Cajun Crawfish Etouffee

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Crawfish is a unique ambassador of Louisiana. These little crustaceans that resemble tiny lobsters, produce sweet tail meat that is the delight and star in many Cajun and Creole creations. You haven’t experienced the best of South Louisiana until you’ve had some crawfish.

Crawfish Étouffée over Rice
Delicious Crawfish Etouffee

A crawfish “boil” not only provides great food but is also a social event that is replayed throughout south Louisiana regularly from late January through mid-July. Depending on weather and rain amounts, that’s the peak season for fresh crawfish, but thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit, frozen tails are available year round in groceries and seafood markets-even online. Crawfish tail meat is ubiquitous in our culture and is the protein of choice in too many dishes to name. One of the most popular ways to prepare crawfish tails is smothered in a rich gravy made by adding sautéed vegetables and seasonings to a roux,  and then drowning it all in a flavorful crawfish or seafood stock. This iconic Cajun masterpiece is called Crawfish Etouffee’ and its origin has been traced to the 1920s in the Crawfish Capital of the World, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, where it was first created and served at the Hebert Hotel. Mrs. Hebert (that’s pronounced “a-bear”) then shared her recipe for crawfish etouffee using crawfish tails, crawfish fat, onions and pepper with Aline Guidry Champagne who went on to open the RendezVous Cafe in Breaux Bridge and began serving the dish. The rest, as they say, is history, cher.

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Boiled Crawfish with Corn and Sausage

Although Crawfish Etouffee is one of the most popular ways to enjoy crawfish, like any cuisine with such deep and historic roots, there is no one way to do it and most Cajun and Creole cooks have their own recipes. I’m excited to show you how I make my classic Cajun Crawfish Etouffee.

Here’s What You Need

Louisiana Crawfish Tails
Louisiana Crawfish Tails

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Crawfish tails are definitely the star of the show. With crawfish season upon us, this is a great way to use leftovers for those who want to peel the tails and save the extra meat. There are also plenty of frozen tails available in the freezer section of grocery stores and seafood market in Louisiana and many other cities across the country. That’s what I usually go for. Look for Louisiana crawfish. The key to the sweetness of Louisiana crawfish tails is in the “fat”-that’s the yellow-orange stuff squeezed from the head and sticking to the tail meat. Actually, it’s not really fat at all but part of the crawfish digestive system.  It’s all good though because you’re getting to that when you suck that head at the crawfish boil. Don’t wash that stuff off-it packs a lot of deliciousness. It’s also not uncommon to find imported crawfish tails, usually from China, in the grocer’s freezer section. These are not as consistent but will work if that’s all you can get. My experience is that the “fat” in the imported tails is usually a little bitter and needs to be rinsed off the tails before you use them. Wherever you get your crawfish tails, they will be already cooked, so we won’t cook them very long in this recipe.

Looking for some Louisiana Crawfish Tails? You can order online from these folks (full disclosure-I have no affiliation with these companies):

I don’t get paid to recommend them (not that I wouldn’t take it!), they’re just good folks to do business with and you can be sure of getting quality products.

Crawfish etouffee ingredients
Here’s what you need!

The crawfish tails will be smothered in a nice, rich brown gravy built on a roux and cooked-down vegetables. As in most South Louisiana staples, we’ll be using the trinity-that’s yellow onions, bell peppers and celery, cooked into a nice roux of flour and  butter or oil. Herbs and spices and a healthy portion of chopped garlic will go into the veggie-roux mix and it will all goes into a nice seafood stock. Commercial seafood stock is fine to use but you can substitute chicken stock if you can’t find seafood stock. If you are lucky enough to have some crawfish shells left over from a boil, you can use these to make a delicious crawfish stock and use this in place of the commercial stock-it will be fantastic. Oh, don’t forget the rice. One cup of uncooked rice makes three cups of cooked-I usually do two cups of uncooked. That should be enough, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra.

It’s pretty simple, definitely no-angst, and very South Louisiana.

Here’s What You Do

First… you have a beer. This is a great and fun recipe to cook with and for friends and family and a couple of beers goes well with that. You’ll want to practice mise en place by getting everything that you will need together and prepped.  Start with the tails. If you’re using tail meat from a boil, make sure the veins are cleaned off and hopefully you’ve gotten some reserved fat. If frozen, thaw them out and place in a bowl. (Remember to rinse them thoroughly ONLY if they are imported tails). Mix in a little creole seasoning with the tails and them set aside.  Dice the yellow onions, green onions, bell peppers and celery. Reserve the green onions in a separate bowl  and set aside. Give the garlic a rough chop and place in a small bowl. In another small bowl combine the Herb and Spice blend and set aside. Slice and separate the butter to get soft and measure out the flour and stock.

Set up two potS.

You’ll want two pots for this recipe-a cast iron dutch oven with a lid and a second stock pot.  Start with that second one and place about 4 cups of the seafood stock in it and let it sit. Now you have everything together and prepped, so you can concentrate on the process of building this delicious classic.

