Shrimp Étouffée Recipe: A Taste of Louisiana

Shrimp Étouffée is a quintessential dish from Louisiana, embodying the rich culinary traditions of Cajun and Creole cuisine. This dish, characterized by its robust flavors and hearty ingredients, is a true representation of the region’s vibrant food culture. In this article, we’ll explore the history, ingredients, preparation, and variations of Shrimp Étouffée, along with tips to perfect this classic recipe at home.

History and Origins

The word “étouffée” comes from the French verb “étouffer,” which means “to smother.” This cooking technique involves simmering seafood or meat in a flavorful, thick sauce made with a roux (a mixture of flour and fat) and the “holy trinity” of Cajun and Creole cooking: onions, celery, and bell peppers.

Shrimp Étouffée has its roots in the bayous of Louisiana, where French, Spanish, African, and Native American influences melded to create a unique and diverse culinary landscape. Étouffée was originally made with crawfish, a staple in the region, but shrimp has become a popular variation due to its widespread availability and delicious taste.


Essential Ingredients

To make a traditional Shrimp Étouffée, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Shrimp: Fresh, deveined shrimp with the shells removed. Medium to large shrimp are preferred.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter is used to make the roux and add richness to the dish.
  • Flour: All-purpose flour is used to create the roux.
  • Onion: Finely chopped yellow onion.
  • Celery: Finely chopped celery stalks.
  • Bell Pepper: Finely chopped green bell pepper.
  • Garlic: Minced garlic cloves.
  • Tomatoes: Diced tomatoes or tomato paste for added depth and acidity.
  • Chicken Stock: Low-sodium chicken stock or seafood stock for a rich base.
  • Bay Leaves: To add an earthy flavor.
  • Cajun Seasoning: A blend of spices including paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried herbs.
  • Salt and Pepper: To taste.
  • Green Onions: Chopped green onions for garnish.
  • Parsley: Fresh chopped parsley for garnish.
  • Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice for a hint of acidity.
  • Hot Sauce: Optional, for added heat.

Optional Ingredients

  • Worcestershire Sauce: Adds umami and depth of flavor.
  • Paprika: For extra smokiness.
  • Crawfish: Can be used in addition to or instead of shrimp.


Step-by-Step Recipe

  1. Prepare the Shrimp: Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells for making stock if desired. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
  2. Make the Roux: In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly to combine. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, until it reaches a light brown color, about 10-15 minutes. Be careful not to let it burn.
  3. Add the Holy Trinity: Add the chopped onions, celery, and bell peppers to the roux. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Incorporate the Tomatoes: Stir in the diced tomatoes or tomato paste, ensuring everything is well mixed.
  5. Pour in the Stock: Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add the bay leaves and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Season the Sauce: Add the Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste. If using, add Worcestershire sauce and paprika. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  7. Cook the Shrimp: Add the shrimp to the pot, stirring gently to coat them in the sauce. Cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 5-7 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp, as they can become tough and rubbery.
  8. Finish the Dish: Remove the bay leaves and stir in the chopped green onions, parsley, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. If you prefer more heat, add a few dashes of hot sauce.
  9. Serve: Serve the Shrimp Étouffée hot over a bed of steamed white rice. Garnish with additional green onions and parsley if desired.

Tips for Perfect Shrimp Étouffée

  1. Quality Ingredients: Use the freshest shrimp available for the best flavor. If possible, buy shrimp with the shells on and make your own stock from the shells for a richer taste.
  2. Roux: The roux is the foundation of the dish, so take your time to cook it properly. It should be a light brown color, but be careful not to burn it.
  3. Seasoning: Adjust the seasoning to your taste. Cajun seasoning blends can vary, so start with a smaller amount and add more as needed.
  4. Consistency: The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but not too thick. If it becomes too thick, you can thin it out with a little more stock.
  5. Cooking Shrimp: Shrimp cook quickly, so add them towards the end of the cooking process to prevent them from becoming overcooked and rubbery.
  6. Resting Time: Let the étouffée sit for a few minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld together.


Crawfish Étouffée

Crawfish Étouffée is another popular version of this dish. Simply substitute crawfish tails for the shrimp, following the same steps in the recipe. Crawfish has a slightly different flavor and texture, providing a delightful variation on the classic.

Chicken and Sausage Étouffée

For a heartier version, you can add chicken and sausage to the dish. Brown sliced sausage and cubed chicken pieces before making the roux, then proceed with the recipe as usual. This variation offers a different texture and a robust flavor profile.

Vegetarian Étouffée

To make a vegetarian version, omit the shrimp and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. You can add a variety of vegetables like mushrooms, zucchini, and okra for a delicious and satisfying meal.

Serving Suggestions

Shrimp Étouffée is traditionally served over steamed white rice, but you can also serve it with:

  • Brown Rice: For a nuttier flavor and additional fiber.
  • Cauliflower Rice: For a low-carb alternative.
  • Crusty French Bread: Perfect for soaking up the delicious sauce.
  • Creamy Polenta: For a rich and creamy base.

Pair your Shrimp Étouffée with a simple green salad and a glass of chilled white wine or a cold beer for a complete meal.


Shrimp Étouffée is a beloved dish that showcases the rich culinary heritage of Louisiana. Its combination of succulent shrimp, flavorful sauce, and aromatic vegetables makes it a standout meal for any occasion. By following this recipe and tips, you can bring the taste of Louisiana to your own kitchen and enjoy a truly authentic Shrimp Étouffée experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, this recipe is sure to impress your family and friends. So, gather your ingredients, put on some Zydeco music, and get ready to enjoy a delicious bowl of Shrimp Étouffée that will transport you to the heart of the Bayou State.