Crawfish Étouffée

February 14, 2022
5 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten, prop styling by Molly Fitzsimons, food styling by Ericka Martins
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Mardi Gras is coming up, and I’m hosting this year. Our neighbors are from New Orleans, and I wanted to give them a taste of home. Nothing can take a person home quite like food does. Isn’t it powerful how a dish can be so distinct that you can still taste it and remember the flavors no matter how much time has passed? The flavors, aromas, even the way to eat it (in this case with a crusty French bread that can act as your spoon) all come rushing back with the first bite. It’s almost as good as being home.

During Mardi Gras, étouffée is a must, I’ve made some minor tweaks to this classic and put my spin on this traditional Cajun and Creole dish.

What is étouffée anyway? Simply put, it is a delicious spiced and buttery stew of shellfish over white rice. The dish is Louisiana through and through, from its French roots to its use of crawfish. The dish is meant to smother, and smother it does. There’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of hot étouffée and white rice, smothering the rice in the buttery sauce, and sopping it up with some bread.

First, a disclaimer: Most étouffée recipes these days start by calling for Creole seasoning, which is a pre-made, dried spice blend; I believe we can do better. Instead, I try to get as much flavor out of fresh ingredients as possible. I add quite a bit of fresh garlic and onion for flavoring, along with a fresh bay leaf and espelette (instead of cayenne), and finish with lots of fresh lemon juice for acidity. This balances all the flavors of the dish and helps you taste the sweet crawfish and savory spiced sauce.

While not traditional in this dish, espelette is a fruity and mildly spicy dried ground chile made from the espelette pepper that is native to the Basque region of France. It provides a wonderful flavor and just the right touch of heat to the dish while also paying homage to étouffée's French roots.

Étouffée uses the holy trinity, which refers to celery, bell peppers, and onions. This provides the foundation of flavor to build the stew on. From there, spices, aromatics, stock, and crawfish come together with a blonde roux and bubble away to create a super-flavorful and distinct dish. I hope you try this Mardi Gras to make étouffée for yourself and bring a taste of New Orleans to your home. —Sean Patrick Gallagher

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup salted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon espelette or 1½ teaspoons cayenne (which will make it spicier)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 pound crawfish tails, cleaned (crawfish tails are authentic, but large shrimp can be substituted)
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves and tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from about 1 medium lemon), plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce (I prefer Crystal), plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • Crusty French bread, for serving
  1. In a small nonstick saucepan over medium heat, melt ½ cup of the butter until bubbling, then whisk in the flour and continue to cook, whisking, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the flour turns a light brown color. Remove from the heat and continue to whisk—it should be a deep golden color but not brown like for gumbo.
  2. In a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, cook the remaining ½ cup of the butter until bubbling. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery; reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the garlic and the bay leaf and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes to develop the flavors.
  3. Add the salt, espelette, paprika, tomato paste, pepper, and oregano. Stir to combine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the tomato paste is a shade darker.
  4. Add the roux and stir to combine. Slowly whisk in the stock to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Add the crawfish meat and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the scallions, parsley, lemon juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine and heat through.
  6. To serve, ladle the hot étouffée over the rice. Top with more scallions, parsley, lemon juice, and hot sauce (if you prefer). Serve with some really good crusty French bread.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Yiannis Psaroudis
    Yiannis Psaroudis
  • Kate Valleri
    Kate Valleri
  • Marshall D Jackson
    Marshall D Jackson
  • Janell Houghton
    Janell Houghton

4 Reviews

Yiannis P. July 3, 2023
I’ll preface this comment with the disclosures that this was my first time making (or even tasting) Etouffe AND I love salt. While I found this recipe both easy to follow and execute, it struck me as WAY too salty. I’ll def make it again, but will cut the salt by half, then taste again to adjust before serving.
Marshall D. April 2, 2023
I have made this recipe several times. Always with crawfish, never shrimp. It is excellent and produces a very rich sauce. I'm from the south and it's as authentic as New Orleans best restaurants. You will be very satisfied, however you can cut the butter in half, but you will definitely miss it.
Janell H. April 8, 2022
This recipe was delightful! Must be all that butter :)

I never leave reviews but felt compelled to as I heat up the last bit leftover for lunch. I'm already planning to make this for Mardi Gras next year. Maybe I'll try it out with shrimp once or twice before then. I never follow a recipe exactly, but the only noteworthy change is that I stopped at 1 tbsp salt and don't think it needs more than that, especially if using salted butter and stock. Thanks for the perfect introduction to Creole cuisine!
Kate V. March 11, 2022
My partner says, “That was absolutely bangin’… and I’m so glad there are leftovers.”
I can’t recommend this enough. We are so full and happy I had to review tonight.
Can’t get crawfish, or an affordable alternative here in Australia, so I used raw prawns and some marinara mix (mussels, squid, salmon,etc). Skipped the shallots and parsley for cost cutting, too. Made homemade damper instead of the crusty bread.
Otherwise, I followed the recipe closely and found it super easy and helpful. Thanks!