Crawfish Étouffée

Traditional crawfish étouffée is a briny Creole stew loaded with crawfish and vegetables with a spicy kick. The flavors are classic “N’Awlins” and the next best thing to visiting the Crescent City. This easy étouffée recipe is built on the holy trinity of celery, onions and bell pepper with Louisiana crawfish tails and Creole spices. Make this crawfish etouffee recipe in about an hour.

This recipe and post have been been updated from their original publication in 2015.

Steamed crayfish surrounding a colander of shelled crawfish tails.

What is étouffée?

Étouffée is a French word meaning to smother or suffocate. In cooking, it’s translated to “stew” or “braise,” where the main ingredients are cooked “smothered” in the sauce.

You can make a classic étouffée from many ingredients, including crawfish, shrimp, crab or other crustaceans, not to mention chicken and sausage. Less common varieties include pork and beef.

Is étouffée Cajun or Creole?

According to Chef John Folse, CEC, AAC, etouffee is more Creole in origin but is found throughout Louisiana. This recipe is based on his from his tome, The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine.

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Making étouffée

There are many “chefy” methods for making crawfish étouffée.

Some call for starting with a crawfish boil using 20 pounds or more of the little mudbugs. Others begin by making their stock with crawfish heads and shells.

Some swap the traditional blond roux for a more prolonged cooking, darker one.

This version won’t have you harvesting crawfish from the bayou or building a campfire in your backyard. Promise.

It’s based on Chef John Folse’s crawfish étouffée recipe, and you can use pre-cooked frozen crawfish tails (preferably from Louisiana). Best of all, you can have this Louisiana classic on the table in about one hour.

Ingredients for this crawfish étouffée recipe:

  • Cooked Crawfish – You can usually find packages of frozen crawfish tails at good seafood markets.
  • Butter – I use unsalted.
  • Onion – you can use yellow or white onion.
  • Green Bell Pepper – part of the trinity of Louisiana cooking.
  • Red, Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper (pick one)
  • Celery – for the mirepoix.
  • Garlic – part of traditional New Orleans holy trinity of cooking.
  • Flour – for making the roux.
  • Kosher Salt – We prefer diamond Crystal, but you can also use Morton’s, though it’s slightly saltier by volume — you may need to reduce the amount.
  • Black Pepper – freshly ground will give you the best flavor.
  • Dried Thyme – if you use fresh thyme, you’ll need to double the amount.
  • Cayenne Pepper – to add a spicy kick.
  • Tomato Juice (or sauce) – for the etouffee sauce
  • Bottled Clam Juice – adds a seafoody flavor.
  • Water – to thin the sauce.
  • Plum Tomato – (or canned diced tomato)
  • Sherry – (or Vermouth)
  • Green Onions – for a fresh finish with subtle onion flavor
  • Parsley – for garnish.

About crawfish

Crawfish are tiny little shellfish that resemble lobsters. They can live in moving freshwater like streams and rivers or standing waters like marshes, swamps, ponds and lakes.

These little shellfish are also known as crayfish, crawdads (vernacular: crawldads), mudbugs, freshwater lobsters, mountain lobsters and yabbies.

Are crawfish and langoustine the same thing?

No. Though they are very similar in appearance, crawfish live in freshwater, whereas langoustines live in saltwater.

Where can I buy crawfish?

If you live in and around Louisiana, you can buy them fresh. Crawfish season runs from November to July.

You don’t need to buy the whole crayfish to make this etouffee recipe. To be candid, it would be much more work as each tail only has a tiny morsel of meat, about 1/2″ to 1″ long.

Many supermarkets and seafood shops sell one-pound packages of frozen crawfish tails.

I found mine at my local seafood market (Pop’s). They even had whole steamed crawfish in their seafood case. I bought both.

If you can’t source them in your hometown, there’s always Uncle Amazon {affiliate link}.

How to make crawfish étouffée from scratch

  1. Melt the butter in a large 10-12″ skillet with 2-3″ high sides. Saute the onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic until softened and translucent.
  2. Add the flour and cook, stirring for about 1-2 minutes. No dry bits of flour should be left, and the roux should coat the vegetables like a paste.
  3. Add the kosher salt, black pepper, thyme and cayenne (or if you have some Creole seasoning on hand, use 2 1/4 teaspoons). Cook and stir for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add in the crawfish tails and tomato juice, constantly stirring for 3-4 minutes (it’s essential to keep it moving so the tomato juice doesn’t scorch).
  5. Next comes the clam juice. Stir until it’s the consistency of a smooth sauce with no lumps.
  6. Stir in the water and chopped tomato. Bring the crawfish étouffée to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook without the lid for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the chopped green onion and parsley. Serve.