Right after the beer, make the roux.

The foundation is the roux-it’s the first step in building the color and flavor of the etouffee, so you want to get off to a good start. Set the first cast iron stock pot on medium high heat; when it’s hot, add the butter and when that starts to bubble, add the flour; with a whisk make a medium colored roux, sort of like light chocolate milk, by whisking constantly until you have that color. Pay attention when you make a roux-you can use high heat and it will go faster, or low heat and it will take longer, which ever suits you, but you must pay attention not to overcook or burn the roux, particularly when it’s getting close to the color you desire-it can turn south quickly! If it burns, throw it out, have another beer and start over.

medium dark roux
Medium Roux
Add in the trinity, garlic, green onions and spices.

You may want to make the roux just a bit lighter than you think it needs to be because it will continue to cook and darken a little after you add the veggies. Once you have the roux looking like you want, add the onions, celery, green peppers and sauté them over medium high heat, stirring frequently until smooth and moist, which could take 12 to 15 minutes, but don’t rush it. You can cover the pot some of the time and that will help add some moisture, you can even lower or raise the heat if you need to; just remember to stir frequently, scrapping up any bits of goodness that stick to the bottom of the pot. Those bits are called fond and are packed with flavor, so scrap them up and stir them into the mix. Add the garlic and about half the green onions (remember you need to reserve some green onions for later) and sauté everything’s until aromatic, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add about 2/3 of the Herb and Spice blend and both bay leaves. Mix everything together very well and continue to sauté until the green onions are limp and everything has a nice consistency. You’ll be testing it later for seasoning and you’ll be able to add in some of the reserved spices if you think it needs it.

cooking onions, bell peppers and celery in a roux
Saute the trinity in the roux

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Get the stock boiling and add in the veggie/roux.

Meanwhile in the other stock pot, bring 4 cups of seafood stock to a rolling boil-make sure to have some more in hand if you need it. It might be time for another beer. When the veggie/roux mixture is ready, you want to add it to the boiling stock to make the gravy. Do this by using a slotted spoon, mixing the veggie/roux into the boiling stock one spoonful at a time, stirring until each spoonful is fully dissolved. Be sure to return the stock to a high boil between each spoonful.

Blending vegetables and roux with stock
Add in the veggie/roux one spoonful at a time

When you have all the veggie/roux mix out of its stock pot, set the roux pot aside-don’t rinse or wash it out yet, you need all that goodness for later.

cast iron pad after veggie roux mixture removed
Reserve all the favor-you’ll use it alter
Let the gravy cook a bit.

Cook the gravy on a hard boil for about five minutes, then cover the stock pot and reduce the heat to very low-simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, stir frequently so it does not stick. The stock will begin to thicken through this process. Later if it’s too thick you can add some of the reserved stock to thin it out but make sure to wait until the gravy is added back to the tails as that will generate some extra liquid when they are sautéed in the butter.

Saute the tails in butter.

While the gravy is simmering, turn the heat to medium high under the original (roux) dutch oven and add a couple of tablespoons of butter-more if you like. This will mix well with the flavorful morsels of fond left behind from cooking the veggies in the roux, so make sure to scrape up any bits of the fond-lots of flavor there.

melting butter in cast iron pad after veggie roux mixture removed
Melt some butter in the original dutch oven

When the butter is foaming (don’t let it burn!) add about 1/2 to 2/3 of the reserved green onions (still save some to garnish the top of the etouffee when it’s served), the crawfish tails and some of the reserved Herb and Spice Blend. Mix well until all the tails are coated with butter and sauté for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. The tails are already cooked so you’re just trying to warm them, not cook them further.

Crawfish tails and green onions in butter
Saute the crawfish tails in the butter and green onions before adding back the gravy
Add the gravy to the tails.

You’ll see some liquid developing from the butter and rendering the crawfish.  It’s OK to turn off the heat until the gravy is ready, but when the gravy has simmered about 15 minutes, ladle it into the crawfish tails and mix well, turn the heat to medium high. The liquid from sautéing the tails in the butter will thin out the gravy some. Once you have it all mixed together and it comes to a boil, lower the heat, cover and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

smothering crawfish tails in gravy
Mix in the gravy and smother the tails

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Just smother it until its done.

This is the magic time when the crawfish tails will be smothered in the rich gravy and all the flavors come together. If you think it needs to be thinned out a little more just add some of the reserved stock, or if you think it needs to thicken up a little, just simmer without the cover for a while. I usually end up adding about a cup of stock, but not always. Mix well, taste for spice and add more if needed. Just prior to serving, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into to the etouffee. Don’t stir it in, but move the pan back and forth as the butter melts and mixes with the gravy. This adds a little creaminess.

butter added to crawfish tails smothering in gravy

Remove the bay leaves and it’s ready to serve over rice with a sprinkle of chopped green onions on top and a Sensation Salad  and some Sweet ‘n Savory Green Beans on the side! Enjoy!

