Fried Crawfish Tails

Crispy fried crawfish tails are a great way to use up leftover crawfish! They fry up super quickly, and are perfect for making crawfish po’boys! Dunk them in some crawfish dipping sauce and enjoy!

Fried crawfish and french fries with lemon wedges.

New Orleans and south Louisiana are famous for their seafood, especially crawfish boils! These little crustaceans are delicious when boiled, but they also make up some other celebrated crawfish recipes like crawfish étouffée, crawfish Monica, crawfish bread, crawfish cream sauce, and crawfish po’boys. As we love to do in the south, you can also deep fry crawfish tails!

Recipe Quick Notes

Lauren’s Take: Having leftover crawfish is usually never a problem, but if you find yourself with some crawfish boil leftovers, frying them is a great way to repurpose them! Serve them as a part of a fried seafood platter or on a crawfish po’boy. 

Taste and texture: Fried crawfish are well seasoned, crispy, and a perfect bite sized snack. 

Time: You’ll need an hour to soak the crawfish in a buttermilk solution, but they fry up super quickly. 

Testing Notes: I tested this recipe with buttermilk and with a buttermilk substitute (milk and lemon juice). Both recipes came out well and yielded crispy crawfish, so if you don’t have buttermilk, milk and lemon juice will work. 

Authentic Cajun Tip

Frozen crawfish works great for this recipe, but be sure to purchase real Louisiana crawfish! Many packages can be tricky, and will have a Cajun sounding name, but are really imported from another country. For the best flavor, make sure to check the fine print on the packaging that you are getting real Louisiana crawfish. Places like Louisiana Crawfish Company can ship frozen packs of crawfish tails right to your door!

Expert Tips for Frying Crawfish

  1. Fresh vs frozen crawfish. Fried crawfish is a great way to use up leftover fresh crawfish from a crawfish boil, but frozen crawfish are totally fine to use too! Be sure to check the package that they are authentic Louisiana crawfish. 
  2. Defrosting. Most frozen crawfish packages have some kind of “keep frozen” warning on them. It’s best to defrost crawfish just before using them. Run the package under cold water or soak it in a large bowl of cold water. It should be thawed in less than 20 minutes. 
  3. Taste the dry batter. Different types of salts have different levels of saltiness. I use Diamond crystal kosher salt which tends to be less salty by volume. Before adding crawfish to the flour mixture, taste a pinch of it to make sure it’s properly seasoned. 
  4. Get the oil hot! Hot oil is necessary for a crispy fried coating. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the batter will become soggy. Make sure to check the oil temperature in between batches, and let the oil reheat if necessary before adding the next batch. 
  5. Work in batches. Don’t dump all the crawfish in the pot at once. Depending on the size of your pot, fry 2-4 different batches so they can all crisp up properly. 
  6. Sprinkle with salt. Right after transferring the fried crawfish to a paper towel lined baking rack, sprinkle them with some finishing salt or other flaky salt to make sure they are well seasoned. 

Ingredients & Substitutions

Labeled Ingredients for fried crawfish.

See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and measurements.

  • Crawfish tails – You can use fresh or frozen crawfish tails for this recipe. It’s a great way to repurpose the leftover crawfish tail meat from a crawfish boil. 
  • Buttermilk – Buttermilk helps tenderize the crawfish and acts as a glue for the flour and cornmeal mixture to stick to. You can substitute buttermilk for an equal amount of whole milk plus 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Mix the lemon juice into the milk and let sit for a few minutes before using. 
  • Hot sauce – I prefer using a vinegar based hot sauce when making cajun dishes. Go for a brand like Crystal or Louisiana. 
  • Flour – I use all purpose flour for frying batter. 
  • Cornmeal – I use yellow cornmeal but white cornmeal should also work. 
  • SaltDiamond crystal kosher salt is my salt of preference. It’s very light and flakey, making it easy to season and a little more difficult to over salt. By volume, it’s a little less salty than fine sea salt and a lot less salty than table salt, so adjust accordingly. 
  • Seasonings – Garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper are used to flavor the batter for these fried crawfish. 
  • Frying oil – When deep frying, I use a neutral high heat oil like vegetable oil or canola oil. 

Equipment

When deep frying anything, you want to make sure to use a sturdy heavy pot so that it’s stable on the stove. A deep cast iron skillet, cast iron dutch oven, or heavy stainless steel pot will all work well. You can also use an electric fryer for ease. 

To measure the heat, use a frying thermometer that clips to the side of the pot. A spider strainer is essential for easily scooping fried food out of the hot oil. It’s also helpful for shaking off excess flour coating. 

You will also need paper towels and a baking rack after the crawfish are fried. Maldon salt is a nice flaky salt that is perfect for finishing foods. You can also sprinkle a little Diamond Crystal kosher salt after frying too since it’s also light and flaky.

How to Fry Crawfish Tails

Crawfish soaking in hot sauce and buttermilk.

Step One: Soak

Mix buttermilk and hot sauce together in a container, then add thawed crawfish tails. Stir well to coat all the crawfish. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Crawfish tossed in flour in a strainer.

Step Two: Toss

Combine dry ingredients. Drain buttermilk from the crawfish and gently squeeze out excess liquid. Add crawfish to dry ingredients and shake well so all crawfish are coated. Shake off excess flour mixture from crawfish. 

