You know what the East Coast is missing besides In-N-Out? Boiling Crab!  What’s not to love about eating with your bare hands in the most savage manner possible?  Somehow, this shrimp boil phenomenon has yet to reach this coast.  I just don’t understand.

In any case, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this West Coast chain, Boiling Crab offers all sorts of shellfish in a beautiful harmony of garlic, butter, lemon and Southern seasonings.  The fun restaurant is always an open space with walls decorated in signatures and writing from every human being that has walked through its doors.  You order your shellfish in pounds with a choice of different sauces and sides.  Then, your order is served in a plastic bag.  Once that bag hits the table, the debauchery begins.  Everyone gets down and dirty, peeling away and emptying their bags.  The aftermath is always an impressive landscape of shell mounds.  What’s magical is that the mess completely vanishes when the waiters pull up the paper tablecloths, roll it up and toss it in the bin.  Voila!  It’s like no one has to know that you were just tearing away in complete disregard for civility.  Oh, how I miss Boiling Crab!

Well, after some research and several attempts, I am happy to share this shrimp boil recipe!  Try it out for your 4th of July celebration!

Shrimp Boil Recipe

Shrimp Boil Recipe (for 3-4 people)


  •  4 lbs shrimp or other shellfish
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 heads of garlic (minced)
  • 4 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 4 tbs Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 tbs paprika
  • 2 tbs cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbs lemon pepper or 1 tbs regular pepper
  • 2 tbs Louisiana hot sauce
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • Optional sides: corn, chorizo
  • For more spice, add 1 tbs pepper and/or more Louisiana hot sauce
  • For each individual, 2-3 limes, salt and pepper

For fries:

  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic salt

Other supplies:

  • Gallon food storage bags (1 for each person)
  • Newspaper or masking paper (to cover your table)

NOTE: Pictures show double the recipe serving size — 7 lbs of shrimp for 6 people.

First, combine and mix the Old Bay seasoning, paprika, cayenne pepper and lemon pepper in a small bowl.

Shrimp Boil Spices

Next, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.  (Note: as you can probably already tell, this is definitely not the healthiest recipe by any means… but, it will most certainly be delicious!)  Stir in the minced garlic and spices.  After the garlic has cooked for a bit, add in the Louisiana hot sauce and sugar.  Keep the mixture on low heat until the cooked shrimp and sides are ready.

Shrimp Boil Sauce

In the meantime, quarter the lemon and place into a large boiling pot of water.  This is also a good time to have someone cover the dining table with newspaper.  Once the water is boiling, cook all the shrimp for roughly 2-3 minutes (this can be done in batches by scooping out the cooked shrimp with a slotted spoon or a similar utensil).  Be very careful of overcooking the shrimp since the shell will be virtually impossible to peel off if cooked for too long.  You can use the same broth to cook the corn and chorizo.  For individual portions, break the corn into smaller pieces and slice the cooked chorizo.  Put all the cooked shrimp, corn and chorizo into a large mixing bowl.

Shrimp Boil Recipe

If you are making fries, cut the potatoes.  We put them into a deep fryer, but you can also bake them as a healthier alternative.  Toss the fries in the Old Bay seasoning and garlic salt.

French Fries

After everything is ready, pour the sauce over the shrimp, corn and chorizo.  Mix until everything is covered.  Then, fill each gallon bag with roughly a pound of shrimp for each person.  I usually distribute the leftover sauce into the bags evenly at the end.

Shrimp Boil Recipe

Each person should have a small bowl to mix their own concoction of freshly squeezed limes, salt and pepper to dip their shrimp in.  This is entirely optional and is dependent on each person’s taste.  Once all the bags have been prepared, it’s time to get sloppy!

This is what success looks like:

Shrimp Boil Aftermath

And, the best part?  Just rolling up that paper and tossing it into a garbage bag!

By popular demand, my friends and I have made this a regular dinner event.  Try it out and let us know how it goes!


