A seafood boil is a great opportunity for friends and family to gather and enjoy a big, flavorful, messy meal. The basic idea is pretty simple – get a big pot of heavily seasoned water, bring it to a boil, and add your ingredients. Regional variations from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay to the shores of Louisiana's bayou each add local flavors to this simple family-style meal.
Cajun butter sauce is a dipping butter sauce for seafood that combines the methods of a traditional French roux with the robust and flavorful spices of Cajun cuisine. In this article, we'll discuss how to make the best butter sauce for dipping and drenching seafood, then we'll give you our recipe for adding the unique flavors of Cajun cuisine to make your seafood boil sauce fantastic.
Butter Sauce and How to Make One
In French cuisine, a roux is essentially a mixture of equal parts fat and flour. Butter, lard, and oil are common ingredients. Making a roux is easy: heat the fat in a pan on the stovetop and then whisk the flour into the fat. Continue whisking until the mixture comes together and becomes thickened.
When you are making a butter sauce for your seafood boil, you use the same basic concept, but you'll swap out the flour for a much smaller portion of cornstarch mixed with water. Otherwise, the process is the same and the end result is a thick, buttery sauce that is perfect for lobster tails, crab legs, shrimp, and any other seafood you can think of.
What is Cajun Seasoning Made From?
Cajun seasoning originated with ingredients incorporated from the local Creole cuisine in the American South when the Acadians arrived beginning in 1764. Spices commonly used in Cajun cuisine include the "Holy Trinity" of celery, onion, and bell peppers, along with spices like black and white peppercorns and cayenne peppers.
The Differences Between Cajun and Creole
Cajun seasoning is most often a blend of white peppercorns, garlic powder, celery seed, onion powder, and cayenne peppers. Adding paprika, oregano, and basil will give you a Creole seasoning. While the two are often used interchangeably, Cajun seasoning mix is more basic than Creole.
How to Use Cajun Seasoning with a Seafood Boil
A common way to use Cajun seasoning is to add the ingredients into the water the seafood will boil in. This helps to add layers of delicate flavor and improves the overall experience. Many people often use Old Bay seasoning in the boil. Classic Old Bay seasoning is a spice blend that includes 18 herbs and spices. The exact mixture is a trade secret, but the seasoning is often replicated using ground mustard, celery seed, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt.
The spice blend originated near the Cheasepeake Bay, but gets its name from a ship that once traversed the bay between Baltimore and Virginia. It was created in 1939 and purchased by McCormick & Company in 1990.
How to Make Cajun Butter Sauce for Seafood
This is a simple homemade Cajun Butter recipe that you can do in just a few minutes on the stovetop. The result will be a creamy cajun sauce you can use immediately or you can make it ahead of time and heat it up when you are ready to eat.
Step by Step Process to Make the Best Cajun Butter Sauce
First, you'll want to combine two teaspoons of cornstarch with one cup of water. Use a whisk to ensure there are no lumps. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, melt one cup of butter over medium-low heat. Use the best quality unsalted butter and let it soften on the counter to help it melt quicker. You want the butter to melt, not fry, so keep an eye on it and stir regularly. If the butter begins to burn or bubble, remove it from the heat and whisk it quickly.
With a whisk, slowly add the water and cornstarch mixture into the melted butter. Increase the temperature to medium-high and whisk the mixture regularly. Allow it to come just to a soft boil for about five minutes. Stir the mixture regularly with a spoon or whisk to ensure it doesn't burn.
Remove the saucepan from the heat after five minutes or when you are satisfied with the thickness and consistency. Add in your Cajun seasoning mix and stir to incorporate.
Making a delicious, creamy Cajun sauce for seafood is that simple. At home, we often use our Bearded Butchers Blend Cajun Seasoning because it provides the perfect spiciness and saltiness that a perfect Cajun butter dipping sauce demands. You can get more intense flavored Cajun Butter recipe taste by using a dash of our Butter blend, too.
Enhancing the Flavor
On its own, the Cajun butter sauce is delicious for topping seafood or as a dipping sauce. One of the things that makes this recipe so much fun is that it is the perfect canvas to get creative and really crank up the flavors to enhance cajun seafood.
Adding Smokiness with Garlic
One of our favorite things to do is add smoked garlic to the butter sauce when it is boiling. We usually toss a head or two of garlic in the smoker pretty much every time we are smoking. The heads smoke for about two hours and develop a rich, smoky flavor and a distinct paste-like texture. Turning the basic recipe into a Cajun Garlic butter sauce is easy and adds a depth of flavor to the sauce that is wonderful.
Alternative Ways to Add Garlic
If you don't happen to have smoked garlic laying around, you can chop or press fresh garlic into the sauce as it boils. You can also gently sauté sliced or minced garlic until light golden brown before adding it to the sauce.
Spicing it Up
Some people like it spicy and it couldn't be easier to pump up the heat on this basic recipe. Our Cajun blend has a good dose of spicy peppers in it, but you can easily add extra cayenne pepper to add more spice. Add peppers after the cooking stage when the seasonings go in.
Storing the Cajun Butter Sauce
You can make this Cajun sauce recipe ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Then, when you are ready, just reheat the butter sauce over low heat. Don't heat butter sauce for seafood too quickly or it will burn.
Freezing Tips for Cajun Spicy butter sauce
If you happen to have leftover sauce you can easily freeze cajun butter sauce. Simply put it in an airtight container and place it in the freezer. We often like to use zip-top plastic bags for freezing sauce. Lay them flat on a cookie sheet to freeze and they are easy to store without taking up a bunch of room.
Cajun Butter Sauce Recipe
- 1 cup water or milk for a creamier texture
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Four sticks of butter, unsalted, room temperature
- Bearded Butcher Blend Cajun Seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons or more to taste
- Options: Add sautéed, smoked, or fresh garlic. Add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, or extra cayenne pepper. Squeeze the juice of one lemon in at the end to add zestiness for an easy Cajun seafood sauce.
- Whisk together cornstarch and milk or water until smooth
- Heat butter until just melted
- Slowly add cornstarch mixture to the butter mixture, whisking to incorporate
- Bring to a low boil and cook for five minutes.
- Remove from heat and add Cajun seasoning, lemon juice, or peppers for a spicy butter sauce. Whisk well and serve warm. Refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze for up to two months.
How to Serve this Garlic Butter Seafood Sauce
Pour the warm Cajun butter sauce into individual bowls or ramekins to serve. The sauce can be used to pour any type of seafood including crab legs, lobster tails, and shrimp. One of the things that we like to do with our seafood boil is to add sweet corn on the cob and small potatoes. The Cajun Garlic Butter sauce is perfect on boiled potatoes.
This easy Cajun butter sauce recipe is quick to whip up and uses common ingredients, so there isn't any need to run all over town for the key things. You can use Cajun seasonings in the seafood boil and then add the same seasonings to the butter sauce to make a flavorful sauce. This recipe works just as well for seafood as it does for things like broccoli crowns, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
The best thing about this sauce recipe is the versatility it offers. Adding different spices, herbs, and flavors can result in unique and complex dipping sauces that are delicious with lots of different meals.