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 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

HOW MUCH CRAWFISH DO I REALLY NEED?

It’s true. 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. 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. And even more paper towels.

Crawfish Boil

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

Prep 25 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr 10 mins
Entrees
Southern
8 servings
1088 kcal
No ratings yet
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Equipment

  • A very large pot

Ingredients 

  • 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)

Directions
 

  • 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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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 1088kcal (54%)Carbohydrates: 94g (31%)Protein: 57g (114%)Fat: 56g (86%)Saturated Fat: 17g (106%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 8gMonounsaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 307mg (102%)Sodium: 1815mg (79%)Potassium: 3156mg (90%)Fiber: 13g (54%)Sugar: 12g (13%)Vitamin A: 1163IU (23%)Vitamin C: 121mg (147%)Calcium: 211mg (21%)Iron: 8mg (44%)

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.


Originally published August 28, 2012

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Comments

  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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