the Gulf, shrimp are swaddled in lemon-garlic sauce over nest of spaghetti.

Shrimp: A Savor the South Cookbook

Mullet Dip

Unctuous bottom-feeder filets smoked and whipped up with mayo (sometimes cream cheese too), pickle relish, celery, green onions, lemon and hot sauce. Served with saltines.

The Florida Cookbook: From Gulf Coast Gumbo to Key Lime Pie

Devil Crab

Not to be confused with deviled crab. These croquettes come from Cuban community Ybor City, Florida. Blue crab meat simmered with spicy sofrito sauce, shaped into footballs and deep-fried.

Clarita’s Cocina

Blackened Redfish

Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme’s watershed creation so popular in ’70s it caused closing of Gulf’s fishery for species to recover. Butter-dipped filets coated in dried herbs and spices form almost-burnt crust in ripping-hot skillet.

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen

Grilled Octopus

Oft-seen in Florida’s Greek restaurants. Tentacles grilled till suction cups are charred and meat tender. Served with olive oil with oregano, garlic and squeeze of lemon.

Louis Pappas’ Famous Greek Recipes

Seafood Paella

A Spanish classic. Short-grain bomba rice simmers in a wide, shallow paella-specific pan with olive oil, peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, spices and white wine. Clams, shrimp, mussels and scallops work best.

The Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook

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Field Guide

Gulf Coast

Seafood shacks and dive bars, writers and cigar makers, secret beaches and salty small towns.

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