Crayfish are called cangrejos de rio in Spanish—literally “river crabs." They are a popular Spanish food, a fresh-water cousin to the lobster, although smaller.
In Spain these crayfish are very popular in stews and shellfish platters, especially in Castilla y León and Aragón. Traditionally the rivers flourished with these small crayfish, though in recent years overfishing and pollution has lead to a decline. The following is our family recipe for crayfish in tomato sauce. We cook the crayfish in a simple sauce of tomato, garlic and white wine for a quick and simple meal. Be sure to serve fresh French-style bread to soak up the tasty sauce.
This crayfish recipe makes four servings as an appetizer or first course. To serve this Spanish crayfish recipe for a main course you'll need to double the quantities and it will serve four. Spaniards would generally serve this as is, with a crusty baguette on the side. But you could also prepare white rice as a side dish to complement the delicious sauce.
Check out more Spanish seafood tapas recipes here.
- 2 lbs. crayfish
- 4 large tomatoes (ripe)
- 3/4 Onion
- 3-4 large cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 6-8 oz. dry white wine
- 4-6 Tbsp. Spanish extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Optional: 1/2 tsp. sugar
- Start by preparing the garlic and onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and finely chop the onion. In a large, deep frying pan or skillet, pour about three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Heat on medium and sauté the onions and garlic until the onion is translucent.
- While the onions and garlic are sautéing, chop the tomatoes into small pieces (about 16 pieces per tomato). We recommend that you use a portable cutting plastic board so you can easily save the tomato juice and pour it into the pan.
- Add a tablespoon or two more of olive oil and then add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, as well as the red pepper flakes. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes.
- While simmering, the chopped tomatoes should form a sauce and begin to thicken a bit. Add salt to taste. If the sauce is too acidic, add a touch (1/2 teaspoon or so) of sugar.
- If you purchased or caught live crayfish, boil water in a large stock pot while the tomato sauce is simmering. Discard any crayfish that are not alive. As soon as the water boils, add the live crayfish to the boiling water and cook until they turn red. After 2-3 minutes, remove the pot from the stove and drain water.
- Add the crayfish to the frying pan and stir well, making sure to coat the crayfish thoroughly with the tomato sauce. Serve immediately.