This recipe for Authentic Cajun Shrimp Étouffée has been my favorite since childhood. It’s a classic Louisiana dish with a buttery, richly seasoned sauce smothered over fresh shrimp and rice. If you haven’t had the pleasure of this classic, you should!
“First, you make a roux…”
I don’t know where this phrase originated from, but it’s a phrase I have heard countless times as my mother whipped up some of Louisiana’s finest creations like Cajun Blackened Chicken, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, and Pralines. Although I admit that I did not grow up in New Orleans, it is my father’s home and my second hometown whenever I get the chance.
His adoration of The Big Easy is legendary. It’s similar to how immigrant parents talk about ‘the old country’ to their children who can’t remember. He would regale us with tales about City Park and eating at Commander’s Palace. And the food…the food!
What is Étouffée?
In Louisiana, cooking is love. The long cooking times, the whisking until you achieve the perfect consistency and color, and the layering of flavors all blend into dishes that are unique and profound. I can think of no dish that better evokes these qualities.
Étouffée is a French word that means smothered and, in Louisiana, it means a dish that is covered in a liquid, but not a stew like gumbo.
I usually have a strong roux in my Shrimp Étouffée recipe to thicken it up enough to grab onto the shrimp as a creamy sauce but not so thick that it feels gelatinous. Of course, when cool it will be thicker.
Ingredients and Notes
Here is an overview of the ingredients you will need to make the best Shrimp Etouffee in your life.
Shrimp. The shrimp should be large or medium-sized and uncooked, with shells and tails removed.
Seafood Stock. In the grocery store, I usually find this in the seafood section rather than with the other types of stock and broth. I have some suggestions below if you can’t find it.
Seasoning. Spices are essential to all Cajun and Creole cooking. Most of the heat comes from the black pepper, but you can add more pepper or cayenne for heat.
Vegetables. The classic Cajun holy trinity of celery, green pepper, and yellow onion of course!
Flour. Use all-purpose flour.
Oil and Butter. Since this is a quick roux, we use both to bring out that buttery, elegant flavor.
Rice. I always stick with short grain parboiled white rice and cook separately. Brown rice will also work well.
This dish is perfect as is to me, however, if you need to make adjustments, here are some ways to substitute ingredients.
Adjusting the Heat Level
In my opinion, etouffee is not an overly spicy dish. As written, this recipe still has a little kick (It’s less spicy than medium wings). You can always add more cayenne at the end after tasting or your favorite hot sauce.
I have heard of people adding a dash of Worcestershire sauce, but I stick to hot sauce.
Changing the protein
Truthfully, crawfish is my favorite version, but its only available as frozen in my area. You change up the bold flavor by adding or substituting some other meat varieties. Andouille sausage or other smoked sausage, crawfish, blue crabs, and shredded chicken are also delish!
Substituting the stock
Having a hard time finding Seafood Stock? It’s ok to swap in another stock, such as chicken stock. You could also make your own homemade shrimp stock which is a fairly easy recipe.
How To Make a Roux from Scratch
You might be familiar with gumbo roux which takes hours. This is NOT that. This method is much faster while still removing all flour taste. You cannot walk away from a quick roux, or you risk burning it.
Especially if you haven’t made this before, it is imperative to set up all ingredients for the roux beforehand. This includes mixing the spices, cutting the vegetables, and warming the seafood stock.
The full instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but here is a visual overview of how it should look as it goes along.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it begins to smoke (looks like slight steam). Gradually whisk in the flour until smooth. Continue whisking constantly until the flour is about the color of a new penny or a redder color of peanut butter. Immediately remove from heat (don’t just turn off the burner). If the roux becomes too clumpy, add a little oil. If you burn it – start over, don’t try to save it.
- Over low heat, gradually add the stock to the roux, and whisk until combined. Whisk constantly and simmer for a few minutes until the flour taste is gone.
- Add the remaining seafood stock, the roux mixture, and the remaining seasoning mix.
- Make the shrimp separately with generous butter. Stir in shrimp and sauté until just pink on both sides. Add to etouffee liquid.
If the sauce becomes too thick, add more stock after it is cooked to thin it. You will still end up with a super flavorful sauce!
What to Serve with Shrimp Etouffee
Serve with about ½ cup of rice and green onions to garnish.
