Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole

4.79 from 33 votes
2 hours
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Creamy Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole with rice has a Southern flair and is an elegant, luxurious dish suitable for the holidays, dinner parties, or any special occasion. A lovely Roasted Beet Salad on the side will get you rave reviews!

“This was delicious! It was not heavy, very light. Both my husband and I really enjoyed it!”

Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole in white baking dish with serving spoon scooping up shrimp and crab.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

This Southern seafood casserole recipe was given to me many years ago by a personal chef client who wanted me to make it for them. She got it from her mother-in-law so this seafood casserole recipe has deep roots.

I added it to my recipe repertoire and began making it for personal chef clients. It became one of my go-to and most often requested recipes for seafood lovers.

Over time, the inability to find some of the ingredients like cream of shrimp soup called for in the original seafood casserole recipe (and many southern-style casseroles) required me to make some changes. I’m not a fan of canned cream soup anyway because of the processed taste so replaced it with easily obtainable ingredients.

This lovely creamy Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole is:

  • Perfect for holidays and special occasions.
  • Easy to make.
  • Can be made ahead of time.
  • Elegant!

Let’s make it!

Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole in baking dish with serving spoon scooping some of the casserole out.

How to Make a Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this Southern seafood casserole recipe along with how to prep the ingredients. See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.

Ingredients for Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Butter: I always use unsalted butter in cooking, which allows me to set the salt level to taste.
  • White Rice: I highly recommend using converted rice (also known as parboiled rice) because it will be firmer and less sticky than conventional white rice in the finished casserole. To make converted/parboiled rice, it’s steamed before the husks are removed which causes the grains to absorb the nutrients from the husk. It is then dried. Because of that process, converted rice is more nutritious than regular white rice and so much easier to cook. Brands include Ben’s and Zatarain’s.
  • Half and Half: Half and half is a combination of whole milk and heavy cream. You can use just heavy cream but I don’t recommend using all milk; the casserole will be thin.
  • Mayonnaise: A southern seafood casserole just needs mayonnaise! Our favorite brand of mayonnaise is Duke’s which is a Southern staple. Use your favorite brand of mayonnaise. I don’t recommend using reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise.
  • Shrimp: I only use WILD-CAUGHT shrimp for my personal chef clients and at home.  Wild-caught shrimp has a superior texture to farmed shrimp which may be produced under questionable circumstances. I highly recommend using uncooked shrimp and cooking it yourself because the texture will be superior. Wild-caught shrimp holds up better to being reheated.
  • Tomato Puree: Tomato puree is made by cooking and straining tomatoes. The difference between tomato paste, sauce and crushed tomatoes is consistency. Tomato puree has a thicker consistency and deeper flavor than tomato sauce but is not as thick as paste.
  • Water Chestnuts: Although called chestnuts, water chestnuts are not nuts at all. They’re aquatic tuber vegetables that are surprisingly high in nutrition, fiber and antioxidants according to Healthline. Water chestnuts add crunch and texture without competing with the seafood flavor of this shrimp and crab casserole.
  • Crab: Use jumbo lump crab if possible. Although all the crab sold worldwide is wild-caught, I prefer to stick with crab from U. S. waters.  In some parts of the world, crab is caught in ways that are illegal, not environmentally friendly or use unfair labor practices.
  • Breadcrumbs: I used fresh coarse breadcrumbs, but panko (also known as Japanese breadcrumbs which are dried) may be substituted. You want something with some texture for the topping.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients for the seafood casserole.
  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Butter, oil or spray a baking dish such as a 13 x 9-inch or large gratin dish with cooking spray.
  • Cook the shrimp: Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Generously salt the water and add some black pepper to help season the shrimp. Drop the shrimp into the water and cook briefly–no more than 1 to 2 minutes or until it just turns pink–BE CAREFUL TO NOT OVERCOOK IT. Drain in a colander and run cold tap water over the shrimp to cool them quickly so they don’t continue to cook.
Cooked shrimp in glass bowl.
  • Cook the vegetables and rice: Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a large high-sided saucepan. Add the onion, celery and red bell pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. (Do not brown the vegetables.)
Cooked onions, celery and red bell pepper in white Dutch oven being stirred with white spoon.
  • Add the water and 1 teaspoon of salt, along with a pinch or two of black pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Add the rice. Bring back up to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and let stand covered for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the rice/vegetables to a large mixing bowl and let it cool slightly, approximately 5 to 6 minutes or until it’s not steaming as much.
Cooked rice and vegetables in glass bowl.
  • Add the water chestnuts, half and half, mayonnaise, tomato puree, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg and 3 tablespoons chopped parsley to the rice. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.
  • Assemble the seafood casserole: Transfer approximately 1/3 of the rice combination to the prepared baking dish.
  • Top with half the shrimp and gently press it into the rice, then scatter with half the crab. Spread another 1/3 of the rice combination over the shrimp and crab, followed by the remaining shrimp (again pressing that layer of shrimp into the rice) and crab, followed by the remaining rice.
  • Combine the coarse breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, then scatter the breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole.
  • MAKE AHEAD: Can be assembled 1 day ahead of time to this point. Cover and refrigerate.
Assembled casserole in white baking dish with breadcrumb topping.
  • Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until heated through. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking to crisp up the breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.
Baked Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole on blue background with blue napkin and serving spoon.

