Dao Family Crawfish Sauce

A Vietnamese-Cajun crawfish boil is just what it sounds like—bright red mudbugs flavored with ingredients that nod to both cultures. In this family recipe, shared by Houston native and writer Dan Q. Dao, crawfish are first boiled with corn and potatoes, then cooled down, before they are tossed into an container or cooler filled with this chunky, spicy, fiery sauce made with orange peels, onions, garlic, butter, and plenty of spices. While crawfish boil seasoning and cayenne pepper are expected ingredients, a good amount of lemon pepper and black pepper add a surprising kick. The crawfish marinate in this mixture for at least five minutes until they are delicious through and through. Dao describes it as "high-intensity flavor on the inside and outside—a simple tweak that launched an unprecedented crawfish craze spreading from Houston's Chinatown to Los Angeles and the Midwest." While Viet-Cajun crawfish boils (both at home and in restaurants) have become popular across the South, particularly in coastal areas like Houston, it's not clear who originally popularized this dish, and recipes can vary from family to family. Dao's family recipe takes a bit of time to prepare but it's well worth the effort. To get a head start on this dish, you can prepare the sauce and store it, covered, in the refrigerator up to two days. Simply reheat the sauce until hot before adding the cooked crawfish, corn, and potatoes.

Dao Family Crawfish Sauce
Photo: Cedric Angeles
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
about 2 1/2 quarts


  • 2 large oranges

  • 1 1/4 pounds yellow onions, minced (4 1/2 cups)

  • 1/3 pound peeled garlic cloves (from 2 large heads)

  • 1/2 cup granulated garlic

  • 1/2 cup lemon pepper

  • 1/4 cup black pepper

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper, or to taste

  • 1 (3-oz.) pkg. spicy crawfish boil seasoning (such as Zatarain's Extra Spicy Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil in Bag)


  1. Peel oranges using a vegetable peeler; place orange peel strips in a large stock-pot. (Reserve remaining oranges for another use.) Add remaining ingredients to the pot. Add enough water to cover mixture by 1 inch. Cover, and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. (Reheat over high until hot, about 5 minutes.)

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