Use white or brown rice to serve. You don’t need a side dish, but southern classics work well like corn on the cob, fried okra, mixed green salad, or some crusty bread to handle that glorious smothering sauce.
More Creole and Cajun Recipes
Oh, I love to share these! I have many favorites that we have made for decades.
An authentic cajun shrimp etouffee recipe consists of a thick sauce with a blond or red brown roux and generously seasoned with a mix of salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, dried basil, dried thyme. The Cajun holy trinity of yellow onions, celery, green bell peppers are also a must.
They are similar, even though they taste nothing alike. Shrimp Creole has a spicy tomato sauce base while Etouffee has a roux. Both are served with rice and can be a stand-alone dish.
A cooking technique where flour and oil or animal fats are cooked over high heat. There are many different kinds of roux, and they get their names from the color. The longer you cook a roux, the darker it gets. They range from blond to a coffee-colored roux called a black roux. For this recipe, you want a red-brown color, about the color of a penny. A little lighter is fine, too dark is not. Creole roux is usually made with butter instead of oil.
Etouffee is generally considered to be Cajun cooking. Etouffee uses a roux as its base and does not include tomatoes. However, it is a more refined dish, and my version does include butter for the seafood as well as an oil roux.
Yes, this dish can be made a day ahead of time and is even better because the flavors meld. You can also make just the roux and veggies ahead of time, or leave it so just the shrimp needs simmering before serving.
If the roux is separated rather than having a creamy texture or if it’s too dark, it is probably burned. It may clump slightly, but it should still be smooth and spreadable. When the vegetable hits the roux, it may clump and turn darker because of the water. That’s ok.
Shrimp is the star of the show in this my best Shrimp Etouffee dish, and you have to have the right kind to make it turn out! I highly suggest peeled and deveined, raw 31/35 per pound (large) shrimp.
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- 1 Small Saucepot (for seafood stock)
- 1 Medium Saucepot (for cooking rice)
- 1 8-10 inch Sauté pan (a larger skillet can be hard to properly whisk, and, thus, burn the roux)
- 1 Whisk (Non-metal preferred but not required)
- 1 Large Skillet or sauté pan (For cooking the shrimp.)
- Wooden Spoon
- 1.5 teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper see note about heat
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dried Basil
- ½ teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 3 cups Seafood Stock Divided (2 cups, 1 cup) – chicken stock is ok in a pinch
- 7 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- ½ cup All Purpose Flour
- ½ cup Celery diced
- ½ cup Yellow Onions diced
- ½ cup Green Bell Pepper diced
- 1 stick Unsalted butter If using salted, remove 0.5 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds Shrimp
- 4 cups Cooked Rice
- ½ cup Green Onions finely sliced
- Make sure that your ingredients, utensils, and pots are laid out and convenient before turning on the stove. This recipe moves quickly and relies on constant whisking so having everything laid out will help keep you from scorching the roux. I measure out all ingredients and cut vegetables, as well as 1 small saucepot, 1-8" or 10" skillet (no larger unless doubling the recipe) for the roux, and a second large skillet for the shrimp.
- In a small bowl, combine the salt, cayenne, pepper, basil, and thyme. Set aside.
- Bring 2 cups of the seafood stock to a boil. Turn down heat but keep hot. Cook the rice as directed.
- In a 10 inch skillet or slightly smaller, heat the oil over medium high to high heat until it begins to smoke (looks like very slight steam), about 4-5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the flour until smooth. Continue whisking constantly until the flour is a red brown color, about the color of a new penny. (3-5 minutes) Immediately remove from heat (don't just turn off the burner- remove it!).
- Add the celery, onions, and bell pepper. Add ½ (about 1 Tbsp) of the seasoning mixture and stir until well combined.
- Over low heat, gradually add the pre-heated seafood stock into the roux, and whisk until combined. Continue whisking constantly and simmer a few minutes until any flour taste is gone.
- In a large saucepan or pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in shrimp and sauté until just pink on both sides.
- To the shrimp, add the remaining seafood stock, the roux mixture, and the remaining seasoning mix. Stir until well combined and hot, about 4-6 minutes.
- Serve in bowls with a ½ cup of rice. Sprinkle green onions over top of the dish.