  1. Anonymous

    Can’t wait to try this out! I recently moved to NYC and have been searching for a place like Boiling Crab with absolutely no luck. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think this recipe is pretty much on point. I’ve actually tried it. However, I do also use cajun seasoning.

    • That’s great to hear! :) Thanks for sharing your tip! I’ve also heard that cajun seasoning is a great addition. But, for the life of me, I can’t seem to find cajun seasoning in any market around me. =/

  3. Any substitution recipe for Old Bay seasoning ? I live in Australia and we don’t have Old Bay seasoning or any other crab boil seasoning over here.

    I was thinking of trying this instead
    4 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
    3 tablespoons coriander seeds
    2 tablespoons whole allspice
    2 tablespoons dill seeds
    1 teaspoon whole cloves
    1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
    8 bay leaves
    Salt and cayenne pepper (or liquid hot sauce) to taste

    also is Louisiana hot sauce Frank’s hot sauce?

    • Oh no! I unfortunately do not have any substitute for Old Bay seasoning, but did have time to look into it. I’m sure you’re not the first person that hasn’t had Old Bay readily available. From my understanding, it is a concoction derived from a homemade recipe anyway. This recipe seems like a popular hit: Some reviewers called for more celery salt. I’m not sure if all those ingredients are available to you, but hope it helps!

      The Louisiana hot sauce that I use is this one: Though, I’m sure any hot sauce will add good flavor.

  4. We don’t have a Boiling Crab, but we have something close. It’s called The Boil. It’s more or less the same thing, down to the plastic bags full of seafood. It’s in Chinatown in NYC and it’s AMAZING!!

  5. Just wanna say thank you for sharing this super delicious recipe..we all loved it..

    • YAY!! Happy to share this recipe and glad it turned out well for your group! Hope there is another shrimp boil planned in the near future. :)

  6. Great recipe, I tried this and it came pretty close! Just wish a disgruntled employee would just leak the recipe

  7. This tastes pretty close for me. Delicious! Most awesome/accurate recipe I found on the internet :D

  8. Since you’re Viet I trust that you did legit homework to find this recipe. So, cam on!

    Question: what spice level is your “whole shebang” recipe?

    • Không có gì. Haha, I love that I get so much credit for just being Viet! It took some homework, but a lot more trial and error. I made this recipe 5 different times to get it just right. x_X I would have to say that the spice level is at the border of mild and medium. I originally thought it was mild, but one of my friends who doesn’t normally eat spicy foods could barely handle it so… I guess it’s not meant for the fair tongue. =P

      • I’ve made this 2x now, in a span of 2 weeks:) Both parties LOVED it! I like that you said to add more Louisiana Hot Sauce for a spicier taste. The 2nd time I made it, I added 1 more tablespoon of the hot sauce and it was a good level of spice! Thanks again!

  9. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for the recipe! Made it tonight and everyone loved it!

  10. cheesehead

    Real quick question on your measurements. For the spices you used tbsp or tsp??

  11. So yeah….this recipe was awesome. My hands certainly have that same boiling crab smell..

    • I would say the recipe is a medium level spiciness. To carefully control your level of spice, I recommend adding the hot spices and Louisiana hot sauce a little at a time and tasting the sauce to check. Also, I should note that the shrimp will be sitting in this sauce in the bag so it tends to absorb more of the spice over time.

  12. Do you know how to make the sauce a little bit thicker? My sauce came out a thin. Thank you btw for this awesome recipe…..

  13. Pingback: 10 Easy Recipes to Keep You Warm This Winter - Cultural Chromatics

    • Hi Lupe, more Louisiana hot sauce and/or cayenne pepper should do the trick. :) Let us know how it turns out and thanks for trying our recipe!

    • Hi Ralph, I’m not quite sure what you mean by the sauce or butter breaking. Did the butter dissolve properly into the mixture?

