There’s nothing more pleasurable than eating dessert in New Orleans. After eating beignets, cakes, pies and even more sweet treats, we share our picks for the best New Orleans desserts. We show you where to eat them too!
Desserts in New Orleans are divine.
This is a city where New Orleanians apply butter and sugar with no fear, often combining the two with reckless abandon using flames, molten caramel mixtures and deep fryers. Yes, New Orleans is a city where the concept of “more is more” is a real thing.
It’s also a city with a deep culinary history, melding French, Italian, Spanish and Creole influences, and an even deeper love for decadent flavors. Sauces are saucier here while spicy food can send the roof of your mouth to the moon. As for New Orleans desserts, they’re often sweeter than France, more flamboyant than Italy and definitively more indulgent than the rest of the USA.
Discover the best desserts in the world. Not surprisingly, a few of these desserts double as the best desserts in New Orleans.
Our Picks For The Best New Orleans Desserts
We rarely say “no” to dessert in New Orleans.
We walk as much as possible to burn off the inevitable dessert calories when we’re in New Orleans – often more than 20,000 steps in a day. It’s a must if you plan to travel to the Big Easy for food.
Desserts taste better in the Crescent City. You just have to know where to find the city’s best desserts.
After numerous trips to New Orleans spanning more than a decade, we’re ready to share our favorite NOLA desserts. Many are iconic desserts that are unique to New Orleans and Louisiana while others are available beyond the Bayou.
Read on to discover our favorite New Orleans desserts as well as where to find them.
1. Bananas Foster
Bananas Foster debuted more than a half century ago at Vieux Carré, the restaurant which eventually assumed the Brennan’s family name. Brennan’s has perfected the flaming dessert over the years, with servers flambéing the bananas tableside throughout the day and into the night.
Read about our boozy breakfast at Brennan’s.
This preparation of Bananas Foster involves combining butter, cinnamon, brown sugar and bananas (of course) in a pan before adding rum and banana liqueur. Flames flair and excitement builds before the caramelized mixture is plated along with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Bananas Foster is one of those ‘only in New Orleans’ dishes that’s not to missed. And, while you could hypothetically eat Bananas Foster dessert at another New Orleans restaurant, Brennan’s has built its reputation as THE place to savor caramelized bananas floating in liquor and topped with ice cream.
Where to Eat Original Bananas Foster Dessert in New Orleans
Although the Beignet wasn’t invented in the Crescent City, this New Orleans pastry become an integral part of the city’s food culture since the 18th century when Acadian settlers started frying French fritters in Louisiana. It’s even the state’s official donut. Apologies to France and ancient Rome who also claim credit for this donut varietal.
Discover more great donuts eaten around the world.
Open since 1862, Cafe du Monde is the most famous spot to eat Beignets in New Orleans and therefore the world. Buy Cafe du Monde’s Beignet Mix if you want to make Beignets at home. Just make sure you have plenty of powdered sugar on hand before you fry them up.
Where to Eat The Most Iconic Beignets in New Orleans
Café du Monde
3. Bread Pudding
Originally a dish born out of scarcity, Bread Pudding counts pantry items like stale bread, milk, cream and eggs as its main ingredients. But it doesn’t stop there. Additional ingredients like fruit, nuts, cinnamon and vanilla give the dish a richness that belies it humble roots.
Though their ancestors didn’t invent the dish, New Orleans bakers take Bread Pudding to the next level by topping the ‘carbolicious’ desert with creamy sauces featuring bourbon and rum. Talk about taking a great dish and making it even greater!
While we’ve eaten Bread + Butter Pudding in London as well as Bread Pudding in destinations like Tallinn and Fife, our favorite version remains the one served in a paper boat and smothered in sweet rum sauce. We eat that version every time we visit New Orleans at one of the city’s best Po Boy shops and it never disappoints.
Where to Eat Decadent Rum-Soaked Bread Pudding in New Orleans
Parkway Tavern & Bakery
4. Bread Pudding Soufflé
Not willing to settle for typical Bread Pudding, Chef Paul Prudhomme took the classic dessert to new heights when he created Bread Pudding Soufflé during his tenure at Commander’s Palace. Several chefs later, the dessert remains a fixture on the iconic restaurant’s dessert menu.
Prudhomme’s over-the-top creation includes ingredients like day old French bread, butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs, heavy cream and raisins. But that’s not all…
Servers pour on creamy whiskey sauce at the table for good measure. It’s a bread pudding reimagined to make something notoriously heavy taste remarkably light. Not wanting to miss a bit or bite, we scraped our souflé cup clean when we ordered this dish during our three-martini lunch at Commander’s Palace.
