Shrimp Boil Recipe

Shrimp boils are a classic festive meal to share with a group. They’re really fun and easy to make at home anytime you need to feed a crowd.

When I first learned what a shrimp boil was, I was skeptical. All that food boiled together in one pot? How could that be good? But, then I gave it some thought. There are AMAZING foods that are really just a bunch of things boiled together. Like soup! And Corned beef and cabbage! You know?

My skepticism died down and I tried it. I was delighted, and so were my kids. Since that first attempt, a shrimp boil like this one has become standard when we have a large group over.

One of the things that I like best about a shrimp boil is that the ingredients don’t need any real prepping. You can get the shrimp already peeled, the corn just needs to be shucked and broken in half, the potatoes can be left whole if they’re about the size of a golf ball, the sausage just needs to be cut into chunks. That’s kind of it. Then everything goes into the pot (not all at once though, see the recipe below for timing) and then you serve it all in a big jumble. All of this makes it an ideal meal for a host who wants to get to spend time with guests.

What Goes Into A Shrimp Boil?

There’s shrimp, of course. I go for large shrimp but medium and jumbo also work well. You’ll want about a third of a pound of shrimp per person.

My favorite shrimp to use are already peeled but have the tail on. That way, the tail acts as a handle if you want to dip the shrimp in butter. And of course you want to dip the shrimp in butter, right? You can use easy-peel shrimp instead of already-peeled, if you have those.

Corn on the cob is in there for sure! I shuck the corn cobs and then break them in half. I go with a bit less than one cob of corn per person, or rather, a bit more than 1/2 of a cob of corn per person. For 8 people, 6 cobs of corn works about right.

I use red potatoes in my shrimp boil, and I think that’s pretty standard. If they’re about the size of a golf ball, you don’t have to cut them in half. Just give them a rinse and you’re good to go.

I also include whole garlic cloves in my shrimp boil. They add a touch of flavor to the simmering liquid but, more importantly, they act as a wonderful condiment to the dish. Use garlic cloves that still have the peel on. Then people can squeeze the garlic onto their food as they eat, kind of like roasted garlic.

Onions are a wonderful addition. I leave them in fairly large pieces. If they’re in season, Vidalia onions are my favorite here, or some kind of sweet onion. Red onion works too. Or regular yellow or white onions if that’s what you have.

There is usually sausage in a shrimp boil. It really adds some depth to the simmering liquid and therefore to everything. It’s also nice and meaty so it turns the seafood meal into a really hearty event. Andouille sausage is traditional but if you can’t find that, then kielbasa, or really any fully-cooked sausage links, will do.

The final essential ingredient is the Old Bay Seasoning. This just works and I can’t explain why. It’s a mixture of all kinds of things, including celery salt, which doesn’t show up in many recipes. Somehow though, it’s just got this magic that works on shrimp boils.

I also squeeze lemon into the simmering liquid and serve the shrimp boil with extra lemon wedges. Make sure to put a bottle of hot sauce on the table too. It’s required.

A few bowls of melted butter with some minced garlic mixed in is a great thing to set out for people to dip their food in too. Read more about this below.

How To Serve A Shrimp Boil

To have a shrimp boil at home, line your table, or a space in your yard on the lawn, with plastic garbage bags topped with sheets of newspaper. If you don’t have newspaper, ask your local grocery store if you can have some of their newsprint flyers to use. It’s worth a shot! If they say no, you can buy a newspaper or two.

Set out several sets of tongs (to make it easier for people to serve themselves), paper plates, utensils, and LOTS of napkins. Oh, and hot sauce. Did I mention hot sauce?

I also like to put out little bowls of melted butter with minced garlic in them for dipping the shrimp. And the potatoes. And the sausage. And the corn. You get the idea.

Speaking of butter, another thing I do is to rescue some of the simmering water (about 1/2 cup) from the pot just before draining it. Then add some butter in small pieces to that and mix it up. The butter melts and you get a nice lightly flavored butter sauce. Drizzle that over all of the food before serving, regardless of which of the two serving methods below you choose to use.

There are two ways to actually serve the shrimp boil. The first is to drain the liquid out of your pot and then dump the pot of delicious food out into the middle of the newspaper. There’s a real wow-appeal to watching this big pot of food being turned out onto the lawn or the middle of a big table. This can be tricky though, mostly because it’s hard to drain the water from the pot. Ask someone who is strong to hold the pot lid over the pot and slowly pour the hot water out of the pot, using the lid to hold back the food, just letting the water out. If you have a large strainer, you can use that and pour the whole contents of the pot into it. Then put the food back into the now-empty pot. Drizzle everything with that butter mixture I mentioned, then go do the VOILA moment with the pot on the lawn. You know you want to!

The second way to serve a shrimp boil is to use a slotted spoon to rescue all of the food from the pot and then arrange it onto a serving platter. Drizzle it with that butter mixture and take the plate to the table. It’s a bit less theatrical but much less risky and much less messy.

However you choose to serve your shrimp boil, it’s going to be delicious and it will definitely be a fun time.

I hope you have a wonderful meal!

Christine :)


Shrimp Boil

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: American


Shrimp boils are a classic festive meal to share with a group. They’re really fun and easy to make at home anytime you need to feed a crowd.


  • 2 whole lemons, plus 2 more lemons cut into wedges for serving
  • 1/2 cup Old Bay seasoning
  • 12 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 3 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 and 1/2 lbs. whole small red potatoes, cut any that are a bit bigger in half
  • 16 ounces andouille or kielbasa sausage, cut into 1216 pieces
  • 6 cobs of corn, shucked and broken in half
  • 3 lbs. large (count: 31-35/lb) shrimp (deveined and either shell off or easy-peel)
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces*
  • 1 bottle of hot sauce


  1. Fill a large pot with 6 quarts of water.
  2. Cut the whole lemons in half. Squeeze the juice into the water and add the squeezed lemon halves as well.
  3. Add the Old Bay, garlic cloves, onion, and salt.
  4. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes. Cover and cook until they’re just tender, 9-10 minutes.
  6. Add the sausage and corn. Cook covered for 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the shrimp and cook covered until pink, 2-3 minutes.
  8. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the butter to the liquid and stir until it melts.
  9. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp, sausage, and vegetables to a large platter.
  10. Drizzle with the butter mixture.
  11. To Serve: Line the dining table with plastic garbage bags and cover that with sheets of newspaper. Pile the shrimp, sausage and vegetables right on the paper, or leave everything on the platter. Put out the lemon wedges and a bottle of hot sauce. Let everyone know to use the lemon wedges, hot sauce, and squeezed garlic cloves as condiments. Make sure there are a lot of napkins on hand before you dig in!


*Note: The butter is going to be mixed with some cooking liquid to make a quick light sauce to drizzle over everything before serving. If you’d also like butter as a dip for the shrimp and veggies, melt an additional 1/2 cup of butter and add to cloves of minced garlic to it. Taste and add salt, if desired.

This recipe originally appeared in May 2013 and was revised and republished in March 2021.