  14. I am soo EXCITED to find this recipe and will be trying it!!! I have a few in my house that does NOT any spice what so ever. They usually order the garlic sauce, do you have the recipe for this garlic sauce??

  15. I am so EXCITED to have found this, I will be making it soon. However, I do have a few people in my family who do not like spice what so ever. Would you happen to know the garlic recipe?

    • Hi Palino5,

      We’re excited for you to try this recipe out!

      I imagine cutting out the paprika, cayenne and Louisiana hot sauce will immediately make this sauce really mild. However, the tricky part is the Old Bay Seasoning – it contains a tad of spice, but it’s really more salty than anything else. I recommend either cutting the Old Bay seasoning out to make a purely garlic and butter sauce, or making your own version of Old Bay without any of the hot spices (pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes):

      If your family can handle a little spice, it also may be worth testing just a 1/2 tbsp of Old Bay seasoning at a time and tasting the sauce to see if it’s acceptable for their taste.

      Best of luck and let us know how it turns out!

      • Hello; I made them both when I posted this, the whole SHABANG for a few of us and the butter garlic for the others. EVERYONE loved it and said I hit it spot on. I am making it again tonight for “Good Friday”. THANK YOU!!!!!!

  16. I am very excited to try this recipe out. By the way have you tried KICKIN CRAB? It’s just like boiling crab but just a little better!!! Try it out one day!! I’ll let you know how this one comes out!

    • Kickin Crab is definitely going on the must-try list when we’re in the area!! Best of luck on the recipe and let us know how it turns out! :)

      • It turned out ok.hahaha I’m no chef at all so I’m put the blame on me. I think I’m going to try your recipe again but with half the spice measurements called for. I had a lot of spices sitting at the bottom of the oil. And I feel I needed to make the sauce a little thicker would flour work? But yes definitely try KICKIN crab all of my friends I have introduced to KICKIN crab have never gone back to boiling crab since:)

        • Oh no~ so sorry to hear that! Don’t discredit yourself as a chef now – I believe someone else had also mentioned that their sauce came out thinner than expected, too, so you’re not alone! I have a feeling that it has to do with the butter. The one I use starts to solidify more as the temperature cools, but we usually scoop the sauce into the shrimp before it gets to that stage. Since your sauce is coming out thinner, I definitely agree on using flour to thicken. Hope the next go round is better!!

  17. My boyfriend and I recently paid a visit to our local Boiling Crab, and low and behold they changed their “whole shabang” recipe. It was completely bland and flavorless. I thought our seafood adventures were completely over until I saw this recipe. It was amazing and so much like the original Boiling Crab recipe. I’m never going back to boiling crab! Thank you so much! My belly and wallet both thank you!
    ** note: I accidentally used salted butter, instead of the called recipe. It was on the saltier side, but I used the water I boiled the shrimp to dilute the sauce. It was perfect!

    • Try KICKIN CRAB!! You won’t be disappointed!! Oh and order the garlic noodles too!

    • Oh no! That’s so sad to hear about Boiling Crab. :( But, glad this recipe saved the day and worked out well for you! I will have to take Brian’s suggestion above when I’m back in California, too.

  18. I tried this and it was spot on except it was too hot for my taste. But other than that it tastes like boiling crab in Dallas :)

    • Ahh, glad it was still a positive experience despite the extra spice!

  19. Head-on shrimp are the best! I just bought a 4.4 lb box of IQF 36/40s for 15.99. That’s 3.63/lb. From Ecuador. The market I go to sells large boxes of IQF frozen seafood at a discount and live blue crab, sometimes crawfish and other live goodies.

    Might have to have a shrimp boil! Also love making NOLA BBQ shrimp. That’s messy but delicious and fun! So’s a nice crab or crawfish boil.


    • Agreed! That’s a really great deal – hope you got a chance to make a delicious shrimp/crab/crawfish boil!

