While it might at first seem intimidating, hosting your own boil is honestly way easier than it seems! We'll teach you all the tips and tricks on hosting an easy seafood boil whether you want to serve just your family for dinner or serve a large gathering of people.
Plus it's definitely cheaper than eating out, and it's as festive as you can get for a special occasion.
"Turned out fantastic!! Used extra shrimp and crawfish vs. the clams & lobsters." ~Taylor on Pinterest
This Seafood Boil Recipe is so festive!
We're here to share our easy seafood boil recipe even a first-timer can put together!! You can use a wide variety of seafood like we do, or you can just as easily use 1-2 types of seafood like shrimp and crab legs.
This is a super easy recipe to put together and it's simple to swap out the seafood for your personal preferences! Feel free to double your favorite kind of seafood and skip something else.
Figuring Out The Amount To Make Per Person
As a general rule of thumb, we allow a few potatoes per person, 1-2 corn sections, 4 oz sausage each, and about ½-1 lb of seafood per person, depending on the type of seafood you're using.
Our shrimp and crab boil recipe as written will serve a group of 8 people. It's easy to scale up or down depending on how many people you're serving.
The biggest factor is that you'll be restricted based on how large of a pot you have for cooking. Using a large outdoor pot is best for serving a crowd, a batch indoors can be split between two stock pots.
Seafood Boil seasoning
It's easy to change up the type of seafood getting used or the quantity you're serving, but seasoning your water is very critical. Here's the ratio regardless if you're making our exact recipe or plan to scale it up or down.
- ¼ cup Old Bay per 2 quarts of water
- 1 teaspoon salt per 2 quarts of water
Seafood Boil ingredients
** There's a printable recipe card at the very bottom of the post **
- 1 ½ lb potatoes (Yukon gold or red), cut into half
- 4 ears of sweet corn, husked and each broken into thirds - fresh corn or frozen will work here
- 1 ½ lb kielbasa or andouille sausage, sliced into 2" pieces (we used both)
- 2 onions, quartered - yellow, white, sweet, or red
- 2 lemons, quartered
- 10 garlic cloves
- 2 crabs like Dungeness crab legs or king crab legs (1 crab weighs about 1 ½-2 lb, yields 8 oz crab meat after cracking). Recommend 4 people per crab when served with other types of seafood too. If you're just serving crab then allow ½ crab per person or a whole crab per hearty eater.
- 2 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined - buying frozen shrimp that comes peeled and deveined saves you time
- 2 lb clams - little necks are most commonly found at the grocery store in the meat department. Manila clams and butter clams are a little larger and meatier than little hecks but are regional and seasonal.
- 4 lobster tails - typically range in size from 4 oz-6 oz. We suggest 1 tail for 2 people to cut and share.
- Old Bay seasoning
- Bay leaves
- sea salt or kosher salt
NOTE: Some readers have doubled the shrimp and skipped the clams! Or replace the clams with crawfish, depending on where you live.
Sauce to Pour Over After Cooking
1 cup seafood broth - or seafood stock or chicken stock
1 tablespoon Old Bay
1 stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon dried garlic powder
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Very large pot for boiling the seafood. A 10-12 quart stock pot, an outdoor pot and burner, or a turkey frying pot all work well.
What crab is best for a boil?
Blue Crabs - East Coast
Dungeness - West Coast
These two are the most popular crabs people use in a boil. Most popular crabs people use in a boil, both are known for their sweet and succulent meat.
Snow crab legs and King crab legs can also be used, they’re typically sold frozen and precooked and take less time to cook than raw crabs. Smaller Rock crabs on the West Coast are less common to find in grocery stores than Dungeness, but they can still be used as well.
Substitutions and variations
Instead of making a seafood boil recipe with crab, lobster, clams, and shrimp, you can also add as many of those as you like or even just one! Popular fresh seafood boils include:
- crawfish boil
- crab boil
- shrimp boil
- lobster boil
Add Cajun seasoning for a low country style bowl. Some recipes add the classic Old Bay seasoning like ours did, others add a bit of Cajun seasoning for a Cajun seafood boil recipe.
Can you use frozen seafood?
Yes, you can use frozen seafood and simply cook them frozen. You'll just need to add a couple of extra minutes to the cooking time for that particular item if it's lobster or crab, frozen shrimp still cooks in 2-3 minutes.
How to Make a Seafood Boil
Make sure you have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go. This recipe goes very fast once the water is boiling and to avoid overcooking anything, you need to cook them in an exact timed sequence. Don't worry, it's super easy!
