Holy Trinity in Cooking Cajun Cuisine

The Holy Trinity is a classic flavor base when cooking Cajun dishes.  It is typically arrived at by sauteing a combination of diced onions, bell peppers and celery.  Cooking the vegetables in butter or oil releases their flavor, which is infused into any sauce mixture when other ingredients are added.

The Holy Trinity  is the basis of most Cajun and Creole dishes imaginable.  But, if not cooked properly, your dish will not taste as savory as you would like.  It’s a combination of diced onion, celery and bell pepper  and it creates a wonderful aroma that makes the mouth water.   You smell it when you enter any Cajuns Home and it’s always cooked in a cast iron pot.  Most Cajun cooks also add minced garlic to the mix.  In addition to these vegetables, parsley and green onions are usually sprinkled  on top of the finished dish.

There are different versions of the Holy Trinity depending on the region.  Some versions add carrots and tomatoes.  Additional spices such as parsley, thyme, bay leaves and cayenne pepper are also used in other regions.  Although France’s Trinity is like the Cajun’s Trinity, its called mirepoix instead of The Holy Trinity.  Traditional mirepoix is 2 parts onions, 1 part carrots, and 1 part celery, whereas the holy trinity is 3 parts onions, 2 parts celery, 1 part Green bell pepper.

Examples of Holy Trinity Melody, based by Region:

  • ITALIAN CUISINE –  Garlic, Tomatoe and basil consitute the Holy Trinity of Italian cuisine for their marinara sauce.  Italians use olive oil instead of butter.
  • US AND EUROPE –  Carrots, onion and Celery are used as their basis
    • FRANCE – Carrots, onion and Celery is called a mirepoix
  • SPAIN & SOUTH LOUISIANA – Onion, Celery and Bell peppers are used as their basis

You’ve heard that good things always comes in threes.  Right?  Well it’s no different with the Holy Trinity.  It’s nearly as important to the Catholic French Cajuns as the churches Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) is to the Catholic religion!  It also ranks up there with Mardi Gras, eating Gumbo and going to a crawfish boil too!

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity

The vegetable mix is also known as “seasoning vegetables”.  This means that these vegetables become transparent and break down during the cooking process.  This becomes the basis of a good thick gravy and more often than not, roux is also added to this mixture when creating a stew, gumbo, sauce, jambalaya or sauce piquant.

Even when a Cajun cook is cooking other type of foods such as spaghetti (which is Italian), the cook always begins with the Holy Trinity.  The cook will saute the mixture down with tomatoes.  Because all Cajun and Creole cooks know the importance of how to cook this base, it is automatically used in most all dishes no matter what regional food they are cooking.

Using fresh ingredients is always preferred.  But when you’re in a pinch, using the frozen diced trinity in the freezer is a good choice.  Chopping up a huge batch of onion, celery and bell pepper, then freezing it is always an option because it’s so important to always have it on hand.  Local grocery stores also prepare it for you and package the diced up vegetables for sale.

You don’t have to worry about measuring out the ingredients either.  What is most important is that the vegetables are fresh.  You want to always use fresh, unless you are in a pinch.  It’s not uncommon for Cajun cooks to have vegetable gardens right outside their kitchen doors.  This is how important fresh vegetables are to making really great Cajun food.

Holy Trinity Recipe:

The ingredients can be measured out different ways and I’ve listed them below.  Either one works well and will equal to the same amounts.  The amounts below work well when making a gumbo or large dish.  When making a smaller dish, just reduce the ingredient measurements.

Ingredient Listing #1:

  • 2 cups of diced onions
  • one cup of green pepper
  • one cup of celery
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic – OPTIONAL and not part of the Authentic Holy Trinity Recipe

Ingredient Listing #2:

  • 3 medium onions
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic

Cooking Recipe:

It’s critical that the Holy Trinity melody of vegetables is lovely and slowly cooked the right way to assure your dish comes out thick and tasty!  The video above will help.   Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil in the pot and the diced vegetables listed above.

Start out with your fire medium to high, then lower it AND COVER THE POT once the vegetables begin to cook down.  About  10 minutes into cooking the vegetables down, lower the heat to medium to low and continue stirring constantly until your vegetables become transparent and a darker color (but not dark).  Continue cooking the onion mixture for about 30 minutes more on the reduced heat, checking it and stirring regularly.  The process of covering your pot will force the moisture to come out of the holy trinity and will ultimately begin the sauteing process.

In total, you’ll want to saute the Holy Trinity vegetable mix for about 45 minutes.