Easy Mardi Gras Appetizers

Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

Whether you are throwing a large Mardi Gras party with friends and extended family or a small party with just your immediate family, preparing tasty appetizers can be time consuming as well as challenging. This is especially true if you are devoting lots of time to making a killer Mardi Gras-inspired main course and/or a delectable array of desserts. Fortunately, there are several Mardi Gras appetizers -- which require little culinary effort -- that you can whip up in no time.

A Bit of Background

Mardi Gras, which is French for "Fat Tuesday," is a celebration that takes place in several parts of the world, but most famously in New Orleans, Louisiana. Also known as "Shrove Tuesday," Mardi Gras occurs the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Before giving up sweets, fatty foods or other vices for Lent, many people use Mardi Gras as a final platform for over-indulging and celebrating rambunctiously. Tied to the Mardi Gras celebration is the Cajun culture, which is embedded in the bayou regions of Louisiana. Cajun cuisine, which is a staple of any Mardi Gras celebration worth its weight in decorative beads, is characterized by seafood and spiciness.

Totally Traditional

One of the most traditional Cajun seafood items that you can incorporate into an easy Mardi Gras appetizer is the crawfish. Also known as a mud bug or crawdad, a crawfish is a small, lobster-like freshwater crustacean. The simplest option for preparing a crawfish appetizer is to throw a bunch of the little critters into a pot of water, boil them and then serve. For more flavor, but only slightly more work, you can mix the crawfish with some rice and vegetables to make jambalaya, or you can mix the crawfish with okra, bouillon and spices to make a gumbo.

Keeping Shrimp Simple

If you don't live in the South, tracking down crawfish will likely be the hardest part of making a traditional Mardi Gras crawfish appetizer. Fortunately, shrimp, which are widely available in the U.S., are another popular seafood that is suitable for a Mardi Gras celebration. To keep shrimp appetizers simple, avoid making fried shrimp, which requires dipping the shrimp in an egg mixture and coating the shrimp in breadcrumbs and other ingredients before the cooking process even begins. Instead, you can buy frozen, pre-cooked shrimp, let them defrost and serve them on a platter. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, you can saute shrimp in pan with extra virgin olive oil and spices, or you can put shrimp on a greased baking pan and broil them in the oven. Serve the shrimp with a spicy cocktail sauce for the adults and a creamy ranch dip for the kids.

Black-Eyed Peas, Please

If you have young children who aren't the biggest fans of seafood, you can still serve up simple Mardi Gras appetizers with the help of black-eyed peas. The beauty of using black-eyed peas is that you can by them pre-cooked in cans, which means preparation requires simply opening the cans and draining the fluids. Try mixing the black-eyed peas with some chopped onions, bell peppers and tomatoes and serving it as a dip with tortilla chips. Alternatively, you can mix the black-eyed peas with some corn and canned beans and serve them as a salad. Whether you make a dip or salad, flavor the black-eyed peas with ranch seasoning mix to make a hit for the kids.