- Fill a large pot with 6 quarts of water (20 cups). You'll need at least a 10-12 qt pot or a large outdoor pot to hold everything, or you'll need to split the ingredients between 2 pots. (We only had a 24-quart pot, we could've served an army!)
- Add the lemon wedges, onion wedges, crushed garlic cloves, Old Bay, and salt to the pot. Bring the water to a boil.
- Add the potato halves to the pot and cook them for 8 minutes.
- Add the lobster tails, live clams, fresh corn, and crab legs or sections and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the precooked andouille sausage chunks and shrimp and cook for 2 minutes until they just turn pink. The clam shells should be open at this point, discard any shells that did not open.
- Drain the water from the pot (reserving 1 cup for the seafood sauce, and spread the seafood boil over newspaper on the table or on baking sheets. Let the seafood rest for 5 minutes.
- While the seafood is cooling a tad make our quick seafood sauce. Combine the 1 cup of seafood water, 2 sticks of melted butter, garlic powder, and lemon juice.
- Drizzle the sauce over the seafood, potatoes, and corn, and sprinkle everything with a little Old Bay and chopped parsley. Ready to serve a crowd!
- Serve the boil with garlic butter seafood sauce, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, lemon wedges, Cajun garlic butter, or salted melted butter for dipping.
Seafood Boil Cooking Times
Hosting a boil does involve a little math, but don't be intimidated! We're making it as easy as possible by giving you the cooking time for each fresh seafood ingredient.
For example, if the crab legs take 7 minutes to cook and you're also adding fresh shrimp that only takes 2 minutes to cook, you'll add the shrimp 5 minutes after the crab legs start cooking.
- Crab sections - 7 minutes for cooked (from the grocery store), 17 minutes for whole raw crabs (as in you just caught them out in the water).
- Crab legs - 3 minutes
- Lobster tails - 4-7 minutes
- Crawfish - 3 minutes
- Clams - 5-7 minutes
- Mussels - 5 minutes
- Oysters - 5 minutes
- Shrimp or prawns - 2 minutes
We do include our exact order and cooking times in the recipe card at the very bottom of the post.
You don't need to add a lot of side dishes since you already have the main protein and hot veggies covered.
Some nice add-ons include garlic bread, a green salad like our Avocado Kale Salad, watermelon slices or a fruit salad, creamy baked macaroni and cheese, and of course a simple dessert such as ice cream, pie, cookies, or cupcakes.
Seafood Boil Recipe Storage
Storage: Store leftovers in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 3-4 days. Shellfish such as clams can only last 2 days in the fridge, and cooked lobster only lasts 3 days so it’s advised to store these ingredients separately or plan on eating all of the leftovers within 2 days.
Freeze: Leftover cooked seafood can be frozen for up to 3 months when stored in an airtight container or Ziplock freezer bag.
How to reheat seafood boil
The best way to reheat boiled seafood, corn, sausage, and potatoes is to steam them on the stovetop.
In a large pot add 2 cups of water to the pot and a steamer basket. Bring the water to a simmer, add the leftovers, and steam for 3-5 minutes until everything is heated through. We don't recommend boiling the leftover seafood unless you saved some of the seafood pot liquid.
Easy Seafood Boil FAQ's
How much seafood to add really depends on the types of seafood you're serving, how hungry your guests are, and whether or not you're serving any sides.
We generally recommend about ½-1 lb of seafood per person since many of the types getting cooked include their shells in the weight.
Also plan for each guest to have at least 3-4 potatoes, 1-2 corn sections, and 4 ounces of sausage.
A low country boil and a seafood boil both consist of a variety of seafood, sausage, potatoes, corn, and typically seasoning such as Old Bay. What you call it often depends on the geographical region of the U.S. you’re in.
A seafood boil is referred to as a low country bowl in the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and other Southern coastal areas. typically referring to the low country region of the U.S. Other parts of the U.S. such as the Northeast or the West Coast simply call it a seafood boil. They’re essentially similar recipes, but sometimes cajun season is also added to the boil, which you’re more likely to find at a low country boil.
Crab boil is not the same as Old Bay seasoning, although Old Bay is the most common seasoning used when preparing a crab boil, lobster boil, shrimp boil, or crayfish boil.
When seafood gets dumped on a table along with corn on the cob, potatoes, and sausage, that’s called a seafood boil or a low country boil.
However, the seafood isn’t typically dumped directly onto a table, it’s dumped on newspapers or brown butcher paper to help absorb the excess moisture or it gets served on baking sheets. This is definitely a fun and festive way to serve a crowd!
We hope you loved our post about putting together an easy seafood boil! We'd love to hear how yours turns out!
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