This fan favorite seafood boil is calling your name! We're using a variety of seafood: juicy jumbo shrimp, tender potatoes, sweet corn, buttery lobster tails, succulent snow crab legs coated in a delicious buttery garlic sauce.
Absolutely love seafood as much as we do? Check out my mama's tried-and-true Maryland Crab Feast, this restaurant-style easy seafood boil in a bag, baked king crab legs, or this amazing cajun seafood boil recipe complete with crawfish!
Get Ready to Make the Ultimate Seafood Boil!
I've made seafood boils a few times in my coastal, Southern life...okay, definitely more than a few times!
Celebrations have always meant breaking out the fresh seafood and the entire family enjoying great company and even greater food. Seafood boils with large stock pots filled with crab, shrimp, and juicy corn are a part of many Southern and East Coast kids' summer lives!
I have such fond, fond memories of sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table in her home in Georgia on a metal stool-ladder, eating cooked seafood with my cousin til our lips burned from Old Bay overload while our moms, aunt, and grandma fussed over their low country boil in a big pot on the old stove across the oversized kitchen.
This amazing recipe combines my Tidewater living with my Southern upbringing: a juicy seafood dish with a garlic butter dipping sauce recipe!
Its base is like a Frogmore Stew with sausage, corn, and potatoes, but adding snow crab clusters then seasoning the seafood boil heavily with Old Bay just like my mama and grandma do.
It's absolutely packed with all types of seafood, including cold water lobster tails, and I've added my favorite faux-beurre-blanc garlic butter crab sauce to the recipe card to give your guests a little razzle dazzle 😉 you know we are #teamextra here!
Even if you've never made a seafood boil before, my post and recipe breaks it all down easy for even the most beginner cook. From prepping the seafood, to chef tips on shrimp sizes and crab legs, to cooking times, and more!
Make this recipe for any summer occasion where you'll be having guests, they're going to love it!
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- Get Ready to Make the Ultimate Seafood Boil!
- Why You'll Love this Recipe
- What is a Seafood Boil?
- What You'll Need
- Ingredients for the Best Seafood Boil Recipe with Garlic Butter Sauce
- How to Defrost, Clean, and Prep Frozen Seafood
- How to Make a Southern Seafood Boil on the Stovetop
- Variations and Substitutions
- What to Serve with a Low Country Boil
- Pro Tips
- Storage and Reheating
- More Seafood Recipes
- 📖 Recipe
Why You'll Love this Recipe
- Extremely Versatile - Add your favorite seafood into the mix, any type of shellfish really works!
- Incredibly Flavorful - this garlic butter seafood boil is full of delicious ingredients made to fill all your shellfish with tons of flavor. Plenty of aromatics and spices in both the seafood boil broth and the buttery sauce to make this a finger-licking dish!
- Restaurant Worthy Seafood Boil at Home - if you've ever been to a seafood place where they serve crab, crawfish, or shrimp boils (the Boiling Crab comes to mind!), this recipe is just as delicious if not more so, while being foolproof and simple to make.
- Perfect for Special Occasions - seafood boils were made for groups! This recipe is ideal for summertime holidays like Memorial Day, Juneteenth, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. It's also fabulous as an unconventional Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter dinner!
What is a Seafood Boil?
Seafood boils are a southern American tradition, but they don't have origins there.
Seafood boils originated with the French settlers from Canada who migrated to what is now Louisiana after fleeing from British colonizers in Canada in the 1700s.
A seafood boil itself is not just a dish, it refers to a community social event, where the preparation and seafood of choice depends on the region.
In Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia, we have crab feasts where blue crab is steamed instead of boiled and seasoned heavily with Old Bay Seasoning.
In the Deep South, we have Low Country Boils or Frogmore Stews: shrimp boils with corn, smoked sausage, potatoes, and onions boiled in crab boil seasoning.
And in Louisiana, they have their crawfish boils. A crawfish is a freshwater crustacean that is the size of a super colossal shrimp, but has the look of a little lobster. They're also very sweet in flavor and very popular in Cajun and Creole cooking!
Seafood boils thrown for celebrations and holidays with friends and family...so just know there's going to be so much food.
"Y'all gonna take some of this food home, we're not gonna eat it all." Will be said at the beginning, during, and at the end of the boil. Bring tupperware.
