Traditional Seafood Boil Using Lemon-Butter

Regional seafood boils can be found along any American coastline. Examples include the clam bakes in New England, the crab boils in Maryland, the whitefish boils in the Great Lakes, the crawfish boils in Louisiana, and so on. The majority of variations feature robust vegetables and fresh shellfish, enhanced with special seasonings to create a festive, easily shared one-pot meal. Full with plump shrimp, split cobs of fresh corn, smoked sausages, and baby red potatoes, this version pays homage to the Low Country boils (also known as Frogmore stews) of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. It is referred to as a farmer’s seafood boil in the author’s own state of Texas.

Your local grocer may stock a single seafood boil spice blend or many. Old Bay seasoning boasts a smoky, peppery profile and is our top choice for this dish, while Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp, and Crab Boil seasoning will make a spicier Louisiana-style alternative. Can’t find either? Make your own homemade “Old Bay” seasoning mix.

As for the seafood, this one uses just shrimp, but you should feel free to toss in whatever you like, including crab legs, mussels, clams, lobster tails, scallops, or whatever shellfish looks freshest at the market. Similarly, any precooked sausage will work here: kielbasa is traditional, but using andouille sausages brings a Cajun flair via a little extra spice. Adding the ingredients in graduated stages allows each to cook to its optimal doneness. If your pot’s not big enough to hold everything, cook the elements in batches (use a spider or mesh skimmer to remove each ingredient as it’s done) and keep everything warm in a 200° oven until ready to serve. The most important rule of a great seafood boil is to have fun and embrace the mess—serve the whole affair, drained and scattered on a newspaper-covered table with homemade cocktail sauce and a lemon-butter sauce for dipping—and maybe sidle a bowl of coleslaw alongside.


10–12 servings

Shrimp boil:

2 lemons, quartered

2 bay leaves

3 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1½ Tbsp. Morton kosher salt

2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns

½–¾ cup crab and shrimp boil seasoning, such as Old Bay, or 4 (3-oz.) bags Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp, and Crab Boil

4 lb. small new potatoes (about 1½” in diameter) or larger potatoes cut into 1½” pieces

2 lb. smoked pork sausage (about 4 links), such as kielbasa, cut into 2″ pieces

2 sweet or yellow onions, peeled, quartered

8 ears of corn, shucked, cut in half

4 lb. large shell-on shrimp (31–35 count; preferably wild-caught), deveined

Sauce and assembly:

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter (optional)

2 Tbsp. (or more) fresh lemon juice (optional)

Louisiana-style hot sauce, such as Crystal (to taste; optional)

Classic Cocktail Sauce, crab and shrimp boil seasoning (to taste), and lemon wedges (for serving)

Special Equipment

A large stockpot (at least 12-qt.), preferably with a perforated insert, or 2 large (at least 6-qt.) pots


  1. Shrimp boil:Step 1Fill a large stockpot with 6 quarts water (if using 2 pots, divide ingredients and water between them). Add 2 lemons, quartered2 bay leaves3 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1½ Tbsp. Morton kosher salt2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns, and ½ cup crab and shrimp boil seasoning, cover, and bring to a boil. Add 4 lb. small new potatoes (about 1½” in diameter), return to a boil, and cook 7 minutes. Add 2 lb. smoked pork sausage (about 4 links), cut into 2″ pieces, and 2 sweet or yellow onions, peeled, quartered, return to a boil, and cook 5 minutes. Add 8 ears of corn, shucked, cut in half, return to a boil, and cook until corn is cooked and potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 5 minutes more.Step 2Add 4 lb. large shell-on shrimp (31–35 count; preferably wild-caught), deveined, and cook (no need to return to a boil), stirring gently, until shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove insert or drain through a very large colander.
  2. Sauce and assembly:Step 3If making the lemon-butter sauce, melt ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice and Louisiana-style hot sauce (if using). Taste and add more lemon juice, if needed. Cover and let sit in a warm place.Step 4Serve shrimp boil on a newspaper-lined table or large platters. Dust with more crab and shrimp boil seasoning, if desired. Serve with Classic Cocktail Sauce and lemon-butter sauce (if using) alongside, plus lemon wedges for squeezing.Editor’s note: This recipe was first printed online in June 2017 as Low-Country Boil With Shrimp, Corn, and Sausage. Head this way for more of our best one-pot seafood recipes →

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