Use a spider strainer to easily shake the excess flour and cornmeal mixture from the crawfish. A spider strainer is also perfect for adding and removing fried foods from hot oil. 

A scoop of fried crawfish in a spider strainer.

Step Three: Fry

Heat oil to 350°F (175°C). Transfer coated crawfish tails in batches to hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown. Gently stir so they all fry evenly. 

Fried crawfish on paper towels with lemon wedges.

Step Four: Finish

Transfer fried crawfish to a paper towel lined baking rack to absorb excess oil and promptly sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Continue until all crawfish are fried. 

Serve hot with remoulade sauce or cajun ranch and a squeeze of lemon juice and hot sauce! 

Storage & make ahead

Storage: Fried crawfish tails are best served fresh. If needed, store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days in an airtight container. 

Freeze: Do not freeze fried crawfish. 

Reheat: Reheat in the oven on a baking sheet at 350°F (175°C) until warmed through. 

Make ahead: I don’t recommend making this recipe ahead of time. Do not thaw frozen crawfish ahead of time. You can mix together the dry ingredients for batter a few days ahead of time if needed. 

Fried crawfish and fries and a hand dipping a fried crawfish into remoulade sauce.

What to Serve With Fried Crawfish

Make a whole fried seafood platter with fried shrimp and fried oysters. Might as well toss some french fries in the fryer too. My favorite part about fried crawfish is the dipping sauces! Try crawfish dipping sauce, cajun ranch, spicy garlic aioli, cajun tartar sauce, or remoulade sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you fry crawfish?

Yes, you can fry crawfish tails just like you would shrimp. It’s a great way to use up leftover crawfish from a boil. Peel the crawfish tails, soak them in buttermilk, then toss with a flour and cornmeal seasoning mix. Fry for a few minutes until golden brown. 

What does fried crawfish taste like?

Fried crawfish taste similar to fried shrimp. The taste is somewhere between shrimp and crab. They are briny and a little sweet. 

What’s a substitute for buttermilk?

If you don’t have buttermilk, mix about a teaspoon of lemon juice in the desired quantity of whole milk. Let it sit for a few minutes, then use in the recipe as normal. 

More Crawfish Recipes

Need some recipes for leftover crawfish? I have you covered!

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Cajun fried crawfish and french fries with lemon wedges.

Fried Crawfish Tails Recipe

Crispy fried crawfish tails with cajun spices. A great leftover crawfish recipe that's easy to make!
5 from 1 vote
Cook Time 5 minutes
Marinate time 1 hour
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, Cajun
Servings 4 servings
Calories 423 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound crawfish tails

Wet ingredients

  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce

Dry ingredients

Other

  • Oil for frying canola or vegetable oil
  • Finishing salt
  • Lemons optional

Instructions
 

  • THAW: If your crawfish are frozen, soak the frozen package in cold water for about 15 minutes or place under cold running water. They should defrost quickly. Do not thaw ahead of time.
    1 pound crawfish tails
  • SOAK: Combine buttermilk and hot sauce in a container and stir, then add the thawed crawfish. Stir well to coat all the crawfish. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
    ¾ cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • MIX: While the crawfish are soaking, add all the dry ingredients in a large zip top bag, seal, and shake well to combine.
    ½ cup all purpose flour, ½ cup yellow cornmeal, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons diamond crystal kosher salt, 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • HEAT: When the crawfish are almost ready, add about 1 – 1½ inches of oil into a sturdy pot or deep skillet. Heat oil to 350°F (175°C).
  • SHAKE: Drain the buttermilk from the crawfish and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. Transfer the crawfish to the dry ingredients and shake well so all crawfish are coated. Use a spider strainer to lift the crawfish out and shake off excess flour mixture.
  • FRY: Working in batches, transfer battered crawfish to the oil and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown. Gently stir so they all fry evenly. Transfer fried crawfish to a paper towel lined plate or baking rack and promptly sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Continue until all crawfish are fried.

Notes

  • Frozen crawfish tails or leftover crawfish tails from a crawfish boil are both totally fine for this recipe.
  • Buttermilk substitute: mix ¾ cups whole milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice together.  
  • Some of the cornmeal may fall to the bottom of the pot when frying, which is normal. 
  • Storage: Fried crawfish tails are best served fresh. If needed, store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days in an airtight container. 
  • Do not freeze fried crawfish. 
  • Reheat in the oven on a baking sheet at 350°F (175°C) until warmed through. 
  • Make ahead: I don’t recommend making this recipe ahead of time. Do not thaw frozen crawfish ahead of time. You can mix together the dry ingredients for batter a few days ahead of time if needed. 

Nutrition

Calories: 423kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 8gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 16gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 1417mgPotassium: 214mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 297IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 128mgIron: 2mg
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Meet Lauren

I’m the blogger, recipe developer, food photographer, and otherwise food obsessed gal behind Lauren From Scratch. I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived in South Louisiana most of my life. Growing up around Cajun country has instilled a love of food that runs deep in my bones. I am passionate about food and teaching you how to make mouth-watering Louisiana inspired dishes in your own kitchen!


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