By Leslie Kelly

Most people think of Mardi Gras as Fat Tuesday, but the celebrations and parades stretch out for weeks before Lent, especially in New Orleans, aka Ground Zero for the seriously silly business of letting the good times roll. To get the party started, we've created a collection of some of the top-rated Cajun and Creole recipes, classic dishes that will definitely make any Mardi Gras party memorable.

1. Authentic Red Beans and Rice

Slow-simmered until the beans are creamy, this beloved dish is a permanent part of Monday meals for many New Orleanians. The tradition dates back decades when Monday was laundry day and this hearty, one-pot dinner cooked unattended.

Rating: An average of 4.5 stars on more than 680 reviews.

Photo by Caroline

2. Corn and Crab Bisque

The winning combination of lump crab and sweet corn makes this ultra-rich soup truly decadent. Take it way over the top by garnishing with a spoonful of crab meat floating on a crostini.

Rating: An average of 4.5 stars on nearly 200 reviewers.

Photo by Meredith Publishing

3. Boudreaux's Zydeco Stomp Gumbo

When it comes to gumbo, everybody's mama's makes THE best, no argument. But this version is pretty darned good, according to the rave reviews. The key is to cook the roux low and slow until it turns mahogany. If you want to serve it like some folks do in the Crescent City, plop a scoop of Mama's Potato Salad in the middle of the bowl instead of rice.

Rating: An average of 4.5 stars on more than 500 reviewers.

Photo by Meredith Publishing

4. Blackened Salmon Fillets

The fiery blend of spices — hello, cayenne pepper — turns succulent salmon into a whole different beast that's definitely going to speak to those who love the heat. Cool things down with a side of steamed potatoes and green beans.

Rating: An average of 4.5 stars on more than 600 reviews.

Photo by Meredith Publishing

5. Easy Cajun Jambalaya

Chicken and rice gets a huge blast of flavor from slices of sausage in this dish that'll warm you right up down to your dancing shoes. Between quick prep and cook time, dinner's ready in under an hour.

Rating: An average of 4.5 stars on more than 500 reviews.

Photo by Meredith Publishing

6. Cajun Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffee

This colorful seafood stew actually has a French accent, crossing over toward the Creole cooking tradition. Like many dishes with roots in Louisiana, etouffee includes the "holy trinity" in its list of ingredients: celery, onions and bell peppers. If you can't find crawfish, double up on the shrimp.

Rating: 5 stars on more than 350 reviews.

Photo by Soup Loving Nicole

7. King Cake

Nothing says Mardi Gras quite like the traditional King Cake, but this classic is really more of a sweet bread than a crumbly cake. Oh, and that plastic baby hidden inside? If you're lucky enough to find it in your slice, it means you'll be hosting the next party.

Rating: An average of 4.5 stars on 250 reviews.

Mardi Gras King Cake | Photo by Wyattdogster

8. Beignets

Pillow-y pockets of powdered sugar dusted fried dough are the best way to end an evening of celebrating. Or the best way to wake up and chase away that hangover. Or both. A family recipe that dates back 40 years, this one is perfect for a crowd, as it makes 12 servings.

Rating: An average of 4.5 stars on 174 reviews.

Photo by Meredith Publishing

Check out our collection of Mardi Gras Recipes.