  20. Anonymous

    I love kickin crab I go every week for the sauce . Now I’m going to be making it at home twice a week :) thank you for your dedication and sharing the recipe. My first time came out buttery watery, 2nd time I added a little bit corn starch to make the sauce thicker how I like it:)

  21. Anonymous

    Perfect! Made it for Momma Kim for mother’s day. She is still talking about it today.

    • YAY! Glad we didn’t disappoint Momma Kim and happy to hear she had a wonderful Mother’s Day gift!

  22. claudia dietz

    Hi! so i tried the recipe but i keep screwing up i guess because it’s very salty like VERY salty but every recipe i have seen is the same amount of old bay. I’ve even cut the amount of spices in half and my sauce still looks like a bunch of spices in a oily mix(and salty). What could i do to fix it? how long do you let the sauce simmer? everyone loves your recipe and i refuse to give up on trying it!!

  23. claudia dietz

    i just remembered i didn’t add te hot sauce. i will for the next time i do it. how much does the hot sauce help?

    • Hi Claudia,

      I’m really sorry to hear that this sauce has been a disappointment so far. Hope we can get to the bottom of it so you can enjoy the recipe!

      First, I don’t believe the hot sauce will help with the saltiness; it will just add another dimension of flavor to your sauce.

      Second, have you been using unsalted butter instead of salted? If you have been using unsalted, and it’s still turning out salty, my next suggestion would be to try adding more sugar until the sauce is palatable to your taste.

      Lastly, the mixture is definitely oily/runny at first and will thicken as the temperature cools down. I’d recommend mixing the sauce with the shrimp in its runny state and then putting it into the bags where it will continue to cool down and thicken. Of course, if you prefer a thicker sauce, you can add flour little by little into the mixture to thicken it up a bit.

      Hope this helps!! Please let us know how the next try goes. Fingers crossed that it will turn out awesome!

  24. Hi My Linh! Thank you so much for replying. I’ll definitely try adding flour, i didn’t think about that. Also, i do use unsalted butter. I’ll try adding more sugar and see how that comes out. I’ll let you know how it turns out!!

  25. Can’t wait to try this! Thank you! I love how you’ve measured each of the spices. I’ve looked at other recipes and it was more of keep adding stuff til it’s right or to your liking. . So I didn’t know how much of spices I should put in my garlic butter mixture. My husband still loved it but it wasn’t boiling crab standard. More lemon peppery. Haha…Definitely will try this. Thank you!

  26. Hi My Linh

    Thank you so much for the recipe. I can’t wait to try it! I was wondering if it mattered whether or not the shrimp still had the skin on? I am planning to make this but without the skin still intact. What are you thoughts? Also, if I get only 2lbs of shrimp I probably should cut the measurements in half right

    • Hey Jay,

      Great question! I typically use shrimp with the skin and head still on, but I don’t think it will make a huge difference either way since all the flavors will still be there. If you’re using headless shrimp, I’d recommend using 1/2 – 2/3 of the amount of shrimp. Hope this helps and can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

  27. Try clarifying your butter first if your sauce is thin. Ensure sauce doesn’t boil and only simmers while cooking seafood.

  28. Hi! I am so glad I found this recipe as I’ve become addicted to my local Boiling Crab!
    I’m wondering, what kind of shrimp do you use and where do you buy it? I live in Las Vegas and the shrimp from my local grocery stores just isn’t the same. I’ve done countless searches trying to find out what kind of shrimp Boiling Crab uses. Thanks so much!

    • Hi Melissa, glad you found our recipe as well! I honestly just buy the lowest priced shrimp with the head on at my nearest Asian supermarket. I don’t believe the type of shrimp will matter as much since the sauce will be the key flavor. But, I can see folks having a preference for the size of shrimp. It really is up to your preference on this front. :) Good luck and let us know how it goes!

    • Hi EJ,

      So sorry for the late reply! I just realized that my original response never posted. To make more sauce, I’d make sure to increase the amount of every ingredient by the same proportion. So, if you’re adding more butter, also add more spices. :) Hope that helps!

