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 etouffee over rice with green onions on a white and green plate
Cajun Crawfish Etouffee!

This post is not sponsored, but you will find affiliate links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The price you pay as a consumer does not change, but I may make a small commission based on your purchase.

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 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 sausage and corn
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 recipe – 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 (parboiled), 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 two companies):

You can also use the ease of Amazon (with which I am affiliated) to get some good Louisiana Crawfish Tails right here!

Crawfish etouffee ingredientsHere’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 Holy Trinity-that’s yellow onions, bell peppers and celery, cooked into a nice roux of all-purpose flour and butter or oil.   Green onions and a healthy portion of chopped garlic will go into the veggie-roux mix and it will all go into a nice crawfish stock, which can be made with leftover crawfish shells and heads from your crawfish boil. If you don’t have crawfish stock, it’s will still be fantastic to substitute chicken stock (my go-to substitute) or commercial seafood stock.  Spice the whole thing up with the Herb and Spice Blend, which includes oregano, basil, thyme, white pepper, black pepper, kosher salt, creole seasoning, bay leaves and some cayenne which is optional if you like a kick. 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.

These will come in handy with this recipe:

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 reading the recipe completely, then gathering everything that you will need-ingredients plus a dutch oven and a stockpot.  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 it 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 stockpot with a lid.  Start with that second one and place about 3 cups of the seafood stock in it and let it sit-make sure to reserve that extra stock in case you need to thin things out later. Now you have everything together and prepped, so 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 Dutch oven over 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, whichever 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. 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.

a medium dark roux in a cast iron pan
Make a Roux
Add in the trinity, garlic, green onions and spices.

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, scraping 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.

sauteing 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 stockpot, bring 3 cups of seafood stock to a rolling boil-make sure to reserve the other cup. 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.

Crawfish Étouffée-Cast Iron for Tails
Reserve all the flavor from the roux and Trinity
Let the gravy cook a bit.

Cook the gravy on a hard boil for about five minutes, then cover the stockpot and reduce the heat to a 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.

Crawfish Étouffée-Melted Butter
Melt the butter in the same Dutch Oven

When the butter is foaming (don’t let it burn!) add about 1/2 to 2/3 of the reserved green onions (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 Étouffée
Saute the crawfish tails in the butter with some green onions
Add the gravy to the tails.

Sauteing the crawfish in butter will produce some liquid.  It’s OK to turn off the heat until the gravy is ready, but when the gravy has simmered 10 to 15 minutes, ladle it into the crawfish tails and mix well, turning the heat to medium-high. The liquid from sautéing the tails in the butter will thin out the gravy. 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.

Crawfish Étouffée
Finish with a couple of tabs of butter

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 Etouffee served over rice (with some Yellow Squash Casserole!)

That’s it, all there is to it.

Hints and Tips

  • 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 use, let them drain, then pat them dry with paper towels.  You can also buy Louisiana crawfish online at sites like Cajun Grocer or Tony’s Seafood (no affiliation with either company). You can also get some great Louisiana Crawfish Tails with the ease of Amazon-ordering by clicking this link.
  • Frozen crawfish tails will already be parboiled, so it is not necessary to cook them for a long period of time. If you are using leftovers from a crawfish boil, then the tails are completely cooked.
  • Etouffee refers to a method of cooking. The crawfish are smothered in a rich gravy, so it should be no surprise,  given the bounty of Louisiana, that this recipe is also great with shrimp, chicken or even rabbit.
  • 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.
  • It’s not gumbo which is like a soup and usually contains more than one protein. You will add some rice to gumbo, but you’ll ladle the Etouffee on top of the rice.
  • Use a long grain white rice with your Etouffee’!
  • The roux will continue to brown somewhat after you add the Trinity, so you may want to add it when the roux is just a little lighter than you want.

Here are a couple of other CRAWFISH recipes from Sweet Daddy D:

These will come in handy with this recipe:

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Yeah You Right!

 

Crawfish smothering in gravy
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 206
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 20 minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
60 minutes 206
Crawfish smothering in gravy
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 206
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 20 minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
60 minutes 206
Here's What You Need
Herb and Spice Blend
Here's 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 3 cups of the seafood stock in a stock pot to warm (reserve the remainder if needed to thin the etouffee at the end).
  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. (See Recipe Notes)
  4. Add the onions, celery and green peppers (the Trinity) 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 Herb and 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 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 (saving some to sprinkle on top of the etouffee when serving) 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. (See Recipe Notes).
  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 heavy simmer, 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 it's still too thick, add some reserved stock to thin it out.
  14. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and shake the pan 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

This post is not sponsored, but you will find affiliate links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The price you pay as a consumer does not change, but I may make a small commission based on your purchase.

The roux will continue to brown somewhat after you add the Trinity, so you may want to add them when the roux is just a little lighter than you want.

Frozen crawfish tails will already be parboiled, so it is not necessary to cook them for a long period of time. If you are using leftovers from a crawfish boil, then the tails are completely cooked.

Etouffee refers more to a method of cooking. The crawfish are smothered in a rich gravy.  So it should be no surprise that given the bounty of Louisiana, this recipe is also great with shrimp, chicken or even rabbit.

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 use, let them drain, then pat them dry with paper towels.  You can also buy Louisiana crawfish online at sites like Cajun Grocer or Tony's Seafood (no affiliation with either company). You can also get some great Louisiana Crawfish Tails with the ease of Amazon-ordering by clicking this link.

If you don't have crawfish stock, you can substitute chicken stock, either commercial or homemade or commercial seafood stock.

 

Nutrition Facts
Cajun Crawfish Étouffée
Amount Per Serving
Calories 206 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 20%
Saturated Fat 8g 40%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 112mg 37%
Sodium 424mg 18%
Potassium 448mg 13%
Total Carbohydrates 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 1g
Protein 14g 28%
Vitamin A 15%
Vitamin C 20%
Calcium 5%
Iron 6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Crawfish tails smothered in rich stock and the Holy Trinity and served over rice-a Cajun Icon!