Crawfish Étouffée
Crawfish Étouffée served over Rice

That’s it, all there is to it.

Hints and Tips

  • I really recommend only Louisiana Crawfish for this, but if you have to use others, just make sure to rinse them well before using.
  • Crawfish are low in calories, fat and cholesterol and high in protein and a bunch of vitamins. That’s right-they are good for you!
  • Too much butter for you? Substitute a vegetable oil. You can also substitute chicken stock for the seafood stock. It’s all good.
  • It’s not gumbo which is like soup and usually contains more than one protein.
  • This recipe is fantastic with shrimp or chicken if you can’t get crawfish.

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crawfish etouffee over rice with green oinions
Cajun Crawfish Étouffée
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Crawfish Etouffee is a simple yet tasty and homey plate of crawfish tails smothered in rich gravy, served over rice. Its a staple in South Louisiana in both Cajun and Creole cuisines. Sprinkle some chopped green onions on top and serve with a green salad and some fresh, crunchy french bread.
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 20 minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
60 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 20 minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
60 minutes
crawfish etouffee over rice with green oinions
Cajun Crawfish Étouffée
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Crawfish Etouffee is a simple yet tasty and homey plate of crawfish tails smothered in rich gravy, served over rice. Its a staple in South Louisiana in both Cajun and Creole cuisines. Sprinkle some chopped green onions on top and serve with a green salad and some fresh, crunchy french bread.
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 20 minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
60 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 20 minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
60 minutes
This is What You Need
Herb and Spice Blend
This is What You Do
  1. Place the crawfish tails in a bowl and sprinkle with some creole seasoning and set aside. Chop the yellow onions, peppers, celery and set aside in a bowl for later. Chop the green onions and set aside. Chop the garlic and set aside. Mix the Herb and Spice Blend in a small bowl. Set the butter aside to soften and the flour for the roux.
  2. Place about 4 cups of the seafood stock in a stock pot to warm.
  3. Place a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add 8 tablespoons of butter until bubbly, then add the flour and whisk continuously to make a medium roux, the color of light chocolate milk.
  4. Add the onions, celery and green peppers to the roux, and continue to stir still over medium high heat until smooth and moist, about 15 minutes.
  5. Add about half the green onions and all the garlic; continue to sauté until aromatic-about 1 to 2 minutes; add about 1/2 of the spice mix and both bay leaves and mix well to combine; continue to sauté about 5 more minutes.
  6. While the veggie/roux mixture is finishing up, turn the heat to high under the stock pot and bring the seafood stock to a rolling boil.
  7. When the veggie/roux mixture is ready, mix it into the boiling stock with a slotted spoon, one spoonful at a time, stirring until the whole spoonful is fully dissolved. Continue this until all the veggie/roux mixture is incorporated into the stock, making sure to return the stock to a full rolling boil in between spoons. Set the cast iron pot aside, do not clean it.
  8. Allow the gravy to remain at a high boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat, cover the stock pot and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Turn the heat to medium high under the cast iron pan used for the roux and add 2 tablespoons of butter. As the butter melts scrape up any fond that's stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  10. When the butter is foaming, add about 1/2 to 2/3 of the reserved green onions and sauté a minute or two, then add the crawfish tails and about half of the remaining Herb and Spice Blend. Mix well until all the crawfish are coated with butter.
  11. Sauté about 2 to 3 minutes stirring constantly; you’ll see some liquid developing from the butter and rendering the crawfish.
  12. Ladle the gravy mixture into the crawfish tails and mix well. The liquid from sautéing the tails in the butter will thin out the gravy.
  13. Mix well, taste for spice and add more if needed. When this comes to a boil lower the heat to a slight simmer for about 15 minutes uncovered while the flavors all come together. If you think it is getting too thick, place the cover on the pan while it simmers; if its too thick, add some reserved stock to thin it out.
  14. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into the pot and shake it back and forth, don’t stir, until the butter is melted into the etouffee-then give it one final gentle stir.
  15. Remove the bay leaves and serve over white rice.
Recipe Notes

If you aren't lucky enough to have some fresh crawfish available, you can find frozen tails in a lot of better supermarkets or seafood markets. They generally come in 1 pound packages. I highly recommend that you use Louisiana crawfish, but read the labels-often times what you find is crawfish from China. To me, its the fat in the Louisiana crawfish that makes them sweet. The Chinese crawfish taste bitter to me and not sweet like the ones from the Bayou State. If you have to use Chinese or anything except Louisiana, rinse them well prior to using, let them drain, then pat them dry with paper towels.  You can also buy Louisiana crawfish on line at sites like Cajun Grocer or Tony's Seafood (no affiliation with either company).

If you can't find commercial seafood stock in the grocery, you can substitute chicken stock,  but if you're lucky enough to have some leftover crawfish shells and heads, the best etouffee will be made with homemade crawfish stock.

Etouffee is also very good made with with shrimp or chicken.

There is no Nutrition Label for this recipe yet.