Crawfish Etouffee is a classic Louisiana dish with a buttery, rich, and intensely flavorful sauce and heaps of fresh crawfish tails, herbs, and spices. This fabulous dish’s secret is a good roux and the holy trinity with extra garlic thrown in. It’s guaranteed to have everyone asking for seconds or even thirds!
I’m a huge fan of quick and easy weeknight meals. But there are recipes that I’m willing to put in a little extra work, especially if the outcome is an out-of-this-world dish that makes my family happy.
And since the crawfish season just kicked in, I couldn’t think of a better recipe than a spin-off on my popular Shrimp Etouffee. If you haven’t tried it, this is the right time to try both classic meals.
I feel so lucky to have access to fresh seafood here in LA. But nothing beats fresh-caught Louisiana crawfish. I can’t wait to visit New Orleans during crawfish season to indulge. The season lasts around November to July, but you’ll find the best crawfish in the springtime and early summer, from late February until May, making it perfect for Lent.
What is Crawfish Etouffee?
For those unfamiliar with etouffee (pronounced AY-too-FAY), it is a French term for smothered or suffocated.
In this etouffee recipe, crawfish tails are smothered in a rich and flavorful roux-based sauce, heightened by the Southern holy trinity (onion, celery, and bell pepper) and a dash of heat.
This dish calls for constant stirring to create a lovely blond roux and produce a deliciously nutty flavor. And, of course, I couldn’t resist adding my personal Imma touch with Creole Seasoning. 😉
- Roux – Butter and flour are the more common ingredients in a roux, adding deliciously intense flavor.
- Holy Trinity – Onion, green bell peppers, and celery have the flavors for a perfect etouffee. Make your life easier with this simple How to Cut Onions.
- Seasonings – Garlic, thyme, and bay leaves add incredible flavor to our etouffee base. While fresh herbs are better, you can use dried if that’s what you have. Oh, and mincing garlic is a breeze. My homemade Creole seasoning is another flavor booster I couldn’t live without.
- Tomatoes – These guys add pleasant tanginess and richer color to any dish you add it to. However, you can always leave them out if you want.
- Crawfish – The star of this etouffee is added last to avoid overcooking it. You can use frozen crawfish if you can’t get fresh (no need to thaw them, just add another minute to the cooking time). Lobster or crab meat will do in a pinch, or you could make Shrimp Etouffee.
How to Make Crawfish Etouffee
Make the Base
- Start with the Roux – In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir the melted butter, oil, and flour until smooth. Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously (do this to avoid burning the roux), for about 10-12 minutes or until you have the desired color. (Photo 1)
- Add the Holy Trinity – Add the onion, green bell pepper, and celery and cook for 8-10 minutes – stirring frequently. (Photos 2&3)
- The Rest of the Seasonings – Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and continue stirring for about 2 minutes. Next, throw in the chopped tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and Creole seasoning, and let it cook for 5 minutes. (Photos 4&5)
- Finish the Base – Simmer and adjust the taste. Gradually pour in about two cups of stock (instructions below), bring to a boil, and let it simmer. Add the crawfish and simmer for five more minutes. Adjust thickness and flavor with more broth or water, hot sauce, and salt. (Photos 6&7)
- Garnish – Stir in the green onions and chopped parsley. Serve your crawfish etouffee over hot cooked rice. Enjoy! (Photo 8)
The Flavor – Add a teaspoon or two butter or oil to a saucepan. Then throw in the crawfish shells, remaining scraps of onion, garlic, and celery with aromatics like bay leaf and thyme. Saute for about 5-7 minutes, constantly stirring to prevent burning.
Add Water – Add about 5 cups of water, bring it to a boil, lower heat, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain using a sieve. Use according to the instructions.
How to Boil Crawfish
Etouffee isn’t the only way to enjoy crawfish. A boil is another way to enjoy this deliciousness, and it’s even better coz you can eat it with your hands. I love to throw in some Cajun seasoning, potatoes, corn on the cob, fresh lemon juice, and even mushrooms. Oh yeah!
Essential steps to properly cook your crawfish for the maximum quality follows:
- Boil a pot half full of water (just enough to cover the mudbugs), then as soon as it comes to a hard boil, add your crawfish and wait for it to come back to a boil. Take out any that float to the top because that means they’re dead, and you don’t want to risk eating them.
- Set the timer because they must boil for only 2-3 minutes (much more than that and they’ll overcook and be harder to peel).
- Then transfer them to a pot full of 160℉/72℃ water for 20 minutes. Keep on stirring in the first few minutes to keep the water temp from rising. Then, strain them, transfer them to a dry cooler, and layer with more spices until ready to serve (around 15 minutes).
