Classic New Orleans Shrimp Étouffée Recipe made with plump shrimp smothered in a rich and fragrant blonde roux and filled with the “Holy Trinity” of onion, celery, and green pepper. Serve with a side of rice for an easy and totally delicious one-pot Cajun meal.
Shrimp Étouffée Recipe
Étouffee, or etouffee, is a popular rice and shellfish recipe found in both Creole and Cajun cuisine. Pronounced AY-too-FAY, étouffée literally means “smothered” or “suffocated” in French. Typically served over rice, the sauce is made by cooking flour and fat together to make a roux that acts as a thickener and flavor base for the rest of the dish.
Much like other Louisiana favorites like jambalaya and gumbo, etouffee is not complete without the “Holy Trinity” of Cajun and Creole cooking – onion, celery, and bell peppers. Cooked over a low flame until softened, this delicious mix of aromatics adds mouthwatering depth flavor.
Finally, add your favorite Cajun or Creole seasoning, homemade (or store-bought) shrimp stock, and your favorite shellfish. I’m fond of big, fat shrimp, but crayfish (or “crawfish”) were thought to be the original shellfish used among Cajuns in the bayous of Louisiana sometime in the early to mid 20th century when etouffee was first introduced.
Sauté the shrimp in a little butter and add directly to the dish or, more authentically, simmer your plump and delicious shrimp directly in the sauce. After all, as you may recall, etouffee literally means “smother” in French.
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Let’s talk more about the ingredients, shall we?
Shrimp Étouffée Ingredients
- Shrimp shells
- Green bell pepper
- Bay leaves
- All-purpose flour
- Cajun seasoning
- Sweet paprika
- Green onions
- Cooked white rice
There are two parts to this recipe.
The first is making a homemade shrimp stock from shrimp shells (see image below) or crawfish shells, onion, green bell pepper, celery, garlic and bay leaves. Try not to let this make your nervous – it’s incredibly easy and much more economical (i.e. cheaper) than buying your own clam juice or seafood stock (which you can absolutely do if you prefer).
The second part is to actually make your etouffee using your shrimp stock (although you will only need about 3 cups, so you’ll have some leftover). This recipe is incredibly easy, I promise, but I can understand how it looks intimidating at first glance.
Here are some frequently asked questions you may want to read before getting started:
Is this recipe spicy?
As written, this recipe is definitely much milder. If you prefer a spicier etouffee, include 1-2 finely diced jalapeño peppers with the “holy trinity” or add 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper at the same time as the sweet paprika.
How can I make this recipe dairy-free?
The only ingredient in this recipe that contains dairy is the butter which is the fat needed to make our roux. You may substitute butter with lard, bacon drippings, or (as the last option) vegetable oil.
Can I use chicken broth in place of homemade or store-bought seafood stock?
As a last resort, yes. However, the resulting dish will not have the same delicious seafood flavor, so I highly recommend saving those shrimp shells and making your own.
Can I substitute the Cajun seasoning with Creole seasoning?
Yes. The two are very similar to each other. The primary difference between the two is that Creole seasoning typically contains additional paprika, sweet basil, celery seed, oregano, and white pepper in addition to garlic powder, onion, black pepper, and Cayenne pepper.
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How to Make Shrimp Etouffee
1. Make your homemade shrimp stock. Easier than making homemade chicken stock or beef stock, shrimp stock uses simple ingredients, is less expensive than store-bought, and is ready in just 45 minutes. Remove the shells and tails from your thawed shrimp and transfer to a large stockpot. Add a roughly chopped onion, bell pepper, stalk of celery (or celery ends), a few cloves of smashed garlic, and 5 bay leaves. Cover with approximately 8 cups of water.
Allow your stock to simmer for approximately 45 minutes. After 45 minutes have passed, strain your broth through a fine-mesh strainer and into a clean pot. Set aside.
You may do this step up to 24 hours ahead of time, however, you will want to keep your (now) shelled shrimp in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and use within 24 hours.
You will only be using approximately 3 cups of homemade stock to make your shrimp etouffee. Save the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or freeze for up to 4 months.
2. With the stock simmering (or already prepared), time to make the roux. Roux is simply a mixture of flour and fat mixed and cooked together over medium heat. Depending on the recipe, a roux may be cooked only a short time (5-10 minutes), just long enough to remove the flour taste, or as long as 1-2 hours to create a dark, rich, deeply flavored roux (as in gumbo). Here we are making a light blond roux that should take no more than 10-15 minutes.
Grab a large Dutch oven and melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk continuously to remove any lumps or clumps. Whisk continuously for 10-15 minutes or until it reaches a nice golden, blond color.
3. Mix the “holy trinity” with the roux and cook over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. Remember, the “holy trinity” is made up of the finely diced onions, green peppers, and celery. Continue to stir often. In the last minute or so, stir in the minced garlic.
