Shrimp Etouffee

Mardi GrasComfort FoodCreoleFish and Seafood

Shrimp Etouffee! a classic Louisiana stew of shrimp or crawfish served over rice.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Even though I grew up in New Jersey, and my mother is from New England, I still think Louisiana has the best food in America.

Every time I cook Cajun or Creole I’m in awe of the balance and strength in the cooking there; it’s one of the few places in the United States with a long-standing cuisine all its own.

This dish, étouffée, is one of that cuisine’s crown jewels.

What is Etouffee?

Étouffée basically means “smothered,” and it is a common cooking technique in the South; a fricassee is the same deal. You make a flavorful sauce and cook a meat or fish in it, not so long as a braise or stew, and not so short as a sauté.

Shrimp étouffée brings together all of the hallmarks of Louisiana cooking: Seafood (help our own shrimpers by making sure you use Gulf shrimp for your etouffee), a flour-and-oil roux, the “Holy Trinity” of onion, celery and green pepper, traditional Cajun seasoning and hot sauce.

Shrimp Etouffee Served in Bowl

The Etouffee Dispute

Debates rage over whether etouffee ought to have a roux in it, whether you can use more than one seafood (wouldn’t that be a gumbo, then?), and whether to use tomato or not. We went with a roux, one seafood, Tabasco, and no tomato. You can alter this recipe to suit your own preferences.

You’ll note the long prep time in this recipe—that is mostly for peeling the shrimp shells for the stock and then for simmering that stock. If you use canned or pre-made stock, your prep time will go down to about 20 minutes.

Shrimp Etouffee Recipe

  • Prep time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6

You can use shrimp, crawfish or crab for this recipe interchangeably.


Optional Shrimp Stock:

  • Shells from 2 pounds of shrimp
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • top and bottom from 1 green pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 5 bay leaves


  • 2 pounds shrimp, shell on (remove shells for use in the shrimp stock, if not making your own stock, you can get shrimp already shelled)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or lard
  • Heaping 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pint shrimp stock (see above), or clam juice or pre-made fish or shellfish stock
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • Salt
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Hot sauce (Crystal or Tabasco) to taste


1 Make the shrimp stock: Pour 2 quarts of water into a pot and add all the shrimp stock ingredients. Bring to a boil, drop the heat down and simmer the stock gently for 45 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into another pot set over low heat. You will have extra stock, which you can use for soup, risotto, etc. It will last in the fridge for a week.

2 Make the roux: To make the etouffee, start by making a roux. Heat the vegetable oil or lard in a heavy pot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the flour well, making sure there no clumps. Let this cook, stirring often, until it turns a pretty brown; this should take about 10 minutes or so.

3 Add the celery, bell pepper, jalapeño, and onion: Add the celery, green pepper, jalapeño and onion, mix well and cook this over medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes.

4 Add the shrimp stock, then the seasonings and the shrimp: Slowly add the hot shrimp stock, stirring constantly so it incorporates. The roux will absorb the stock and seize up at first, then it will loosen. Add enough stock to make a sauce about the thickness of syrup, about 1 pint.

Add the Cajun seasoning, celery seed and paprika and mix well. Add salt to taste, then mix in the shrimp. Cover the pot, turn the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 10 minutes.

5 Add the green onions and hot sauce to taste. Serve over white rice with a cold beer or lemonade.

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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

60 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Beverly

    Looks absolutely delicious!!!
    Does anyone know how much I should buy to serve about 50 guest?
    Also, can I add chicken to the recipe along with the shrimp?
    Thank you for any replies in advance. Deeply appreciated

  • Amy

    This recipe is amazing! This was my first attempt at making étouffée and my husband called it “restaurant quality.”


  • Larry

    Made this for dinner and came out perfect first time. Took a little more oil than it called for and added some more stock to keep it at the right consistency because I mistimed the rice. This is a keeper.


  • Mark Richard

    I’m from the town of Baldwin, on the southern coast of Louisiana near Vermilion Bay. I would like to clear up the idea that there is no controversy among older Louisiana Cajuns on what is etouffee, stew, or gumbo, or their variations. What you describe are separate dishes here in Louisiana.

    This recipe (a very good one) is what we call here “Cajun shrimp stew” since roux with no tomatoes is used. With tomatoes, it becomes “Creole shrimp stew.”

    An etouffee has no roux. Leave out the roux, cook the shrimp (or crawfish) in its natural juices with a little water and little or no flour added, and you have an etouffee.

    Cajun stews start with a roux and can be made with crawfish, shrimp, chicken, or pork. Sometimes they are called “smothered shrimp” or “smothered pork” and so on. You are right in that usually etouffees and stews usually have only one seafood or meat. If you mix shrimp and crawfish in an etouffee or stew, you only taste the shrimp. Sometimes chicken stew is cooked with Cajun sausages, as would be chicken-sausage gumbo.

    A gumbo is made the same as a stew, with roux, and in a big pot instead of a skillet. I cook my roux in a skillet and add the garlic, then the celery, bell peppers, and onions with adequate water to keep it from sticking. When this is lightly sauteed I transfer it to a pot and add the seafood and water. It should be soup consistency instead of thick like a stew.

    Two main gumbos are seafood gumbo, which usually blends shrimp, crawfish, crabmeat, and oysters, and chicken-sausage gumbo, which usually includes chicken, andouille sausage, Cajun smoked sausage, tasso, and Cajun pork sausage.

    Creole cooking, found more in restaurants around New Orleans, uses tomatoes. Restaurants in the Lake Charles area have adopted using tomatoes as well.

    Tomatoes are not a substitute for a well-made roux. I’ve had “gumbo” outside of Louisiana with no roux and a watered-down tomato sauce. This is not gumbo!

  • Kara Ffrench

    I’ve made this several times and it is wonderful! We all love it and so does company. Thank you Hank!


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