My recipe for seafood boil in a bag is an easy way to enjoy a traditional seafood boil with simple steps, great flavor, and super easy cleanup. With succulent snow crab legs and lobster tails, juicy shrimp, tender potatoes and corn with andouille sausage coated in a rich and savory garlic butter sauce, it's a fantastic way to serve up this crowd-pleasing favorite!
Looking for more delicious seafood recipes? Try my classic seafood boil recipe, my favorite cajun crawfish boil, my mama's steamed Maryland blue crab feast, or some buttery Connecticut-style lobster rolls.
An Easy Twist on Your Traditional Seafood Boil
One of my family's favorite ways to celebrate is with seafood, but if you've followed me for a while, you already know!
Steamed, grilled, boiled, roasted, poached, and definitely hit with some Old Bay Seasoning, it isn't a party without some shellfish involved. We have almost always lived near the coast, so seafood is always around for us.
My recipe is an oven-baked spin on a regular seafood boil: instead of using the large pot and boiling water, we take all our favorite seafood and put it into a large oven bag. And because of this, clean up is a million times easier!
This baked seafood boil with garlic butter sauce is absolutely delicious and an impressive meal, with plenty of seasoning and garlic.
This post has all the tips and tricks you need to make delicious garlic butter seafood boil in a bag, even if this is your first time cooking shellfish!
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- An Easy Twist on Your Traditional Seafood Boil
- Why You'll Love this Seafood Boil in a Bag Recipe
- Tools Needed to Make a Seafood Boil Bag Recipe
- Where to Buy Seafood Boil Bags
- Seafood Boil vs Seafood Bake
- Ingredients Needed
- How to Defrost, Clean, and Prep Frozen Seafood
- How to Make Seafood Boil Bags
- Serve it to Impress
- Variations and Substitutions
- Storage and How to Warm up Leftovers
- Pro Tips
- More Seafood Recipes
- 📖 Recipe
Why You'll Love this Seafood Boil in a Bag Recipe
- Perfect for a Crowd - seafood boils are made for parties! Whether it's a classic summer cookout or a non-traditional Thanksgiving or spin on Christmas, a bag of delicious seafood is always a big hit.
- Incredibly Easy Clean Up - this is a one-pot meal made in an oven-safe bag with no big pot to wash! The dish is completely inside of the bag, no mess!
- Very Versatile Ingredients - this recipe is made with a variety of seafood mixed together, and you can personalize it by person using multiple bags. This is perfect for anyone who wants a shrimp boil or crab boil in a bag while others can have the mix.
- Easy Recipe for Beginners - there's no crazy techniques or need to run back and forth from stove to oven or anything. Besides steaming the potatoes in the microwave (which is deceptively easy), everything else is done in that oven-safe bag!
Tools Needed to Make a Seafood Boil Bag Recipe
Baking Sheet or Baking Dish - this provides stability to the bag or bags you put in the oven. And in case a crab leg or claw pokes through, the baking sheet or dish will catch the sauce!
Large Oven-Safe Bags - I talk more about these below, but make sure you're using oven safe bags! Slow cooker bags are not the same!
Where to Buy Seafood Boil Bags
This type of bag technically isn't just for seafood. Many times you'll use large oven bags that are labeled as a turkey bag for Thanksgiving!
What you're looking for are oven-safe bags! They're heat resistant nylon bags made to withstand oven temperatures for long periods of time, like roasting a turkey.
You can find large oven-safe bags at any big grocery store, especially during the summer and holiday months! The best seafood boil bags (in my opinion) are made by Reynolds, they never breakdown on me and are super easy to find at the store.
Seafood Boil vs Seafood Bake
While on the surface seafood boils and clambakes seem very similar, they are incredibly different in ingredients, cooking methods, and origins.
Seafood boils vary in ingredients and origins throughout the South.
The Acadians of Canada migrated to Louisiana and created the Cajun seafood boil recipe. The deep Southern states of Georgia and the Carolinas creating Frogmore Stew (also called a Low Country Boil) with corn, potatoes, and sausage.
