Po' boy sandwiches are a classic Louisiana staple, an easy and delicious little indulgence to prepare in your own kitchen, with fresh, delicious ingredients. My po' boy sandwich recipe is stuffed full of crispy, golden, corn-meal crusted shrimp and slathered in my spicy Creole mayo, then topped with tangy pickles, fresh tomatoes and shredded romaine!
A Little Taste of Louisiana
When a particular food has an interesting backstory, it seems to carry with it a bit of magic and sparkle, and the deep, rich taste of history.
Take a po' boy sandwich for example, also known as a “poor boy”, which came into existence in 1929 during a streetcar conductor strike in New Orleans...
The Martin Brothers, who owned Martin Brother's Coffee Stand and Restaurant (and who themselves had previously been streetcar conductors) wanted to show their support for the striking workers by feeding them after a long day on the picket line.
They came up with the “poor boy” sandwich which made use of New Orleans French bread (crusty on the outside and super soft on the inside), and filled it with either meat such as roast beef, or fried seafood, then “dressed” these sandwiches with slices of tomato, shredded lettuce and a mayo-based sauce.
As the hungry strikers would enter their sandwich line, the brothers would shout out “Here comes another poor boy!” and then prep and serve up these delicious yet inexpensive sandwiches, known as a “po' boy” to the men, to fill their rumbling bellies.
For me, learning a bit of the history of a food makes me very excited to try it out, not only because I long to experience the flavors of it, but because it ignites in me the feeling of creativity to come up with my own unique slant on a traditional staple, all while honoring the original spirit of a dish.
Enter these shrimp po' boy sandwiches, brimming with crispy, golden-fried shrimp sprinkled with a mildly spicy seasoning, slathered in a spicy creole mayo, and “dressed” with briny pickle slices, fresh tomatoes, plus cool shredded romaine, piled into soft French rolls.
Absolutely mouthwatering, these po' boy sandwiches are a really fun and delicious way to enjoy a simple-yet-classic Louisiana offering in comfort of your own kitchen!
My Po' Boy Recipe with Shrimp
For this tasty version of a po' boy sandwich, I'm opting for cornmeal-crusted, fried shrimp and all the fixings, which is my favorite way to enjoy this sandwich.
I love a bit of a spicy kick as well, so I'm using some Creole seasoning along with some cayenne pepper in not only the coating for the shrimp, but also the mayo-based sauce that gets slathered generously onto the bread.
Because a shrimp po' boy can be a little on the rich side, since the shrimp is fried and the sauce is creamy, offsetting things with some bright and tangy pickle slices, fresh tomatoes and shredded greens offers some balance, and makes each bite utterly irresistible.
Here's a sneak peek at my po' boy sandwiches recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I prep my spicy Creole mayo to have ready to spread generously onto my French rolls before adding the filling.
- Then, I prepare my shrimp by quickly marinating it in seasoned buttermilk, then drain and dredge it in a combo of seasoned cornmeal and flour.
- I quickly fry the coated shrimp for 2 ½ minutes until a pale golden color, then drain them on a wire rack for a minute or two.
- To assemble the po' boy sandwiches, I spread some of the spicy Creole mayo on the French roll, add some pickle slices to the bottom, followed by tomato slices and shredded romaine, then top with the crispy-fried shrimp, cover with the top roll, and enjoy!
Po' Boy Sandwiches
by Ingrid Beer
These po' boy sandwiches are chock-full of golden, cornmeal-crusted shrimp, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, plus a spicy Creole mayo!
Yield: Serve 4
Nutrition Info: 750 calories per sandwich
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Po' Boy Sandwich Ingredients:
- 1 ¼ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (26/30 count)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Black pepper
- 1 ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided use
- 1 ¼ cups cornmeal (medium grind)
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
- Peanut oil, for frying
- 4 soft, medium-large French rolls, or 1 large French loaf cut into 4 equal pieces
- Pickle slices, optional topping
- Shredded romaine lettuce, optional topping (about 2 cups)
- Sliced tomatoes, optional topping
Spicy Creole Mayo Ingredients:
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Creole mustard
- 1 tablespoon pickle juice (or 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Creole seasoning
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or your preferred level of spiciness)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- Pinch of two of salt
- Pinch of two of black pepper
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of your spicy Creole mayo ingredients according to the ingredient list to have them ready and organized for use.
- Add all of the spicy Creole mayo ingredients to a bowl, and whisk together until completely blended; keep cold in the fridge until ready to use.
- Next, gather and prep all of your sandwich ingredients according to the ingredient list above to have ready and organized for use.
- Place your shrimp into a bowl, and add the buttermilk, a couple of good pinches of salt (about ½ teaspoon worth), a couple of pinches of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper, and toss to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate/soak for a few minutes.
- Prepare your coating by adding your cornmeal, flour, Creole seasoning and the remaining ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus a couple of good pinches of salt and black pepper to a large bowl, and whisk to combine.
- Drain your shrimp of the buttermilk using a sieve or a strainer, and while it drains for a minute or two, begin to slowly heat your peanut oil in a medium-large pot or deep Dutch oven until it reaches 370° on a digital thermometer. (You'll need enough oil to come up about 3” in the pot, roughly 5 to 6 cups worth.)
- While the oil heats, dredge batches of the the shrimp in the cornmeal/flour mixture, and place onto a platter or large plate to hold.
- Once the oil is hot, add batches of the shrimp (about 6 at a time) carefully into the hot oil, frying for 2 ½ minutes, until a light golden color. Remove with a slotted spoon or wire spider, and place the shrimp onto a wire rack set over paper towels to drain. (At this point, you can season with extra salt and Creole seasoning/cayenne, if desired.) Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
- To assemble the po' boy sandwiches, slice the French roll in half horizontally. Then, if you'd like to create more space, remove a little of the center of the bread to hollow out some space for the ingredients to be piled in. This is not necessary, however.
- Slather on a generous amount of the spicy Creole mayo all over the both the bottom and top of the roll, and layer some pickle slices onto the bottom roll. Next, add the tomato slices and some shredded romaine, and top with about 6 to 8 fried shrimp, depending on their size. Cover with the top roll, squeeze the sandwich together tightly, and enjoy.
Tips & Tidbits for my Po' Boy Sandwiches:
- Medium shrimp (26/30 count) for juicy bites: This size shrimp is great for these po' boy sandwiches, since the shrimp shrinks a bit as it cooks in the oil, and plumps up. Add about 6 to 8 fried shrimp per sandwich, depending on the size of the shrimp. And opt for peeled deveined shrimp, if possible, as these are much easier to work with.
- Soft, French rolls or a large French loaf as the vessel: The best kind of bread for these sandwiches is the super soft French bread or rolls, as this is what is used traditionally in Louisiana (they use New Orleans French bread, which has a very soft interior and crisp outer crust). If you can find medium-size individual French rolls, then opt for those. Or, use a large French loaf and cut that into 4 equal servings.
- Choose your toppings: Since this sammy has lots of rich flavors from the crispy shrimp and spicy creole mayo, adding some fresh, bright toppings helps to cut the richness and balance things out. I love briny pickle slices, and use my homemade dill pickle recipe for this sandwich. The lettuce and tomato offer cool, fresh flavor as well.
- Reheat leftover shrimp: If you have some leftover shrimp, you can reheat it in a toaster oven on broil (or 400°) for a few minutes, to re-crisp and heat up. Then, you can proceed with building another yummy sandwich!