That’s it! A creamy, Southern seafood casserole with shrimp and crab and no additive and preservative-filled canned cream soup.

Baked Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole on blue background with blue napkin.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • You want a high-sided saucepan when cooking the vegetables because the vegetables will have a harder time burning or browning. Butter has a very low smoke point, but the steam created when cooking the vegetables won’t evaporate as quickly as in a shallow pan.
  • Layering the seafood casserole rather than mixing everything and pouring it into the prepared baking dish allows you to evenly distribute the shrimp within the rice. Cooked crab shreds and comes part easily, so scattering it over the layers will keep the lump crab intact.
  • To bump up the seafood flavor, substitute one 8-ounce bottle of clam juice for 1 cup of water.
Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole in white baking dish with serving spoon scooping up shrimp and crab.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I put raw shrimp into a seafood casserole?

Well, yes you can, but it’s safer to cook the shrimp first and then just reheat the seafood casserole. If you put raw shrimp into the casserole, you must make sure ALL the shrimp have been cooked through until they’re firm and pink for the safety of your guests. If you use wild shrimp as I highly recommend, they can withstand a second heating if not overcooked in the first place.

What other seafood can I put in a Southern seafood casserole besides shrimp and crab?

Scallops would be an ideal substitute for either the shrimp or crab called for in this seafood casserole recipe. I would highly recommend searing the scallops first to get a little color, cutting them into quarters then adding them to the casserole. (See this Seared Sea Scallops post for how to sear them.). Lobster would also be very lovely in this seafood casserole.

Can I make a seafood casserole ahead of time?

Yes, absolutely! This Shrimp and Crab Casserole can be made a day ahead of time. Cover and then refrigerate it.  Let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing it in a preheated oven.  Cover the casserole loosely with aluminum foil then bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking so that the breadcrumbs get crispy.

Can this seafood casserole be frozen?

It is not ideal, but I have done it that way for personal chef clients. I recommend leaving the breadcrumbs off as they could get soggy if any ice crystals form. Cool it down completely then wrap it up well and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator. Leave the baking dish out at room temperature while the oven preheats and add a little extra time as the baking dish will be cold.

Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole in white baking dish with serving spoon scooping up shrimp and crab.

Storage:

  • Refrigerate any leftovers. Consume within 3 to 4 days. Reheat any leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees until heated through to 165 degrees in the center.

Serve with:

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Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole in white baking dish with serving spoon scooping up shrimp and crab.

Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole

4.79 from 33 votes

Click to Rate!

