Chunks of succulent lobster take center stage in this super-easy Boston lobster roll recipe.
Lobster roll fans tend to divide into 2 camps: those who feel that nothing should come between them and the pure sweet taste of lobster fresh from the sea, and those who like a little extra spiciness, seasoning, or non-traditional twist.
This lobster roll recipe starts with Maine lobsters - the kind with the big claws found along the rocky New England coast.
You'll need one 1 1/4 pound lobster to make 2 lobster rolls if you want to be able to pick them up when you eat them.
If you want to fill the buns so full of lobster that it overflows the top and you have to eat them with a fork - which is the way many restaurants here in Boston serve them - then count on making only 1 lobster roll from each 1 1/4 pound lobster.
(Of course, you can also "cheat" and save time by asking your seafood market to boil the lobster for you. Or you might even buy fresh chunks of lobster tail and claw meat already out of the shell - but if you decide to bypass cooking and prepping the lobster yourself, make sure you get the lobster meat at a seafood store that guarantees freshness - meaning the lobster should have been still kicking earlier that day.)
Our basic recipe is for the type of authentic lobster roll that you'll encounter in many Boston seafood restaurants as well as lobster shacks up and down the New England coast. Adorned with only a little mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of pepper, and maybe some finely diced celery, the flavor of freshly cooked lobster meat shines forth - which is why the lobster needs to be really, really fresh!
But we're also including a few easy variations in case you want to spice it up. Fans of the spicy lobster roll recipes will tell you these extra seasonings bring out the flavor of the lobster.
Which is better? You'll have to make both versions and then decide!
- 1-2 freshly cooked lobsters (or very fresh lobster meat)
Prep the Lobster:
You Will Also Need:
- Meat from the claws, knuckles, and tail of a 1 1/4 pound lobster (boil or steam the lobster yourself, or ask your fish market to do it for you), cut into small chunks and remove any cartilage and the dark vein-like organ from the tail; if you're patient, you can pick out the meat from the body to use later for lobster bisque or in a creamy pasta sauce
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (in other words, one tablespoon per lobster)
- 4 lemon wedges
- 1 medium stalk of celery (optional), finely diced
- Pepper (optional)
- 2 New England-style hot dog rolls (they're split along the top - we call them "top-loaders"). If you live outside of New England and can't find these, take a regular hot dog bun and slice off the crust on the bottom and top so that it resembles a New England roll
- 2 - 4 tablespoons of softened butter
- Potato chips or French fries and pickle for serving (optional)
Steps for Making Traditional Boston Lobster Rolls:
1. Mix the lobster meat with the mayonnaise in a bowl. It should very lightly coat the lobster, but not hold it together or even be obviously visible. Of course, if you love mayo, you can add more. Add a sprinkle of pepper. If you're using a grinder, 1 or 2 grinds will be sufficient. Add the diced celery if you want the additional flavor or slight crunch - if not, omit it. Mix again to distribute the pepper and celery. You'll have between 3 - 4 cups of lobster meat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours - any longer, and the lobster may start to seem less fresh.
2. Preheat a skillet (seasoned cast iron works well). Spread the softened butter on both outer sides of each hot dog roll. Place buttered side down in the skillet over medium heat, and toast for 2 - 3 minutes until light golden brown. Flip over, and toast the other side. You can also toast the bottom for a couple of minutes if you want.
3. Now, fill each roll with half of the chilled lobster mixture. That's it! Serve immediately with the lemon wedges, potato chips, and pickles.
Lobster is subtle - slightly sweet, slightly briny, delicate. That's why traditional lobster roll recipes usually go light on the mayo, maybe add just a hint of celery and perhaps pepper, and nothing else.
But you can also add some extra zest to your lobster rolls without totally overwhelming the lobster flavor.
Basically, you do this in two ways:
- Flavor the mayonnaise, and increase the amount of mayo that you use
- Add additional ingredients for extra texture, flavor, or color
Here are several tasty options. Try just one, or combine 2 or 3 for extra impact:
- Use 4 tablespoons mayonnaise. Add 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder, chili powder, or ground cumin, or even better, Cajun seasoning - you could put 1/4 teaspoon - but if you love it, amp up to 1/2 teaspoon.
- Use 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
- Add a dash of cayenne or your favorite hot sauce.
- Add 1 teaspoon fresh (or 1/2 teaspoon dried) chopped herbs to the mayonnaise. Use whatever herbs you prefer - tarragon, basil, parsley, thyme, and even dill work well.
- Finely chop up 2 scallions, including some of the green part. Add to the lobster mixture.
- Finely dice 1/2 sweet red pepper, and add it to the lobster mixture.
- Peel and seed a small (5 inch) cucumber. Let the peeled seedless cucumber drain in a colander for 5 minutes. Use a paper towel to blot up the excess moisture. Chop into small pieces and add to the lobster mixture. It adds an interesting texture, and subtly enhances the flavor. (This idea comes from Boston Chef Jasper White's Summer Shack lobster rolls. If you're visiting Boston, stop by his Back Bay restaurant location and order one for yourself!)