What You'll Need
- A Large Stockpot with Basket or Steaming Plate.
- A Saucepan - For making those delicious garlic butters you'll be pouring over and dipping all that crab, shrimp, and lobster into.
- Whisk - for the sauces as well.
- Newspaper, Brown Paper Bags, or - The classic idea of a seafood boil includes tossing all the food onto a table covered in newspaper. But if that sounds too weird, parchment paper works.
- A Platter or Tray - if you're not going to dump everything out onto a table, use a nice tray instead!
- Crab crackers, mallets, seafood pickers.
Ingredients for the Best Seafood Boil Recipe with Garlic Butter Sauce
Full ingredients, measurements, and printable instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
You don't need to worry about buying any hard to find ingredients. We're using frozen seafood, sausage, beer, potatoes, Old Bay...all things that are easily found at your local grocery store!
- Snow Crab Legs - You will find these in clusters pre-cooked and frozen, no matter where you go. Crab isn't usually sold alive unless it's local (like blue crab here in Virginia), so we're really just warming up the crab in our boil. You could also use king crab legs, just keep in mind they are harder to crack open and will require tools!
- Jumbo Shrimp - The smaller the number (61/70 is extra small while less than 10 per pound is super colossal), the larger the shrimp. And I like using frozen shrimp because they've been frozen at their peak, there's no worrying about how long they've been sitting in a display case like with fresh shrimp. I've used 9/14 and 13/15 per pound with no complaints!
- Cold Water Lobster Tails. When you grab the tails, make sure they are 'cold water' tails. Cold water lobster is that buttery, sweet, delicate lobster that we love. I split the lobster tails in half with a sharp so they cook faster and are easier to eat!
- Sausage. Not just a satisfying filler, I find that a good sausage also flavors the cooking liquid! I like andouille sausage or kielbasa, but chicken sausage or your favorite beef sausage also works perfectly here.
- Yellow Onion. Yellow onions have a great balance of flavor and are fantastic in the cooking liquid.
- Fresh Corn on the Cob - A classic addition alongside the potatoes, sweet corn soaked in old bay seasoning and slathered in garlic butter sauce.
- Baby Potatoes - These potatoes absorb the flavors of the cooking liquid through their thin skins, while also holding shape. Tasty and filling! I like using baby or new potatoes but Yukon Gold potatoes or red potatoes work fine as well, just cut them in half or quarters.
- Orange Juice, Chicken Bouillon Base, and Beer - we need a flavorful boiling broth, and that's exactly what these ingredients give us. You can skip the beer if you don't drink.
- Old Bay Seasoning - The classic seafood seasoning! It's a blend of 18 spices and herbs including celery seed, onion powder, paprika, and peppers.
- Garlic Powder and Red Pepper - for more spice, of course!
- Fresh Garlic - we're exposing the garlic cloves by slicing the garlic heads in half, which means less prep work!
- Lemons - to serve with.
Ingredients for the Garlic Butter Seafood Boil Sauce
- Plenty of Butter.
- Fresh Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest.
- Grated garlic cloves. I really don't like biting into big chunks of garlic, especially not in a sauce! Grating garlic cloves with a microplane or blending it up in the food processor until fine and garlic paste-like will
- Kosher Salt and Black Pepper.
- Old Bay Seasoning - Feel free to swap this for Cajun seasoning.
- Brown Sugar - Just a pinch for balance!
- Smoked Paprika.
- Chicken Bouillon Base - a good spoonful of this mixed into water will make a very flavorful chicken broth, which is needed to keep the sauce smooth and pourable!
- White Wine - use a wine you actually drink. If you don't have it or do not drink alcohol, omit this ingredient.
- Hot Sauce - this gives our sauce a spicy kick. You can use cayenne pepper or omit the hot stuff if it's not your jam.
How to Defrost, Clean, and Prep Frozen Seafood
To defrost shellfish, the safest way to do so is to put it in a large bowl in the sink and run cool water over it for about 15 minutes until thawed.
You can also just fill the bowl with cool water and thaw for about an hour (pour out the water and refill after about 20 minutes, again at 40) if you don't want to run the water continuously.
Crab clusters are already pre-cooked, but they will need to be cleaned.
Crabs can get little black things called leech eggs on them. Since they've been cooked and frozen, the leech eggs aren't harmful and do not affect the quality of the crabs, they're just icky.
