Crawfish Boil

This crawfish boil is our best recipe for this Southern classic. Made in Louisiana style, it’s easy to make and perfect for a backyard party.

A newspaper-topped table strewn with crawfish, corn, peppers, and potatoes - a classic crawfish boil.

A boil is a real event, so make this meal when you have ample time and lots of friends to share it with. Traditionally, guests peel the leftover uneaten crawfish so the hosts can save the meaty tails to turn into other delicious crawfish dishes, like étouffées, salads, and pies. You can do the boil inside on the stove or outdoors on a grill or on a propane-fueled burner.–John Besh

LC Whole Lotta Crawfish Note

Uh, if you haven’t already glanced at the amount of crawfish this recipe demands, take a gander. Yup. Twenty pounds. That’s a lot of crawfish, aka mudbugs (for reasons we’d rather not contemplate as we ready ourselves to rip out the tails and slurp on the shells). Chef Besh, the author behind this recipe, says it’s actually typical to allow up to five pounds of crawfish per guest–that’s double what’s called for in this recipe. Yet he feels it’s safe to assume that, given there are so many other ingredients–sausage, sweet corn, artichokes–this recipe will easily satisfy eight voracious eaters. If your local seafood counter or monger doesn’t regularly carry crawfish, ask if they can special order them. If not, you can easily find online purveyors that ship them, typically already boiled. Or simply substitute shell-on shrimp. As to how to eat the slippery little suckers, it’s quite the hands-on affair. Have at the ready a roll of paper towels and some Wet-Naps you snagged from a local fast-food joint–uh, we mean, some dainty little bowls filled with ice water and lemon slices and your finest white linen napkins.

Crawfish Boil

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H, 10 M
  • Serves 8
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Special Equipment: A very large pot



Fill a very, very large pot with 10 gallons water, leaving plenty of room for all the other ingredients. (Or you can use 2 or even 3 large pots, divvying all the ingredients evenly among them.) Bring the water to a boil with the kosher salt, boiling spices, lemons, cayenne, garlic, onions, celery and bell peppers if using, and the oil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the smoked sausage, potatoes, corn, and artichokes, if using, and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.

If using fresh crawfish, add the crawfish now along with the mushrooms, if using. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.

If using frozen or already boiled crawfish, add the crawfish now along with the mushrooms, if using. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Strain everything from the boiling liquid, preferably using a large colander, which will make it easier to fish out all the good parts (that is, the crawfish and vegetables) from the rest. Dump the good parts that you strained onto a picnic table covered with newspaper (preferably the Times-Picayune). Then feast while drinking an Abita Amber beer.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Having made “frogmore stew” or, as this recipe calls it, “crawfish boil” for years, I was excited to try a new recipe. You could tell this recipe was written by a true New Orleans chef, as it was much spicier than my usual version, but I loved the added depth of flavor. All the main ingredients are the same, although we used shrimp instead of crawfish. I did use a lot less shrimp per person than the recipe calls for, as 20 pounds for eight people seemed like a lot. I didn’t cook this as long as is stated since I was using shrimp; when after about 6 minutes they tested done I turned the heat off. It’s still one of my all-time favorite meals. Next time I may just have to cut down on the cayenne for a few of us, although my parents and husband loved the level of spice.

This is a fun and totally satisfying experience. The seasonings and aromatics came together perfectly. I halved the ingredients since I only had four to feed, and instead of the 20 pounds of crawfish, I used 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp, which worked well in proportion to the halved ingredients. I pretty much stayed within the cooking steps and times stated in the recipe, which worked perfectly. I used andouille sausage, in keeping with the origins of this recipe—chef John Besh is from New Orleans—and the heat it provided was just enough to make the dish interesting. I used a 12-quart stock pot, which was a bit large for the amount of ingredients I had, and cooked the boil right on the stove top. I used all of the ingredients except for the artichokes and mushrooms. I added a diced red pepper in addition to the green pepper, which gave the dish a bit more color.


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  1. Frogmore stew is made with shrimp. It’s origins are the low county and they don’t do crawfish over there very much.

    That being said, I want to throw in my two cents:

    1. It’s craWfish, with a W. Unless you live someplace where they aren’t locally sourced. People from the north can call them crayfish and pseudo-Southerners (like Texans and the like) can call them mudbugs, but down around crawfish country, it’s spelled with a W.

    2. Crawfish season ends with summer. If you can’t get them live and must resort to frozen, please make sure you’re not getting them from China. Aside from the issues with toxic waste ponds doubling as fish ponds, there’s also the issue of helping the the folks in places like Louisiana and East Texan that are already struggling. They don’t need to compete with chicom slaves labor.

    1. You raise some interesting and related points, bkhuna. Yes, always, always be mindful of the source of your seafood, for all the reasons you mention. And yes, we concur on the spelling of crawfish. And yes, we call this recipe a “boil” because it isn’t quite frogmore stew, though it draws on it a little. Hope you give this a whirl and let us know what you think….

  2. At this time of year it is hard to find live crayfish, in NYC at least. The Lousiana vendors are not shipping, Oregon is probably the best bet. All of this I know because August is Crayfish party time in Sweden, where they are cooked in salted water with dill that has gone to seed. Frequently it is an outdoor feast either in a garden or on a terrace.

    This year, as in several years past, I will take the lazy route and buy them already cooked and frozen at IKEA. I usually allow approximately one pound a person since we traditionally start out with a Västerbotten (sharp Swedish cheese) quiche and salad. Also these crayfish are quite large (10 per pound), we serve them with more cheese, bread, and butter. Beverages of choice are chilled aquavit and beer accompanied by drinking songs. It all makes for a merry evening even in a NYC apartment.

    1. Fanny, you’re right, it can be tricky this time of year, although we’ve had luck with the frozen crayfish at Whole Foods Market and other seamongers. That aside, love your feast. Love it. Oh, to finagle an invite!

  3. Seems that we used to boil sacks of live crawfish – 40# sacks? And at least 2 sacks for 8 -10 people. You just eat till you can’t hold any more. Then you peel them and refrigerate them for some etouffe, bisque, or crawfish cardinale the next day! Or crawfish potato salad – you can use left over potatoes and crawfish if there are any potatoes saved. Really really good! And always throw some hot dogs in there for the kids to eat -they get tired peeling crawfish and you won’t want to stop long enough to peel theirs for them! Trust me on that.
    There are probably as many different versions of this boil recipe as there are recipes for gumbo!

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