Lowcountry boil is less a recipe than an idea

Lowcountry boil. Image by stusic via Flickr

Some background:

When people talk about the Lowcountry,  they’re talking about the region of South Carolina along the coast near the Georgia line, but you’ll find Lowcountry cooking in both states.

Because it’s so good, so basic, people just assume the recipe’s been around for years, but it’s credited to a National Guardsman on duty in the 1960s who needed an easy way to feed 100 soldiers.

He was from a place in South Carolina called Frogmore, so they called it Frogmore stew. I’m glad the name didn’t stick.

It’s a 1-pot meal that would be great for a Labor Day weekend get-together. Here’s why:

  1. It’s good. It has shrimp and sausage and corn and potatoes. Who doesn’t like shrimp (besides people with allergies)?
  2. It’s easy to make. When we were in Savannah a few weeks ago, I found a cookbook, called  The Savannah Cookbook, that pointed out that Lowcountry boil is less a specific recipe than a general idea. No two cooks make it the same way. You throw everything into a big stockpot and boil it. That’s it. It’s pretty hard to mess up.
  3. It’s party food. It’s easy enough to make a batch for a few people, but it’s just as easy to feed the whole neighborhood. Plus, you’re supposed to serve Lowcountry boil by draining it and dumping everything out onto a picnic table covered with newspapers. How cool is that?

Ingredients (serves 8, but it’s easy to scale up or down)

  • 4 tablespoons of shrimp boil spice or Cajun seasoning, to taste
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 Vidalia onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 pounds of sausage, such as kielbasa, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds of new potatoes
  • 8 ears of corn, shucked and snapped in two
  • 4 pounds of shrimp


  1. Fill a stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the spice, butter, onion and sausage. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, until they’re almost tender.
  3. Add the corn and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp is pink. Shrimp cooks fast, so you don’t want to leave them in any longer than 3 minutes.
  5. Drain and pour everything onto a platter or picnic table covered with newspapers. Serve with cocktail sauce, melted butter and lemon wedges.

13 thoughts on “Lowcountry boil is less a recipe than an idea

  1. I don’t like shrimp. :-) At all. Never did. I don’t like any seafood. And now I’m vegetarian, so even if I liked it, I wouldn’t eat it. So there. Now you know of someone who genuinely doesn’t like shrimp and isn’t allergic. :-)

    When I lived in southeast Georgia, people had low country boils all the time. They usually cooked them up to raise money for something. It’s a cool idea for a social gathering, even if I’d never eat it!

    1. Congrats on going vegetarian. I’ve thought about it, but it seems like it would take a lot of work. (I’m just that lazy.) I wonder if you could do a Lowcountry boil with tofu?

      P.S. It’s OK that you don’t like shrimp. I hate peaches. NOBODY hates peaches, but I do. I’ve even gone so far as to tell people I’m allergic so they’ll stop bugging me about how I could possibly hate peaches.

      1. I hate peaches, too! I used to be a really picky eater, but I’ve gotten better. I thought maybe I was wrong about hating peaches in the past, so I tried a peach a few months ago and I still hate them. My daughter loves them.

        You could probably do it with tofu, but unless you’re feeding 100 vegetarians, what’s the point?

        I still do dairy and eggs, so it’s easier than vegan. It really isn’t that much work — no more than eating meat. The only thing you have to worry about is iron, but a supplement and cast iron pans help with that. I had blood work for a physical last year and all my levels were fine, so I’m getting what I need, for sure! I don’t even miss meat. But it’s not for everyone.

      2. It’s a pretty scalable recipe. I made a small batch the other night for my wife and me. You just figure an ear of corn, 4 or 5 new potatoes and ever how much protein per person.

        I hate peaches because, when I was a kid, we went through a spell at home where we had yellow cling peaches EVERY DAY. I just got burnt out on them. People say fresh peaches are different and that I should try them, so I did. I didn’t.

  2. This looks delicious. It does seem like one of those dishes that is best to try prepared in its region by someone who knows how to do it right. Also seems like a great social gathering. Happy Labor Day weekend.

    1. Well, happy Labor Day back! Some regional recipes can be tricky, but this one really is as easy to make as boiling water. Dump it out on those newspapers, and people will think you’ve really done something!

  3. Sounds yummy. I think I might have to make it this weekend.

    P.S.: Did your mom make you eat the peaches after serving Chung King for dinner? :)

      1. I know! That’s why I mentioned it. I remembered you telling me that at one of our Chinese lunches. :)

  4. Umm…surfing a recipe for variations on low country boil and I find out my co-worker doesnt like peaches or Wills and Kate and has a blog! I know it is u bc I viewed Archives, country legend museum-Jan 25, Atlanta! :)

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