First rule of food in Louisiana: Crawfish are King, and a spicy hot “crawfish boil” is part of every spring celebration.

A Southern Louisiana crawfish boil recipe

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When we visited Southern Louisiana last month for Kevin’s uncle’s 90th birthday party, we were lucky to land right within the first few weeks of of crawfish season. It was our first visit to that part of the state, and we spent a week traveling from Lake Charles to Lafayette, Louisiana.

As usual, learning about local foods was high on my list of things to do. I remembered how Kevin’s dad had always raved about the Louisiana family’s legendary crawfish boil and his love for the so-called “mudbugs”. I didn’t know much else about this regional delicacy before we visited, but found their story and place in Cajun food and culture fascinating.

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Here are some things to know about crawfish:

  • Crawfish are a small freshwater crustacean. Like their larger cousins, the lobster, they have a relatively small amount of meat in a larger shell. They are either cooked whole in a spicy broth, or the meat is removed and used in a cooked soup or stew, like the popular Cajun dish, Crawfish Étouffée.

A 40lb bag of crawfish, ready for the boil! A Southern Louisiana Crawfish Boil Recipe

  • Most crawfish are harvested between December and June, but March, April, and May are the peak months in Louisiana. The crawfish are smaller with less meat in the earlier and colder part of the season, but they are also most expensive then because they are in high demand by eager locals.

Crawfish traps in a Southern Louisiana crawfish pond

  • Southern Louisiana produces over 80 million pounds of crawfish each year, most raised in shallow man-made ponds and harvested commercially. Driving the backroads of Louisiana’s Cajun country parishes near Lafayette, you’ll see acres of these shallow pools, dotted with vertical cages that trap the crawfish. Some families have small crawfish ponds that they maintain for personal use.

Crawfish traps in a Southern Louisiana crawfish pond

  • Crawfish can also be harvested wild, as they live in swamps, bayous, and ditches. Wild crawfish are often called “mudbugs,” because they burrow into the water-logged coastal soil over the winter to keep warm. Watch your step, because Louisiana lawns and fields are dotted with towering “crawfish chimneys” that they build up from the earth. Below each clay tower (some are almost a foot high!), is a underground burrow. Apparently, if you lower a string with a small piece of meat tied to it into the hole, you can catch the crawfish when he clamps down on the food.

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A "crawfish chimney" built on a neighbor

  • Crawfish are the official state crustacean of Louisiana-did you know states have designated official state crustaceans? Well, crawfish-mad Louisiana was the first!
  • Crawfish are at the core of the spring menu and some dishes are designed to pair with this local favorite food. We visited a local craft brewer, Bayou Teche Brewery who brews a refreshing spring saison that they call Saison d’écrevisses or Crawfish Season Ale.

Bayou Teche Brewing Company

As family were arriving on our first night in Lake Charles, I got to help Uncle Gene cook up a 40 pound bag of live crawfish. The crawfish boil was the center of dinner that night and we enjoyed the leftovers all weekend. I took some notes, and I’m excited to share his crawfish boil recipe.

A Southern Louisiana Crawfish Boil Recipe Store cooked crawfish boil in a cooler to keep them warm | A Southern Louisiana crawfish boil recipe

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