Usually the grocery stores have already taken care of that for you, but if you get them from your local fishmonger they may be there.
Scrub the crab legs with a vegetable brush or paper towel to get those eggs off.
Shrimp have a digestive tract in their bag, which most people don't want to eat.
Use a paring knife to slice open the back of the shrimp and carefully take out the black digestive tract.
Lobster tails are almost impossible to eat with your hands...when whole. We're going to use a sturdy chef's knife to cut the thawed lobster tails in half lengthwise from the bottom (where the shell is softer).
How to Make a Southern Seafood Boil on the Stovetop
Make the seafood boil
Step 1 | Wash the crab legs, halve the lobster tails, and devein the shrimp.
Step 2 | In the large stock pot, add all of the boil seasoning and liquids up to about halfway up the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Let everything boil for about 10 minutes to get all those flavors in. Add the sausage and potatoes to the seafood boil broth and let them cook for fifteen minutes before adding the seafood.
Step 3 | Add the crabs and lobster tails first, boil for a couple of minutes, then throw the shrimp in and turn off the boiling. Those little guys will cook in the residual heat before you pull out the basket.
Step 4 | Serve with the seafood boil sauce and the crab butter! Drizzle the seafood boil sauce all over everything and keep some in a bowl for dipping.
Seafood cooks at different times so follow this times table below so you don't overcook or undercook any of it.
|Clams or mussels||5-8 minutes, until they open|
|Frozen snow crab legs||5 minutes|
|Lobster tails||5 minutes|
Make the Seafood Boil Sauce
Step 1 | Pour in the white wine and melt butter over medium low heat, we want to cook out the alcohol but keep the flavor.
Add garlic paste and whisk it well and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spices and whisk them in well.
Step 2 | Whisk in the seasonings, then pour in the chicken broth and turn the heat to medium.
Step 3 | Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes, to reduce slightly and come together.
Step 4 | Serve over the seafood and shellfish, and pour into containers for dipping!
Make the Crab Butter Sauce
Step 1 | Melt down a tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan with the white wine, grated shallots, garlic, lemon zest and thyme leaves.
Step 2 | Add a little chicken broth and lemon juice, then reduce it down half way. This intensifies the flavors, don't skip it.
Step 3 | Add the heavy cream, then whisk in the rest of the cold butter, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is slightly thickened and is super creamy. Then taste and season and you're done!
Step 4 | Serve as a dipping sauce with your seafood!
Variations and Substitutions
- Some regions boil eggs in the broth with the seafood. This is actually very common in Florida!
- Use any shellfish you like! Low country boils are incredibly versatile.
- Try different seasonings - Old Bay is just one of many! Mix and match Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper seasoning, or Zatarain's crab boil seasoning!
What to Serve with a Low Country Boil
Shebang seafood sauce - this spicy sauce is a cult-favorite from the Boiling Crab restaurant! So delicious
Thick, garlicky crab butter - This is the extra sauce I've added to the recipe card. My son says it tastes like a fancy restaurant! This delicious sauce is perfect for a crawfish boil, shrimp boil, or crab boil.
Some of my favorite sides to go with a seafood boil can depend on the season! I really do enjoy sautéed asparagus in the spring when it's in season and drizzle the crab butter right on over!
And of course, no matter what time of the year, I'm having a side plate of mac and cheese.
- Cut the lobster tails in half to make them easier to eat and cook faster.
- Buy shell-on shrimp - The shells protect the shrimp from getting overcooked. And make sure they're 'ez-peel', with the backs already deveined. Prep time? What prep time?!
- If your shrimp are tightly curled up when cooked, they're OVERcooked! I put these babies in last and honestly I just turn the heat off when I do, so the residual heat cooks them for about 3 minutes before I pull everything out of the cooking liquid.
- If you're using clams or mussels - Make sure that you've soaked them with cold water and cornmeal (that makes the creature spit out any sand it has inside). Throw out any clams or mussels that did not open after cooking.
- Buy shrimp by the number per pound - What you're really looking for is shrimp that are large in size, I used 9/14 shrimp for this recipe, which are 'colossal' shrimp.
- Using whole blue crabs, dungeness crabs, or king crab legs will have varying cook times, especially if you have live crab. If raw, cook for at least 15-18 minutes.
