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

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

Crawfish Boil FAQs

How much crawfish do I need?

Twenty pounds of crawfish, aka mudbugs, is what Chef Besh asks for in this recipe. Actually, what he says is that it’s customary to allow for 5 pounds per person—that’s double what’s called for in this recipe. Here, however, he feels pretty safe to assume that you’ll do just fine with only twenty pounds, given the plethora of other ingredients—potatoes, sweet corn, sausage, and artichokes—that this recipe will easily satisfy eight voracious eaters.

What’s the best way to eat crawfish?

As to how to eat the slippery little suckers, it’s quite the hands-on affair. If you’ve never done it before, it can take a little practice to get the hang of the old snap and twist motion but you’ll get there. Have at the ready a roll of paper towels and some Wet-Naps you snagged from a local fast-food joint. And even more paper towels.

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

Crawfish Boil

5 / 2 votes
While it’s typical to measure five pounds of crawfish per guest, it’s also easy to assume that, with so many other ingredients, this recipe will easily satisfy eight people.
David Leite
Servings8 servings
Calories1088 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes


  • A very large pot


  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • One packet Zatarain's Crab Boil spices or 2 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning, homemade or store-bought
  • 5 lemons, halved crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 5 whole heads garlic, halved crosswise
  • 5 small onions, halved
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into large pieces (optional)
  • 3 green bell peppers, seeded and diced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 4-inch (10-cm) pieces
  • 20 small red bliss potatoes, scrubbed
  • 8 ears corn, shucked and halved
  • 8 whole artichokes, untrimmed (optional)
  • 20 pounds whole shell-on crawfish, (fresh or frozen or already boiled), rinsed with fresh water or frozen if defrosted
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved if large (optional)


  • 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.


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 1088 kcalCarbohydrates: 94 gProtein: 57 gFat: 56 gSaturated Fat: 17 gMonounsaturated Fat: 26 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 307 mgSodium: 1815 mgFiber: 13 gSugar: 12 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 John Besh. Photo © 2009 Ditte Isager. All rights reserved.

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 stockpot, which was a bit large for the number of ingredients I had, and cooked the boil right on the stovetop. 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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. So. A crawfish is pretty small. They are starting to show up in Northern climates, like upstate New York. At one time they were sparse. Now they are becoming prevalent and larger in size. What parts are actually considered edible?

    1. Greg, I’m no expert but generally, you would twist the head away from the tail and enjoy the tail meat as the most substantial portion of the (albeit) small crawfish. Some people also enjoy sucking on the crawfish heads, which is safe to do, but entirely a personal preference.