Where to Eat the Original Bread Pudding Soufflé in New Orleans
5. Peach Cobbler
Some desserts are works of art made by skilled bakers who focus on every detail including aesthetics. Peach Cobbler is not one of these desserts. Instead, it’s a lazy version of Peach Pie without a pie crust or fancy lattice.
You may be wondering why we’re including this Georgia dessert in our New Orleans dessert guide. In a nutshell (or should we say peach pit?), that reason is the late Queen of Creole Cuisine, Leah Chase.
Despite Chase’s passing, her Peach Cobbler remains on the menu at the Chase family’s historic restaurant in the Tremé. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, this fruity dessert made with sliced fruit and crumbles isn’t a work of art. Those are on the wall. But it tasted great and that’s what matters most.
Where to Eat Leah Chase’s Peach Cobbler in New Orleans
6. Turtle Cookies
We didn’t realize that Turtle Cookies were a classic New Orleans dessert until we ordered one at Bywater Bakery in the Bywater neighborhood. At the time, our sole motivation was that the cookie looked tasty with its crunchy, thick textured base topped with deep, rich dark chocolate frosting.
A New Orleans fixture in much of the 20th century, McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes were beloved for baking desserts like King Cakes (see below) and Turtle Cookies. Although the NOLA bakery chain closed in 2001, its Turtle Cookie lives on in both a cookbook (Cooking Up A Storm: Recipes Lost and found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans) and at Bywater Bakery.
Where to Eat Tasty Turtle Cookies in New Orleans
7. Pecan Pie
Unlike Cheesecake, there’s no debate that Pecan Pie was invented in America. There’s also no debate that bakers in New Orleans bake delectable versions. The only debate involves how to pronounce it. Some Northerners pronounce the word ‘pecan’ so that it rhymes with ‘man’ while Southerners rhyme the word with ‘don’. But we digress.
What really matters is that Pecan Pie is a sweet yet utterly nutty dessert favorite in the American South where bakers from Tennessee to Texas add a healthy amount of Karo syrup to a mixture that includes butter, eggs, sugar and lots of pecans. We always eat a slice when we’re in southern cities like Memphis and New Orleans. We’ve even enjoyed great versions of Pecan Pie in Philadelphia.
8. Grilled Pecan Pie
Grilling Pecan Pie in butter seems like overkill… until you bite into a slice of luscious Grilled Pecan Pie at The Camellia Grill. This bold move isn’t just over the top, it’s also a winning move that earns the grilled dessert its own category.
The Camellia Grill doesn’t stop at grilling plain and chocolate slices of Pecan Pie. The iconic New Orleans diner takes the extra stop of topping their ooey-gooey pie slices with scoops of vanilla ice cream upon request. The ice cream is worth the additional cost and calories.
Where to Eat Finger-Licking-Good Grilled Pecan Pie in New Orleans
The Camellia Grill
Although the French Quarter is less than a square mile in size, this relatively small space is more than big enough for two iconic Praline shops – Aunt Sally’s Pralines and Leah’s Pralines. Not to be confused with Praline shops in France, these two Praline purveyors craft a style of Praline that’s different from those we’ve eaten in both Belgium and France.
As Elna Stokes, the current owner of Leah’s Pralines and the original owner’s niece, showed us, the physically demanding process to create traditional New Orleans Praline involves smothering local pecans with a mixture of real butter and sugar. Less traditional Pralines feature additional ingredients like chocolate, caramel, marshmallows and even rum.
10. King Cake
King Cake has a very specific shelf life at traditional New Orleans bakeries like Metairie’s Manny Randazzo’s King Cakes. However, other other bakeries like Haydel’s Bakery sell them beyond the Mardi Gras season.
Buy plastic babies and bake a King Cake at home.
Made with braided dough and frosted with icing, King Cakes are cinnamon-flavored cakes notable for having the Mardi Gras tricolor of purple, green and gold sugar on top. Each King Cake contains a plastic baby hidden inside the cake.
People who find hidden babies in their slices are considered lucky. In addition to the risk of breaking a tooth or choking, they’re also responsible for hosting future Mardi Gras parties or buying the King Cake for next year. Go figure.
Don’t confuse New Orleans’ Snoballs with typical snow cones sold in other cities. The NOLA version features shaved iced instead of crushed ice. We find the icy dessert somewhat similar to Water Ice and Italian Ice in east coast cities like New York and Philadelphia.
Snoballs have been a thing in New Orleans since 1934 when the Hansen clan started shaving ice and topping each cup with homemade syrup. Now operated by the family’s third generation, this Snoball shop is a James Beard prize-winning local institution.
However, Hansens’ Sno-Bliz isn’t the only Snoball stand in New Orleans. Each New Orleans Snoball shop typically offers a range of flavors like classic strawberry and orange as well as more modern flavors like honey lavender and satsuma. Additional ingredients like ice cream and coconut milk are also typical. Queues at these shops are inevitable on hot summer days.