4. Slowly whisk in your homemade shrimp stock (see step 1). One cup at a time, add your homemade stock, whisking well between each addition. Depending on how thick you prefer your etouffee, you may desire to add more or less stock, but somewhere between 2-3 cups should be adequate. Remember, etouffee is not meant to be a brothy soup. Plus, you can always add additional broth later, if needed.
5. Season to taste. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the Cajun seasoning, paprika, salt, and pepper. If you prefer a spicier dish, add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper or some hot sauce. Allow everything to simmer together for approximately 5 minutes. Check the thickness – too thick? Add a bit more stock.
6. Etouffee the shrimp. Translation, add, and smother your shrimp in the sauce. Make sure your shrimp are thawed before adding to prevent excess liquid from thawing into the sauce. Cover and cook for approximately 5-10 minutes.
7. Garnish and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley and green onions and serve with warm, fluffy cooked rice.
Etouffee, Jambalaya, and Gumbo: What’s the Difference?
Let’s chat quickly about the differences between etouffee, jambalaya, and gumbo: three of New Orlean’s most beloved rice dishes.
Jambalaya: Jambalaya is made with protein, veggies, and sometimes tomatoes, which combine with rice and chicken stock, and simmer together to make one big happy pot of spicy rice. Jambalaya, like Spanish paella, is at its core, a rice dish.
Gumbo: Gumbo, on the other hand, is more closely related to a soup, or stew. Filled with a mix of vegetables, meats, and shellfish cooked in a flavorful stock made from a dark roux and thickened slightly with okra or ground sassafras leaves (filé powder). Unlike jambalaya, but similar to etouffee, gumbo is served atop or with a side of rice.
Etouffee: Etouffee, is clearly most like gumbo, but also quite different. Significantly thicker and less soupy, it is made with just one type of shellfish (shrimp or crawfish, for example) that’s been smothered in a thick, blond roux-based broth. Like gumbo, it is often served with a side of rice.
More Rice Recipes,
If you try making this Shrimp Etouffee Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Shrimp Etouffee Recipe
For the Homemade Shrimp Stock (optional)
- Shells from at least 2 pounds of shrimp
- 1 medium onion - roughly chopped
- 1 green bell pepper - roughly chopped (seeds are ok)
- 2 stalks celery - roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic - peeled and smashed
- 5 large bay leaves
- 8 cups water
For the Shrimp Etouffee
- 2 pounds shrimp - (see notes)
- 5 tbsp butter - (or vegetable oil, olive oil, bacon drippings, or lard)
- 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 medium onion - finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper - seeded and diced
- 2 stalks celery - finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves - minced
- 3 cups homemade shrimp stock (or store-bought clam juice or fish stock) - plus more as needed
- 2 tsp Cajun seasoning - (may substitute with Creole seasoning)
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- salt and pepper - to taste
- Chopped green onions - to garnish
- Cooked white rice - for serving
- To make homemade shrimp stock: this step is optional but absolutely worth it (especially if you purchased shrimp with the shells and tails left on).
- Start by thawing the shrimp. Remove shells and tails. Transfer the shrimp to a large bowl and set aside to in the refrigerator until ready to use. Meanwhile, add the shells and tails to a large pot. Add the roughly chopped onion, bell pepper, celery, smashed garlic, and bay leaves. Fill with at least 8 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil over high heat before reducing to low heat. Cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a separate pot or container and set aside.
- You will only need approximately 3 cups of the stock to make this recipe. Save the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or freeze for up to 4 months.
- To make the roux: Melt your preferred fat (butter, vegetable oil, bacon drippings, or a mix) in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add the flour, whisking continuously to create a smooth mixture. Continue to cook, stirring continuously, for 10-15 minutes.
- The color will turn from a creamy off white to a light caramel, to a deep, rich caramel color. Take care and watch the heat level as you do not want to burn the roux (otherwise you will need to start over). On the other hand, if the heat is too low, it will take forever, so set the heat somewhere between medium to medium-high and stir continuously.
- Add and cook the "holy trinity": Once the roux has reached the desired doneness, add the finely chopped onion, green bell pepper, and celery to your roux. Mix well to combine. Cook over medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes, stirring often. Add the minced garlic and continue to cook for an additional minute or so.
- Stir in the shrimp stock (homemade or store-bought): Slowly add 3 cups of homemade shrimp stock to your roux-covered aromatics. Start with 2 cups, whisking well to incorporate, then add an additional cup as needed.
- Etouffee is meant to be on the thicker side, so resist the urge to add too much stock too fast.
- Season: Stir in the Cajun seasoning, paprika, plus salt and pepper, to taste. Allow it to cook for approximately 5 minutes, reducing heat to medium-low as needed and stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- Add the shrimp: Add the thawed shrimp, mix to combine, cover and cook for approximately 5-10 minutes, or until shrimp are fully cooked.
- You may also season your shrimp with a little Cajun seasoning and quickly sauté in a large skillet for approximately 5 minutes, tossing into the etouffee just before serving. Both options work - the later will result in a more flavorful shrimp.
- Garnish and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley and green onions and serve with warm, fluffy cooked rice.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)