Shrimp étouffée is a classic Louisiana strew recipe served over rice that’s easy to make and is a southern family favorite.
Whether you make it on a normal weekend or came across it searching for a New Orleans recipe to make over Mardi Gras, know that this post will explain how to make this traditional dish at home step-by-step so you can enjoy a bowl without any worries.
You’ll find the printable recipe at the bottom, but if this is your first time making it, I recommend reading the post with all the tips for the best results!
What is Étouffée?
Étouffée literally means “smothered” and this recipe is smothered in a simmering sauce with a lid and with the holy trinity of vegetables: onions, celery, and bell pepper. Shrimp étouffée means smothered shrimp in a thick sauce and that’s exactly what you’ll get.
And let me tell you that in New Orleans, we love our sauces and smothered dishes in our holy trinity of vegetables. The difference between étouffée and jambalaya is that étouffée is the main dish served with plain white rice, jambalaya is a ride dish without any sauce.
The base for this étouffée, and many traditional New Orleans recipes, is a roux. A roux is a thick starter of flour and oil to give the strew a thick texture from the beginning.
In other words, you make a roux (base) and once it’s thick you add the vegetables and ingredients. Unlike thickening a strew or soup at the end by adding corn starch mixed in water like in other traditional recipes.
Shrimp Étouffée Ingredients
What I love about this Shrimp Étouffée recipe is that the ingredients are basic; what you’ll need most is a little patience at the beginning to make your roux. For this recipe you’ll need:
- canola oil: essential fat to make a roux (the ying).
- flour: your base for the roux (the yang).
- onion: essential for flavor, texture, and part of the holy trinity of vegetables.
- celery: essential for flavor, texture, and part of the holy trinity of vegetables.
- bell pepper: essential for flavor, texture, and part of the holy trinity of vegetables.
- garlic: essential for flavor.
- thyme: fresh or dried, for seasoning.
- cayenne pepper: just a little is all you need for that Cajun flavor.
- smoked paprika: essential seasoning for depth of flavor in the recipe.
- diced tomatoes: this recipe uses one can of diced tomatoes as the base.
- seafood stock or vegetable stock: your liquid! Ideally, you make your own with the shrimp shells and heads but if not, buy it -that’s ok.
- butter: there’s a saying in New Orleans that “butter makes it better”.
- shrimp: the star of the show, peeled & deveined.
- green onions: for flavor, garnishing, and widely used down here.
- Worcestershire sauce: adds salt and flavor at the same time.
- Tabasco: for heat and taste.
- white rice: a must, cooked separately, placed at the time of plating in the bowl.
How to Make Shrimp Étouffée
I, too, get intimidated the first time I see a recipe I want to try that has a long list of ingredients. Don’t be discouraged since the steps to make this recipe are fairly simple! Here is how:
- Get the party started with a roux
In a large saucepan with a lid or 5qt dutch oven, heat up the oil over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. Stirring slowly and constantly, for about 15 minutes, until the roux is a copper brown color, chocolate-like, and it has thickened.
- Bring on the holy trinity & season it up
Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and continue to stir for 4 to 5 minutes, until they’ve softened. Add the thyme, cayenne pepper, and paprika, and stir to combine.
- Make your rice
While the veggies are cooking, now it’s a great time to cook some rice so it’s ready when it’s time to serve it up.
- Turn up the volume with the liquid ingredients
Add the diced tomatoes and stock, increase the heat to medium-high heat, and bring to a boil.
- Simmer and stir
Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring often so the sauce doesn’t stick to the pan.
- Bring on the shrimp
Add the butter, shrimp, chopped green onions, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Turn off the heat and move the saucepan away from the heat.
Place a serving of rice in the bowl first and then ladle some of this delicious shrimp étoufée on top.
See how it’s made start to finish in this recipe video!
You’ll find a printable recipe card below.
How to Make Stock for Étouffée with Shrimp Shells
If you bought fresh shrimp to make shrimp étouffée don’t throw out the shells and heads after you peel them.
Place the shells and heads in a medium stockpot, add 4 cups of liquid, the skin from your onion and stems from your celery and peppers, and a pinch of salt; and simmer it for 10 minutes after you bring it to a boil.
Strain it through a strainer and now you have the 4 cups needed to make your shrimp étouffée.
What to Serve with Cajun Shrimp Étouffée
The great thing about this Cajun Shrimp Étouffée recipe is that it’s able to stand alone as the main dish. However, if you want to make a full New Orleans-inspired meal, here are other recipes you can make go along:
- Zesty Louisiana Creole Slaw: fresh, flavorful, and a recipe that can be made ahead.
- New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich: another hit if you’re having a party.
- Sweet Potato Salad: an epic spin on the southern classic.
- Loaded Deviled Eggs: in New Orleans, they don’t do basic.
- Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette: this dressing isn’t overpowering and it lets the shrimp étouffée be the star of the show.
Success Tips for the Best Shrimp Étouffée
Don’t be fooled by internet recipes claiming that a slow cooker or instant pot étouffée is authentic: it is not. There’s a reason the South is known for its cooking: the recipes bring everyone together and, while simple, they do require a little labor of love.
Here are a few tips to help you make this meal better than the one you ate in that restaurant in New Orleans:
Pay attention to your roux (the starter)
A roux is essential to get this recipe going. It will require ten minutes of supervised stirring so don’t step away.
The recipe below includes descriptive color stages; for a full explanation of making a roux, check out my Chicken Gumbo Recipe.
Don’t make substitutions
There’s a reason the ingredients are simple: they work! The only substitute would be using an all-purpose gluten-free flour to make your roux if you want to make this recipe gluten-free.
The larger the shrimp, the better
I recommend medium or larger shrimp for this dish; and while fresh is usually best, if frozen is all you have available, make it!
Stick to seafood stock or vegetable stock
This recipe is a seafood recipe so if you’re buying pre-made stock or broth at the store, do not use beef or chicken.
Real New Orleans Shrimp Étouffée
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, about 2 sprigs or, ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 4 cups seafood stock or vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 ½ lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined*
- 2 green onions, chopped
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco, optional
- 3 cups cooked white rice
- In a large saucepan with a lid or 5-qt Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. Stirring slowly and constantly, for about 15 minutes, until the roux is a copper brown color, chocolate-like, and it has thickened.
- Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, and garlic, and continue to stir for 4 to 5 minutes, until they’ve softened. Add the thyme, cayenne pepper, and paprika, and stir to combine.
- Add the diced tomatoes and stock, increase the heat to medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring often so the sauce doesn’t stick to the pan.
- Add the butter, shrimp, chopped green onions, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Turn off the heat and move the saucepan away from the heat.
- Serve over cooked rice.