Storage and Reheating
If you have leftovers, you can save them in the fridge in an airtight container or gallon sized zip top bags for up to 2 days. Leftover seafood boil sauce can be put into an airtight container as well for up to a week.
To reheat the leftover seafood boil, put the seafood into a large steamer pot or stock pot with a little water at the bottom. Steam over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until the leftover seafood boil is warmed through.
You can also put it in a large baking dish with a little water, cover the top in aluminum foil so they can steam, and put into the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.
To reheat seafood boil sauce - you can put it in a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat or in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds until the sauce is warmed through.
If you've bought wild caught frozen crab, you may find crab leech eggs attached to them. They are harmless...and if you've bought them frozen and cooked, they're completely dead. But they still look icky, so you can remove them with a vegetable brush when you clean the crab clusters.
Yes, you can. Use a steaming rack over the boiling cooking liquid and steam the seafood.
Put the frozen shrimp/lobster in a large bowl in your sink, and run the faucet with cool water for 10-15 minutes until the seafood is no longer frozen. It should still be cold, though. Do NOT use warm or hot water.
Yes, you can make the seafood boil sauces ahead of time! Keep them in the fridge in airtight containers and rewarm them in the microwave or on the stovetop over low heat.
More Seafood Recipes
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- 8 clusters snow crab legs, rinsed and scrubbed
- 4 lobster tails, raw and split in half
- 1.5 pounds (13/15 size) white shrimp, deveined
- 1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced into 2 inch pieces
- 2 pounds baby potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed
- 4 ears of corn, cut in half
- 2 qt orange juice
- 2 bottles light lager beer, optional
- 2 heads of garlic, cut in half horizontally
- 1 large yellow onion, quartered
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup Old Bay Seasoning
- 3 tablespoon garlic powder
Garlic Butter Seafood Boil Sauce
- 2 sticks (16 tbsp) butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon grated garlic
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Juice and zest of a Lemon
- 2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 2 teaspoon hot sauce
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Crab Butter Dipping Sauce
- 9 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold and cut into nine equal pieces
- ¼ cup white wine
- ½ shallot, grated
- 2-3 garlic cloves, grated
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Kosher Salt and freshly cracked black Pepper, to taste
- In a large stock pot, at least 20 quarts, add all the ingredients for the cooking liquid and enough water to fill the pot half way up.
- Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, then add the baby potatoes and corn. Let them cook for 10 minutes.
- Now begin adding the sausage and crab legs, cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the lobster, let it cook for 3 minutes, then add the shrimp and cook for another three minutes until the shrimp are pink and opaque.
- Drain the cooking liquid from the pot, pour the seafood boil over a serving tray or table lined with many layers of newspaper, and pour the seafood boil sauce over all the shellfish and vegetables.
- Serve with the crab butter dipping sauce in a small bowl.
To Make the Garlic Butter Seafood Boil Sauce
- While the seafood is boiling, melt the two sticks of butter with the garlic paste, brown sugar, Old Bay, smoked paprika, and lemon zest. Let cook for three minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally so the garlic doesn't burn.
- Whisk in the chicken stock and hot sauce and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and parsley, then set aside until the seafood boil is done cooking.
Make the Garlic Butter Dipping Sauce
- In a medium sized saucepan, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium heat with the wine, grated shallots, grated garlic, fresh thyme, and lemon zest. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, it should be very fragrant.
- Whisk in the chicken broth and lemon juice, let the mixture reduce down until there's about 3 tablespoons of liquid remaining.
- Add the cream and turn the heat up to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low.
- Whisking constantly, add the rest of the cold butter ONE tablespoon at a time, whisking until each one is incorporated completely before adding the next one.
- Continue adding in all the butter, by the time the last tablespoon is done the sauce should be creamy and coat the back of a spoon.
- Let sit at low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve with the seafood boil.
- Make sure your shrimp and lobster tails are thawed, if frozen.
Storing and Reheating Instructions
If you have leftovers, you can save them in the fridge in an airtight container or gallon sized zip top bags for up to 2 days.
When you're ready to reheat, put the seafood into a large steamer pot or stock pot with a little water at the bottom. Steam over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until the leftover seafood boil is warmed through.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 214Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 466mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 6gSugar: 19gProtein: 29g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.