The Tidewater region of the Mid Atlantic dumping in gallons of locally brewed beer, spicy Old Bay, and adding fresh blue crabs.
What I find interesting is that we've basically mixed these all up together, with boil ingredients varying in the fresh seafood used, anything as a seafood boil seasoning from lemon pepper seasoning, cajun seasoning or Old Bay, and plenty of yummy sauce thrown onto a newspaper-covered table.
Clambakes, however, really got popular starting in Rhode Island during the American Civil War. They're labor-intensive with a fire pit (usually in the sand on a beach) full of rocks and seaweed, with the ingredients steamed over the pit.
Because many beaches now ban fire pits without a permit, most people do it at home in pots, calling it a New England Clam Boil.
- Frozen Snow Crab Legs - you will find these in clusters (meaning they have part of the body attached) and pre-cooked at the grocery store, whether that's at the seafood counter or in the frozen section.
- Very Large Peel-On Frozen Shrimp - I used size 13-15, which are really nice and big. You want big shrimp because small shrimp will cook way too quickly and become rubbery while everything else is cooking through.
- Frozen Cold Water Lobster Tails - this is optional, but who doesn't love a yummy little lobster tail in their seafood boil? I cut them in half before cooking because it makes eating them easier and the garlic butter sauce gets all over the lobster itself, not just the shell.
- Andouille Sausage - andouille is a French (and in the U.S., it's Cajun based) sausage that is a little spicy and smoked. It's delicious and adds so much flavor.
- Baby Red Potatoes - the smaller, the better! We want them to cook completely through with the seafood and absorb flavor from our seafood boil sauce.
- Yellow Corn - try to find fresh corn that is cut into smaller pieces or do it yourself.
- Yellow Onion and Heads of Garlic - we're quartering the onion and halving the heads of garlic to expose those garlic cloves and really get the flavor into our sauce.
- Plenty of Butter - this is the base of our garlic butter sauce, so use a butter that you love.
- Old Bay Seasoning - this is a classic Mid-Atlantic seasoning blend of celery salt, paprika, peppers, salt, and other spices. It's synonymous with coastal eating, especially seafood.
- A hearty splash of White Wine - use a dry white wine you love! If you don't drink alcohol, chicken broth works as well.
- Onion Powder and Granulated Garlic - just a little booster, really giving our sauce flavor here!
- Hot Sauce - give your sauce some kick! I like using Tabasco pepper sauce.
- Lemons - serve your seafood boil with lemon wedges, it cuts through all the richness and gives another layer of deliciousness.
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.
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 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 Seafood Boil Bags
Step 1 | Defrost and clean your shellfish. For help, look at the How to Clean Frozen Seafood section of this post, above.
Step 2 | Steam the baby red potato halves in the microwave for 10 minutes to give it a head start on cooking.
Step 3 | Open up and place the bag onto your baking sheet or baking dish. Place the seafood, corn, potatoes, sausage, quartered onion and halved garlic heads and place them into the bag.
Step 4 | Preheat your oven and mix up all the spices and melted butter for your seafood boil sauce. Pour the seafood boil sauce over everything in the bag.
Step 5 | Tie the bag shut with the oven-safe tie that came with it or some butcher's twine. Make sure the bag is tightly closed then give it a good shake up, getting that butter mixture all over everything in the bag.
Step 6 | Put the bag in the oven and bake the seafood and vegetables for 25-30 minutes. Peek in there to look at the shrimp and lobster, when they're pink (or red, for the lobster) and curling, they're done!
Remove the seafood boil from the oven and let rest for a couple of minutes before you carefully open the bag. Serve your seafood boil spread out of the bag and place onto a newspaper-covered table or onto a large platter or plates with the sauce from the bag.
Serve it to Impress
- Amazing Dipping Sauces - try dipping your crab legs and shrimp into tasty sweet chili sauce, bang bang sauce, try my dupe for the Boiling Crab's Whole Shebang sauce, or this thick and creamy garlicky crab butter sauce. Or just serve with some clarified butter!
- Sweet potato fries - Dip these sweet-and-savory fries into some chipotle aioli!