  • Swap other seafood for the crawfish in the étouffée. Try shrimp or crab. You could also use mussels or oysters, but you’d want to add them toward the end of cooking (last 4-5 minutes), so they don’t become tough.
  • Brown chunks of andouille sausage with butter at the beginning of the recipe for another layer of spicy goodness.
  • Swap boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the crawfish. Chop the meat into bite-sized chunks and proceed with the recipe as written.
  • For a smoky component, crisp 2-3 strips of bacon in the skillet before adding butter. Remove all but one tablespoon of bacon fat and reduce the amount of butter by one tablespoon. Crumble the bacon and garnish the crawfish étouffée when serving.
The final step in making the crawfish etouffee recipe is adding chopped green onions and parsley. This gives the rich etouffee sauce a bright finish.


How long will leftovers last?

You can store leftover crawfish etouffee for up to 3-4 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Can I freeze étouffée?

Yes. It will hold up for 2-3 months in the freezer. Defrost, then reheat to serve with rice.

An image of the finished product: A skillet filled with crawfish étouffée and a wooden spoon scoop up a serving.

What goes with étouffée?

Steamed white rice is the classic accompaniment to any etouffee recipe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t riff on it to make it your own. Some options include:

  • Steamed or Boiled Small Red Potatoes with fresh herbs.
  • Cooked okra.
  • Small cooked pasta (like orzo, shells, or macaroni).
  • NOLA style french bread — with a lighter crust and soft, plush interior (for sopping up the etouffee sauce.
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Grits – this is not traditional, but I believe it would go well with this crawfish étouffée recipe.
A rustic setting of a white-rimmed bowl filled with the crawfish etouffee recipe with a mound of cooked whole crawfish on a bed of newspapers with a slat-wood background.

What the taster’s said

“This is pure Cajun comfort food.” – Scott

“It’s like taking a trip to New Orleans without the plane ticket!” – Heather

“Authentic flavors.” – Danielle

A close-up photo of the etouffee recipe in the bowl with a scoop of white rice and a whole crawdad tucked into the bowl.

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A beautiful photo of a serving of étouffée in a white-rimmed bowl with a pile of steamed crawfish behind it.
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5 from 6 votes

Easy Crawfish Etouffee

When you’re craving some Cajun comfort food, this traditional crawfish étouffée will satisfy it! It’s loaded with briny crawfish tails, the holy trinity of Louisiana cooking (onions, celery, bell pepper) and simmered in a spicy seafood sauce. Great with rice and a dash of hot sauce.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cajun, Creole
Keyword crawfish
Dietary Restrictions Egg Free, Pescatarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4



  • 1 pound cooked and shelled crawfish tails
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • ½ green bell pepper seeded and chopped
  • ½ red, yellow or orange bell pepper seeded and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • cup tomato juice (or 1/4 cup tomato sauce + 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1 cup clam juice (or seafood stock)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 plum tomato seeded and diced (or 1/3 cup chopped canned tomato)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or vermouth
  • ½ cup chopped green onion
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley


  • steamed white rice
  • your favorite Louisiana hot sauce we like Crystal’s
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped parsley



  • Heat a large skillet with 3-4” high sides over medium-high heat. Add the butter and when it’s nearly melted, add the onion, bell peppers, celery and garlic. 
  • Saute for 3-5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the onions and celery are slightly translucent. 
  • Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes, so that there are no dry bits of flour left. 
  • Add the kosher salt, black pepper, thyme and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes longer. 
  • Add the crawfish tails and tomato juice and stir until thick and smooth, so there are no lumps for 3-4 minutes. Be sure to continuously stir the mixture so the tomato juice doesn’t scorch.
  • Add the clam juice, stirring constantly so there are no lumps and it becomes a smooth, thick sauce.
  • Stir in the water and tomato; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Just before serving, stir in the chopped green onions and parsley. 


  • Fill bowls with crawfish étouffée and top with a scoop of white rice, a sprinkle of green onions and parsley and several dashes of your favorite hot sauce. This is delicious with an Abita or other local Louisiana brew.


The recipe can easily be doubled.


Calories: 220kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 38mg | Sodium: 821mg | Potassium: 323mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1810IU | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 2mg

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  1. 5 stars
    Perfect! I made this for two and it was great. Just the right amount of spice for us.
    I didn’t have crawfish so subbed shrimp, partially cooked them first and then added them last to
    finish cooking.

  2. Rosalia Q. Figueroa says:

    5 stars
    I tried this recipe, and it was really good!

  3. 5 stars
    I just think it’s so cool and thoughtful when people take notice and follow you and tell you about it! The job of a blogger can be a lonely one sometimes. I can see why Tim and everyone else would want this recipe. It looks amazing! I love crawfish and Cajun flavors. This dish is a winner!