You can use about any kind of shellfish for a good etouffee. Heck, you could even use oysters or clams if you want.
- Shrimp – A perfect substitute for crawfish is shrimp, and it is equally delicious with has a similar taste and texture.
- Lobster – Even though it has its own distinct flavor, I say this is a good substitute for crawfish but mind you, they’re more expensive.
- Crab – This crustacean is related to crawfish and also has a delicate sweet flavor and aroma. That’s why it makes a good substitute for this recipe’s main ingredient.
Tomatoes or not? That is a personal decision. I love it both ways, depending on my mood and what I have on hand. Creole crawfish etouffee has tomatoes, and the Cajun version doesn’t.
Tips and Tricks
- Avoid straight-tailed crawfish because it means they were dead before they were cooked. Like lobster, these guys go bad really fast when raw. So even though it sounds cruel (don’t worry, they don’t feel it), they need to be cooked while still alive.
- When buying fresh crawfish, make sure they’re still alive. You can keep them alive for a day or two, but it’s best to cook them as soon as you get home.
- Clean your crawfish well; the nickname mudbug should tell you why.
- Try to get crawfish all around the same size, so they cook evenly. In this case, bigger is better to reduce the time you spend peeling them.
The simple answer – they’re the same thing. Crayfish (crawfish or crawdads) are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters (to which they are related).
Among their many nicknames are crawfish, crawdads, freshwater lobsters, mountain lobsters, mudbugs, or yabbies. That said, people in Louisianans most often say crawfish, and Northerners say crayfish.
They look like miniature lobsters, and they taste somewhere between crab and shrimp with a tad more sweetness. Sounds good already, right?
Depending on where you live, that could be a challenge. If you find a reputable dealer close by, that’s your best option. If you don’t have fresh crawfish available, your next best bet is frozen.
Pro Tip: Fresh crawfish shouldn’t smell fishy. If they do, run the other direction!
What Goes Well with Crawfish Etouffee
Not only does this Crawfish Etouffee make the perfect Lenten meal, but it’s also easy enough to make for the family on a regular weeknight. A plateful of steaming rice is definitely best with this dish, but you can go with a big loaf of homemade garlic bread to mop the sauce off the plate. Other options are skillet cornbread, homemade white bread, and fried okra.
More Tasty Seafood Recipes
Watch How to Make It
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This blog post was first published in May 2021 and has been updated with an additional write-up, new photos, and a video.
- 2 tablespoon (28.4 g) butter
- 2 tablespoon (30 ml) canola oil
- 3 tablespoon (45 g) flour
- ½ medium (170g) onion, diced
- ½ cup (75g) green bell pepper, diced
- ⅓ cup (about 1-2 sticks) celery, chopped
- 2 teaspoon (5.6 g) garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon (0.91 g) thyme, fresh or dried
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup (200 g) tomato, chopped
- 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon (2.30 g) paprika
- 2 teaspoon (24 g) Creole seasoning
- 1-2 cup (237 ml) crawfish stock, or chicken stock (adjust to desired consistency)
- 1 pound crawfish
- 2-3 tablespoon (7.6-11.4 g) parsley, chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ( 4.69 g) hot sauce, optional
- Salt to taste
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine melted butter, oil, and flour until smooth.
- Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously, for about 10-12 minutes until you have achieved the desired color. Don’t walk away from the stove during this process. It might burn.
- Add the onion, green pepper, and celery and cook for 8- 10 minutes –stirring frequently.
- Then add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf – continue stirring for about 2 minutes.
- Next, throw in about 1 cup chopped tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and Creole seasoning, and let it cook for 5 minutes.
- Gradually pour in about 1 -2 cups of stock bring to a boil, and let it simmer.(adjust thickness with more stock as needed). Add the crawfish, simmer for 3-4 more minutes.
- Adjust thickness soup and flavor with more crawfish broth or water, hot sauce, and salt.
- Stir in the green onions and chopped parsley.
- Serve over hot cooked rice.
- Add a teaspoon or two of butter or oil to a saucepan or skillet. Then throw in the crawfish shells, the remaining scraps of onion, garlic, and celery together with aromatics like bay leaf and thyme.
- Saute for about 5-7 minutes, constantly stirring to prevent it from burning. Add about 5 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain using a sieve. Set stock aside.
Tips & Notes:
- Avoid straight-tailed crawfish. It means that the crawfish was dead before it was boiled. These crustaceans have Vibrio bacteria within their shell linings that multiply rapidly after they die, and it can’t be eradicated even by cooking.
- Cook them Live. ensure that it is still alive before cooking, in that way you can be sure that you’re using the freshest crawfish.
- Size matters. They should be the same size so that they will cook evenly.
- Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.