- Potato salad - A summer classic that is the perfect side at any backyard cookout.
- Sop up that delicious sauce with some crusty bread.
- Mac and Cheese - Nothing like rich and creamy soul food mac alongside a seafood boil!
- Sweet cornbread - If you're a fan of Jiffy-style cornbread, I have just the recipe!
Variations and Substitutions
- Try different seafood: Swap in king crab legs instead of the snow crab clusters, add mussels or clams, try blue crab, this recipe is super versatile and forgiving.
- Make it a shrimp boil or crab boil by only using those proteins in your bag.
- Add crawfish and swap in cajun seasoning for a yummy Cajun seafood boil instead.
- Swap out the seasoning! Use Cajun spices, lemon pepper seasoning, even steak seasoning or a packet of ranch seasoning. Get creative!
Storage and How to Warm up Leftovers
Seafood boils stay fresh in the fridge for up to 2 days in an airtight container, but don't freeze it. It won't come out at its best quality, the shellfish will absolutely get all mushy.
To reheat the next day, put the seafood into a baking dish with the garlic butter sauce, cover with aluminum foil, and warm in the oven at a low temperature, around 325 degrees F, until warmed through.
- Use frozen seafood! Fresh seafood is great, but it can also be hard to prepare and you don't know exactly how long that raw shellfish has been waiting around in the seafood counter.
- Double bag your seafood boils! I like using another bag over the tied up bag just in case a crab leg pokes a hole through.
- Shrimp cooks much quicker than the other seafood, so the larger the shrimp the better!
- Try to find a bag of frozen, raw shrimp that has already been deveined. It makes less prep work for you!
You've most likely seen crab boils and seafood boils in bags at restaurants. Seafood boils are served in bags for 3 simple reasons:
First, keeping the seafood in a container full of saucy goodness while it's boiling or baking keeps them juicy!
Second, it's easy to serve; whether it's in individual portions or for an entire table.
Third, it makes for easier clean up and prep than messing with big pots of liquids, shellfish, and veggies.
You can reheat any leftovers in a covered baking dish with the sauce for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the shellfish is completely warmed through.
The crab is already pre-cooked so we're really just cooking the lobster and shrimp, both of which are pretty quick-cooking.
The shrimp will be pink, opaque, and have a c-shaped curl. We aren't looking for that tight curl, that means the shrimp are overcooked.
As for the lobster meat, it'll be opaque and curled slightly as well. Cutting the lobster tails in half allows for a quicker cook time
Yes, you can! Heat resistant nylon bags work in boiling water as long as they have no holes. Boil the seafood in their bags for 20 minutes in a large stock pot and carefully remove them with tongs or a large spider spoon.
More Seafood Recipes
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- 1 pound 13-15 jumbo shrimp, deveined and thawed
- 1 pound snow crab leg clusters, cleaned and thawed
- 2 lobster tails, halved and thawed
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
Garlic Butter Seafood Boil Sauce
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
- ¼ cup white wine
- ¼ cup Old Bay seasoning
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- A hearty pinch of red pepper flakes
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix together all the ingredients for the Garlic Butter Seafood Boil Sauce in a small bowl, set aside.
- Place all the thawed seafood and onion quarters and garlic halves into your oven bag and place that into a baking dish.
- Pour all of the garlic butter sauce over the seafood and toss around gently to cover the seafood in the seasonings and butter.
- Tie the bag shut with the tie that came with the oven bag (or use butcher's twine if you lost it).
- Bake seafood for 30 minutes in your preheated oven.
- Carefully open the bag and serve your seafood boil in the baking dish!
Storage and Reheat Instructions
Seafood boils stay fresh in the fridge for up to 2 days, but don't freeze it. It won't come out at its best quality.
To reheat the next day, put the seafood into a baking dish and warm in the oven at a low temperature, around 325 degrees F, until warmed through.
Where to find Boil Bags
Find oven safe bags for your seafood boil at your local grocery store. But if you can't, oven bags are available on Amazon as well.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 295Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 198mgSodium: 3140mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 49g
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.