Where to Chill Out with New Orleans Style Snoballs in New Orleans
Beignets (see above) aren’t the only Donuts in New Orleans. Au contraire notre frère! America’s obsession with yeast and cake donuts is alive and well in the Crescent City.
Some donut shops like Blue Dot Donuts sell traditional varieties like simple yeast, buttermilk and cake donuts as well as fancier maple bacon bars. Red velvet is our personal favorite at this NOLA donut shop.
Then there are more modern donut shops like District Donuts. This donut shop has a rotating menu that features simple glazed, cinnamon sugar and chocolate glazed donuts as well as more elaborate flavors like Banana Pudding, Cookie Butter Brudder and (our favorite) Berries & Cream. As a major bonus, District Donut also serves third wave coffee.
13. Chantilly Cake
Since Chef Chaya Conrad invented Berry Chantilly Cake while working for Whole Foods in New Orleans, it’s fair to call Chantilly Cake a New Orleans dessert. She now makes a version at Bywater Cafe, the cafe she owns and operates with her partner Alton Osborne, with white almond cake, mascarpone chantilly icing and seasonal berries.
Conrad doesn’t stop with berries. She also bakes Chocolate Strawberry Chantilly Cake and Lemon Chantilly Cake. We ordered a slice of the latter and found the it to be a delight with its lemon syrup soaked yellow butter cake, whipped chantilly cream and a handful of berries on top.
Where to Eat Slices of Chantilly Cake in New Orleans
14. Doberge Cake
When we first saw Doberge Cakes at Bakery Bar, Daryl immediately commented that they looked like the Dobos Tortes that we loved eating in Budapest. Meanwhile, Mindi was more interested in choosing a flavor. While he was correct, she won by ordering a slice of the Rainbow Surprise Wedding Cake featured above.
We later learned that Beulah Ledner introduced her Doberge Cakes to New Orleans dessert eaters decades after József C. Dobos, a Hungarian, created the Dobos Torte in 1885. While both cakes stack a tower of layers and cover them with icing, the Hungarian cake does this with a crunchy caramel layer. Ledner modified the recipe to use caramelized custard instead.
Today, Bakery Bar sells a variety of Doberge cakes baked by Debbie Does Doberge. However, we’ll understand if you order Cream Cheese King Cake instead.
Where to Eat Layered Doberge Cake in New Orleans
15. Sweet Potato Pie and Scones
Sweet Potato Pie wasn’t invented in New Orleans – it’s an American food favorite with direct ties to African American food culture beyond the Louisiana city. However, typically available at New Orleans eateries that serve Southern American soul food, this dessert hits the spot with its earthy yet sweet flavors.
While Black-owned Backatown serves miniature Sweet Potato Pies, its menu has Sweet Potato Scones too. These portable desserts have an extra benefit – they’re Vegan. But, most important, they taste good.
Where to Eat Sweet Potato Pie and Scones in New Orleans
Backatown Coffee Parlour
16. Banana Brown Butter Tort
It only seems right to end this New Orleans dessert guide the way we started it – with a dessert featuring bananas and butter. However, unlike the Bananas Foster featured at the top of the article, Banana Brown Butter Tort has crust and doesn’t involve huge flames.
Sure, flame are fun, but eating a slice of rich custard pie topped with caramelized bananas is enjoyable too. A dollop of whipped cream adds the final touch. Although iIce cream is overkill, we say but go for it if you’re in the ‘more is more’ camp. This is New Orleans after all!
Where to Eat Banana Brown Butter Torts in New Orleans
Where To Stay In New Orleans
Staying at a comfortable, convenient hotel is a must in New Orleans. During our most recent visit, we stayed in the following two hotels that met these criteria:
Hungry For More In New Orleans?
New Orleans Dessert FAQs
The beignet is the most famous in New Orleans. Cafe du Monde is the iconic spot to eat beignets in New Orleans.
The beignet isn’t just the most famous New Orleans dessert. It’s also the most popular dessert in New Orleans.
Surprise! The beignet gets this award too. It’s the most popular sweet treat in New Orleans.
Bananas Foster was invented in New Orleans in 1951 and the iconic dessert remains popular today. Ingredients include bananas, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, rum, banana liqueur and vanilla ice cream.
The King Cake is the most famous cake in New Orleans. Eaten each spring during Mardi Gras, this rich multi-colored cake has a plastic baby inside its lush center.
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.
We purchased and ate the desserts featured in this article.
We thank Visit New Orleans and its partners for their assistance to facilitate this and other articles.
Original Publication Date: July 17, 2021