  29. I agree with the salty comment. It’s way too salty. It’s the Lemon Pepper which has salt as the first ingredient. Spot on other than that! Next time I may leave it out and taste adding a little at a time as needed. Thanks for this!

  30. Pingback: Cajun/Creole Shrimp (Boiling Crab “The Whole Shabang” Copycat Recipe) – Kirsten's Kitchen

  31. Anonymous

    I’m definitely going to try this my family loves boiling crab! A little tip we do is a small bowl of white rice and add the shrimp and sauce to it mmmmmm mouth watering lol

  32. It was devastating leaving LA and coming home to the UK after I’d pretty much had Boiling Crab every day when I was over there! (I was only there for 4 days don’t worry) There’s nothing even close to the deliciousness that is 1lb shrimp with the Whole Shabang over here in the UK so I was delighted when I came across this recipe. Long story short, I’ve made this recipe twice now and it blows everyone’s minds including my own as it was virtually identical to the real thing. Cheers!

    • YAYY!! Believe me, I experienced the same devastation when I first moved to NYC. Glad we both can experience a little of California while we’re away. ;)

  33. I live in LA and have a boiling crab not too far from me; but I’ve always wanted to make it on my own.

    This recipe is amazing. So delicious and too easy. Love it!!!

  34. Thank you for sharing this recipe! I followed it to a t and it turned out AMAZING! Better than The Boiling Crab! Cheers!

  35. Nice post! I am confused by the crab boil hasn’t “made it to the east coast” concept though. OldBay originated in Baltimore just for steaming or boiling crab. I am from the mid Atlantic and seafood boils are pervasive. Are you saying not in NYC? The West Coast style boil you speak actually originated in Houston.

    • Ahaha, no worries. There does seem to be quite a number of seafood boils across the country — hoping that I get the chance to try them all!

  36. I’m making 50LBS of Shrimp and Crab Legs. The 4 sticks of butter. Are they 1LB of butter for the 4 sticks. This recipe would call for 50 Sticks. Probably $35 in butter alone!

    • Go to kickin crab and order a ton of food and a ton of extra sauce and just use that you can’t go wrong!

      • Haha, definitely not opposed to that idea. Now I’m wondering if we can convince the NYC equivalent (The Boil) to give us tons of extra sauce…

    • Hi there, so sorry for the delayed reply! Generally, I’d recommend 1 stick of butter for every 1-1.5 lbs. of shrimp. If you were doing 50 lbs. of only shrimp (which would feed ~50 people), that would be around 33-50 sticks of butter… However, if you’re adding crab legs, you’ll be adding more weight, but not volume. The crab shells are heavier than shrimp. I’m not quite sure how to translate the recipe for crab legs, but I’d estimate that the same amount of sauce for 1 lb. of shrimp would probably cover 10 crab legs? It might be worth testing out a batch. Sorry I can’t be of more help here, but hope it works out!

  37. Hahah if you are making 50 lbs I would figure out a better game plan so you don’t waste all that food!!

    • Hey Erika,

      I don’t see any issues with making the sauce ahead of time since there aren’t many perishable ingredients except the garlic. If I had to guess, I’d say a week is probably the longest you could make it in advance. Chopped garlic’s shelf life is around 5-7 days in the fridge and 10-12 months in the freezer (according to Hope this helps!

  38. Thanks for this recipe and all the tips! I’m near Dallas, have tried boils at 5 other restaurants and none match the great flavor of the Boiling Crab!!! I love their XXX heat and would like to know the ingredient(s) to add that will give this sauce the same heat? Also, where can I buy the sausage they use-it’s awesome!!!

    • Hi Stephanie,

      To turn up the heat, you can add more Louisiana hot sauce and cayenne pepper. That should do the trick! As for the type of sausage, I’m honestly not sure, so I can’t be of much help there. :(

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