By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
Creamy Shrimp and Crab Seafood Casserole with rice has a Southern flair and is an elegant, luxurious dish suitable for the holidays, dinner parties or for any special occasion.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Fish and Seafood
Cuisine American, Southern
Servings 8
Calories 405 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/4 pounds large peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp - (21-30 count) tails removed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons butter - divided
  • 1 medium onion - finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery - chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper - finely chopped
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups white long-grain rice - preferably converted or parboiled rice
  • 1 can (5-ounce) whole water chestnuts - halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise - preferably full-fat
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper - or to tolerance
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley - divided
  • 1 container (8-ounce) jumbo lump crab - drained, rinsed and picked over for any shell fragments
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter, oil or spray a baking dish such as a 13 x 9-inch or large gratin dish with cooking spray.
  • COOK THE SHRIMP: Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt and black pepper. Add the shrimp and cook 1-2 minutes or until it just turns pink–BE CAREFUL TO NOT OVERCOOK IT. Drain and run cold tap water over the shrimp to cool it quickly.
  • COOK THE VEGETABLES AND RICE: Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a large high-sided saucepan. Add the onion, celery and red bell pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. (Do not brown the vegetables.)
  • Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch or two of black pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the rice. Bring back up to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes. Turn the heat off and let stand covered for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the rice/vegetables to a large mixing bowl and let it cool slightly, 5-6 minutes or until it's not steaming as much.
  • ADD: Add the water chestnuts, half and half, mayonnaise, tomato puree, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg and 3 tablespoons chopped parsley to the rice in the bowl. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.
  • ASSEMBLE THE CASSEROLE: Transfer 1/3 of the rice combination to the prepared baking dish. Top with half the shrimp and gently press it into the rice then scatter with half the crab. Top that with another 1/3 of the rice combination, followed by the remaining shrimp (pressing that layer into the rice) and crab, followed by the remaining rice.
  • Combine the coarse breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, then scatter the breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole.
  • Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes or until heated through to 165 degrees in the center. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking. Serve immediately.

Notes

MAKE AHEAD:  Can be made 1 day ahead of time, cover and refrigerate.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing in a preheated oven.  Bake loosely covered with the foil for 50-60 minutes, removing the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking to crisp up the breadcrumbs.
NOTE ON FREEZING:  It is not ideal, but I have done it that way for personal chef clients. I recommend leaving the breadcrumbs off as they could get soggy if any ice crystals form. Cool it down completely then wrap it up well and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator. Leave the baking dish out at room temperature while the oven preheats and add a little extra time as the baking dish will be cold.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 405kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 89mg | Sodium: 608mg | Potassium: 332mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1019IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 2mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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Recipe Rating




14 Comments

    1. Hi, Lisa, Thanks so much for your question. Yes, here’s what a I told another reader not long ago: “It is not ideal, but I have done it that way for personal chef clients. I would recommend leaving the breadcrumbs off as they could get soggy if any ice crystals form. Cool it down completely then wrap it up well and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator. Leave the baking dish out at room temperature while the oven preheats and add a little extra time as the baking dish will be cold.” Thanks again and hope you enjoy.

    1. Hi, Diane, Thanks so much for your question. It is not ideal, but I have done it that way for personal chef clients. I would recommend leaving the breadcrumbs off as they could get soggy if any ice crystals form. Cool it down completely then wrap it up well and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator. Leave the baking dish out at room temperature while the oven preheats and add a little extra time as the baking dish will be cold. Thanks again so very much and happy you enjoyed!!

  1. 5 stars
    I was wondering if I could substitute broth thickened with cornstarch for half and half? I know it won’t be the same but can’t have any dairy products.

    1. Hi, Rebecca, Thanks so much for your question. Yes, you can, and perhaps add a little more mayonnaise for creaminess. Have you tried a plant-based coffee creamer? I used those a lot as a dairy substitute for one particular client who could not have dairy. Thanks again and hope you enjoy!

  2. 5 stars
    I have a recipe like this but it calls for the mushroom soup. Can’t wait to try this. I am going to add a little cayenne and Cajun seasoning. I know some people don’t like it when you change the recipe a little. I love it. I always read the comments when trying a new recipes and often the little additions people make, I go Wow, I need to add that too. I love seafood! I will post after trying for Sunday dinner. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi, Renee, Thanks so much for your comment. It did, but I can see it may have been confusing; I’ve clarified the recipe. Thanks again and let me know if you have any other questions.

  3. 5 stars
    Wow! Seafood casserole doesn’t get any better than this! I don’t have any other recipes that combine shrimp and crab – and I don’t think I need to look any further LOL. We can’t get enough of this one. Thanks for sharing!