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The Essential Shrimp Boil

The classic shrimp boil is synonymous with occasions, large gatherings, potlucks, and parties. My household likes to enjoy a laid-back, petite version of the celebratory shrimp boil, as a cheerful, tasty approach to shaking up the standard dinner routine. In place of customary table manners, we have a utensil-free, thematic shellfish feast of warm, spiced, morsels of deliciousness, to be dunked, dipped, dredged, peeled, and consumed with glee.

The shrimp boil has so much going for it. This one-pot meal is pure homespun comfort food. It’s simple to throw together, the ingredients are easy to find, reasonably priced, and adaptable to the preferences of your kith and kin.

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shrimp boil with corn and potatos

The Essential Shrimp Boil

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  • Author: Asha
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x




Units Scale

For the cocktail Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Fresh juice from half a lemon

For the boil

  • 1 1/2 gallons of water
  • 4 bottles of beer, preferably lager, *optional
  • 1/2 cup Old Bay, Cajun or Creole seasoning, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup garlic granules
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 bay leaves *optional
  • 1 1/2 pound, baby red potatoes
  • 34 fresh ears of corn, shucked and snapped in half
  • 11 1/2 pounds of Kielbasa sausage, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/22 pounds, shrimp or prawns
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter or Earth Balance, melted
  • Half bunch of fresh Italian parsley, chopped

For serving

  • Old Bay, Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Malt vinegar
  • 34 Fresh lemons, quartered and deseeded


To make the cocktail sauce

  1. Thoroughly mix all cocktail ingredients together in a small bowl. If serving in individual bowls, divide the sauce evenly amongst the bowls, cover, and set aside. The sauce can be made up to two days in advance.

To make the shrimp boil

(Cooking instructions are general guidelines and should be adjusted depending on the size and amount of ingredients.)

  1. Cover the table where you’ll be eating with 1-2 layers of kraft or newspaper. Designate each seating with individual bowls of the malt vinegar, Old Bay or other seasoning, cocktail sauce, and lemon quarters. You can plan to eat straight from the covered table or set out plates if desired.
  2. Fill a large heavy bottom, stock pot with 1 ½ – 2 gallons of water, beer, Old Bay or other seasoning blend, vinegar, garlic granules, salt, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over med/high heat.
  3. Let the water boil for a minute or two, then skim off any foam that rises to the top of the water.
  4. Add the potatoes and cook for approximately five minutes. Check the doneness of the potatoes by piercing one with a fork. When the potatoes begin to soften and give when pierced, add the corn to the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the sausage and cook for 3 minutes.
  6. Finally, add the shrimp to the pot and cook just until they turn pink, approximately 3-5 minutes depending on the size and amount.
  7. Drain the cooking liquid and discard the bay leaves.
  8. Pour contents into a bowl or serving platter. I like to use a sheet pan. They are durable, easy to clean, and add to the ambiance of the meal.
  9. Pour melted butter over the shrimp boil, sprinkle with parsley and serve with copious amounts of napkins or paper towels.
  10. When you’re done with the feasting, simply roll up the paper table covering and throw it in the garbage. Voila, no more mess!

*Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days. Enjoy the leftovers cold, straight from the refrigerator, or rewarmed in the microwave.


  • If you want to add a little pizzazz to your shrimp boil, make it a seafood boil by adding different types of shellfish. Some of my favorite additions are crayfish, langoustines, snow crab legs, clams and/or sea scallops. Add these types of shell fish (with the exception of the scallops) to the sock pot, before you add the shrimp and cook for 3-5 minutes, then continue on with the shrimp and remainder of the instructions.
  • It you want to add to the ambiance of the meal, serve your boil with seafood restaurant-style bibbs, mallets, and claw crackers if serving hard shell seafood, butter warmers, wet napkin packets, and festive napkins. Have fun with it!
  • I often serve my shrimp or seafood boils “as is” but occasionally I like to include a side dish or two. Favorites include coleslaw, side salad, steamed broccoli, mac and cheese, hushpuppies, biscuits or cornbread.
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