Orange Juice Adds More Than Just Citrus Flavor To Seafood Boils

The secret ingredient to make your shrimp boil shine is none other than some gold old store-bought orange juice. Of course, per seafood boil proportions, by "some" we mean "several gallons." Emblematic of that famous Southern hospitality, one of the defining characteristics of a proper New Orleans shrimp boil is that there's more than enough to share. (Tools like a garden hose and an ice chest aren't uncommon to make the dish).

It's an elaborate, communal meal that all comes together in a single 12-quart stockpot – which might seem downright tiny considering how much goes into a typical Louisiana seafood boil: live crabs, shrimp, corn on the cob (chunked into segments), button mushrooms, red potatoes, yellow onions, celery, and smoked sausage (often andouille). Crawfish are often thrown into the mix, as well as less common ingredients like artichokes and littleneck clams. The hearty mix is seasoned with a blend of cayenne pepper, tart fresh lemons, sweet oranges, minced garlic — and now, orange juice.

TikToker named Javaris (aka @boilmaster) boils his seafood in orange juice not only for citrus flavor but to balance out all of the many seasonings used in a typical Louisiana-style boil. Orange slices are a fundamental ingredient in a Cajun seafood boil already, but as the chef explains, the addition of the orange juice "balance[s] [the] spices and add[s] that citrus flavor that everybody loves."

Complex flavor from a simple addition

Indeed, a proper Louisiana seafood boil is anything but shy on the spices. In the instructional TikTok, Chef Jayvoo can be seen pouring two large jugs of orange juice into a massive stock pot, topped with a huge container of mixed seasonings including Zatarain's, four jars of paprika, Boil Boosters (one container of the herb flavor and one container of the smashed garlic flavor), six packets of Sazón, a large jar of pre-minced garlic, and liquid crab boil, plus a less common ingredient: Italian dressing.

If you've never worked with it before, sazón is a pungent blend of achiote (a red dried spice extracted from the seeds of the evergreen Bixa orellana shrub), salt, cumin, coriander, garlic, oregano, and pepper — savory without being spicy. Zatarain's is a combination of mustard seed, coriander, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice. The eponymous blend by McCormick is an iconic trademark staple of a Cajun seafood boil — and all of these dimensional seasonings are emphasized by the addition of tart-sweet O.J.

For the orange juice, any affordable store-bought brand will work just fine, but zero-pulp is best to avoid a gritty mouthfeel. Take a cue from NOLA locals and enjoy your flavorful, orange-infused shrimp boil with slices of French baguette dressed with fresh lemon wedges, Old Bay, and a generous slug of melted butter. However you choose to dig into your Cajun shrimp boil, you won't leave hungry.