Crawfish Etouffee (etouffee means smothered in French) is a Cajun comfort food that has been one of my favorites since I was a kid. It’s basically just crawfish with a gravy made from the Cajun Holy Trinity (onions, bell peppers, and celery).
I amp up the flavors with other things, like poblanos, jalapenos, and green onions to really get your taste buds going.
I also tend to get into trouble for putting in too much cayenne pepper, so I’ve tamed it down for this recipe. You’re welcome to add more or leave it out altogether.
I suggest putting at least a little in there. This recipe shines with some heat behind it.
At the very least, put a bottle of Tabasco out on the table. If you do that, the people who like spice can amp it up, and those who don’t like it can eat a meal pain-free.
Cooking Your Crawfish Etouffee Well
The trick to making excellent crawfish etouffee is to take your time.
All meals don’t need to be done in under 30 minutes. Some things are worth the wait.
In this recipe, we slow down the process of cooking the vegetables to soften them up to the point they’re almost liquid.
It helps the consistency of the gravy and keeps the texture from clashing with the crawfish.
Additionally, when we’re sauteeing the vegetables, we deglaze the pan multiple times then cook until au sec (French for almost dry). Deglazing with chicken stock concentrates its flavors (homemade is always better), softens the vegetables further, and lifts the flavorful fond off the bottom of the pan.
Deglazing like that will make the gravy absolutely sing.
If you’re using store-bought chicken stock, cut the salt in the recipe back (by at least half). Homemade chicken stock typically doesn’t have salt, but most store-bought stock does.
You can always add more salt once the recipe is finished, but you can never take it out.
Once you’ve finished that part of the recipe, all that’s left is to toss in the crawfish, along with all of their fat, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
You can use leftover crawfish from a crawfish boil (make sure to add the fat along with the tails), or just buy crawfish tails from the store. H-E-B carries them frozen in their meat department, and they work great.
Serve with a batch of steamed white rice.
- 1/2 stick butter - 4 tbsp.
- 1 large yellow onion - Diced
- 3 medium celery stalks - Finely diced
- 1 large poblano - Seeded, finely diced
- 1 large bell pepper - Seeded, finely diced
- 1 large jalapeno pepper - Finely diced (remove the seeds and veins if you want your etouffee mild)
- 1 small bunch green onions - Thinly sliced. White and dark green parts separated
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper - optional
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 lbs. crawfish tails - including their fat
- Heat the butter in a large cast-iron dutch oven, over medium-high heat, until it stops foaming, then add the onions, stirring frequently until they begin to brown. Add 1/4 cup of chicken stock and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula, until it's almost evaporated. About 10 minutes.
- Add the balance of the vegetables (excluding the dark green parts of the onions). Cook, stirring often until softened and beginning to stick to the bottom of the dutch oven. Add 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot, until evaporated, then add 1/2 cup of stock and cook again, stirring often, until evaporated. About 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, flour, and spices, and cook, stirring constantly until all of the ingredients are well coated. About 1 minute.
- Add the remainder of the chicken stock, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot with a sturdy wooden spatula, to remove any stuck-on bits, then add the crawfish, and stir again. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes, or until the gravy is the consistency you like.
- Taste and adjust for salt. Serve over steamed rice, garnished with the dark parts of the green onions.