This classic dish highlights the unique flavor of Louisiana crawfish and brings a tasty piece of the bayou into your kitchen. It’s a hearty stew smothered with crawfish tail meat and vegetables in a rich and buttery tomato-based sauce.
Whenever I offer to cook a Cajun dish, I typically get requests for the usual gumbo, jambalaya, or red beans everyone loves. It’s rare that I get a request for étouffée, so I was more than happy to oblige when my son asked me to make some for dinner.
Étouffée (pronounced eh-too-fey) means “smothered” in French. This dish is a type a stew made with seafood, vegetables, and seasonings served over white rice much like a seafood gumbo. Unlike gumbo though, étouffée uses only one kind of seafood with no other meat, and it’s cooked in a rich, buttery thick sauce.
The most common seafood for this dish is either shrimp or crawfish. I prefer crawfish. Yes, those little lobster-looking crustaceans also known throughout the country as crawdads, mudbugs, crayfish, mountain lobsters, and mudbugs or even yabbies if you’re from down under.
I also prefer the Creole version of étouffée, which uses a blond roux and tomatoes along with the holy trinity of all Cajun cooking: onions, celery, and bell peppers. It takes me less than 30 minutes to create a tomato-based sauce that surrounds the tastiest nuggets of crawfish tail meat. This is a quick meal with brilliant Cajun flavors. And the aroma that fills the kitchen and the deliciousness that fills my belly are heavenly.
I’m sure there are some Cajuns out there that would cry out “blasphemy” for adding such a thing as tomatoes to this beloved dish. That’s okay. With feigned repentance, I’ll make a traditional Cajun style with a golden, brown sauce sans the tomatoes next time. I may even use shrimp. Until then…
- Grab your Classic Cajun Cookware to make this recipe. It’s the best — and, in my books, the only — pot for the job.
- Make perfectly cooked rice in advance and keep it warm until serving time using a modern rice cooker. I use mine all the time and can’t imagine a kitchen without one.
- The best and most traditional way to enjoy Crawfish étouffée is to serve it over a mound of cooked white rice. I always use Nishiki Medium Grain Rice; however, other types of rice work just as well. Try it with long- or short-grain rice or even brown rice. Other delicious twists include grits, polenta, and pasta. Get creative in the kitchen.
- Instead of rice, try serving this sauce over fried fish, oysters, shrimp, or even a steak. These are fantastic alternatives to rice, as well as another way to use up leftovers the next day.
- This dish is even better when served with warm, crusty French bread. There’s nothing better to sop up all the rich, heavenly sauce.
- Remember to serve with some hot sauce on the table. The best of the best is Crystal Hot Sauce — a must if you want authentic Cajun tastes!
- This stew is hearty, and you won’t need much to complete the meal. A small fresh salad or side of veggies like steamed broccoli, fried okra, or boiled corn on the cobb are good options.
- You can easily make this a day ahead of time, if needed. Follow the recipe directions, except do not add the crawfish. Store sauce mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to make dinner, transfer the mixture to a saucepan and add the crawfish to the pot. If the sauce has thickened overnight, add a little extra stock to the mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until warm and bubbly.
- Remember, this is a seafood dish, so it’s best to eat within three days or toss. If you’re using a rice cooker with warmer, no need to worry about storing these leftovers. Rice will stay warm for 12 hours or more in these nifty appliances. Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To reheat, transfer to a saucepan and warm over medium heat until warm and bubbly. Add a splash of stock or water if the sauce is too thick.
- You can freeze leftovers to enjoy later, if needed. Store cooled rice and sauce separately in airtight containers or freezer bags for up six months. Reheat thawed rice in the microwave for about four minutes. You may need to add a few drops of water to get that fluffiness back. To reheat sauce, transfer thawed sauce to a saucepan and warm over medium-low heat until warm and bubbly. Add a splash of stock or water if the sauce is too thick.
- There are many in the heart of New Orleans that would claim beer and crawfish go together like peanut butter and jelly. I tend to agree. The savory seasonings in this dish scream for an ice-cold pour of a crisp and refreshing IPA or Pale ale. And it’s even better when served in a Frozen Cooling Pint Beer Glass. Delicious crawfish étouffée and an ice-cold beer: A feast for kings!
- For wine aficionados, white wines tend to work. A few good options include a Red Newt Cellars Dry Riesling, a Scielo North Folk Riesling, or a Reeve Wines San Benito Riesling. These lighter bodied wines have hints of fruitiness that balance the spice and buttery tomato flavors in this dish quite well.
- Making an authentic Cajun roux takes practice and patience to get it exactly right. It’s often the most difficult part of any recipe; however, this blond roux is easy-peasy. After you sauté the onions in butter for a few minutes, add the flour to the pot and stir until well mixed. Cook over medium heat for about two minutes. That’s all there is to it.
- Freshly prepared and peeled crawfish tail meat is always best, though not always readily available when you don’t live in Cajun country. Frozen cooked Louisiana Crawfish Tails is an excellent substitute and now commonly found in larger grocery chains. Be sure to thaw frozen crawfish before tossing into the pot.
- When you buy packaged or frozen crawfish tail meat, remember it’s already cooked. That’ means you’ll want to add them to the pot last to avoid chewy, overcooked seafood. Can’t imagine anybody will want that!
- If crawfish isn’t your thing or you can’t find any at the local market, use one to two pounds of peeled and deveined shrimp instead. It’s the only seafood substitute for this dish (IMHO).
- Instead of butter, you can easily substitute with vegetable or peanut oil. Keep in mind, though, using an oil will not create the rich, buttery base that’s at the heart of this sauce.
- Some like a thicker stew, while others prefer it thinner. Increase or decrease the amount of seafood stock used to get your desired stew-like consistency.
- Take the guesswork out of which seasoning is best by using Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. It has the right combination of Creole and Cajun flavors that work wonderfully in this recipe. A teaspoon or two of Tony’s is all you need. Yummy!
- This recipe is best when using seafood stock, and there are many varieties available at your local market. Honestly, I prefer HonDashi Bonito Soup Stock. I always have this stuff on hand in the cupboard because it’s amazingly easy to work with and super delicious in Cajun and Asian dishes alike. If you need to, you can substitute seafood stock with a vegetable or chicken stock, or even water in a crunch. These substitutes won’t produce the same flavors as a good seafood stock; however, you’ll still get tasty results.
- Truth be told, I added a can of Rotel® Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies to this recipe because I had a can in the pantry and it just, well, sounded good. Turns out, it was good and added a little extra flavor to the sauce. Instead of canned tomatoes, you can dice up a large fresh tomato and use that instead.
- There’s nothing better than cooking with real Tabasco® Red Pepper Sauce. A splash or two of this incredible and intense spice enhances the flavor in this dish so well. If you need a substitute, use a half teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a comment and star rating below. It’s always refreshing to hear how others like a recipe, find success with it, or tweak to suit. I’d love to hear from you!