Jen Hatmaker’s Favorite Recipe: Spicy Cajun Shrimp Po’boys

This delicious ode to NOLA makes a bit of a mess, but the bestselling author swears “the taffy is worth the pull”

Photo: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

We moved to Houma, Louisiana, the summer before my fourth-grade year, and on the second night we were there, we went to a crawfish boil and ate alligator. It was the most extra thing that had ever happened to me in my whole life of nine years. Having hailed from a region where the adjective “spicy” was added to a menu item if it had any black pepper in it, this was completely off the rails. I’d never even seen a bottle of hot sauce. We were real culinary cream puffs.

Anyhow, it took about one week to discover po’boys, and we bought our first batch literally from a shack next to the bayou (I fact-checked this with my dad, and the credibility is “dubious,” but honestly? Come at me, bro). As the story goes, the Martin brothers, streetcar conductors turned restaurant owners in New Orleans in the 1920s, served these sandwiches to their former streetcar coworkers during a strike. Every time a striker would walk into their restaurant, Benny Martin would whisper to his brother, “Here comes another poor boy…,” and thus this delightful name wrapped in a class insult was born. History!

Life has no real meaning if you aren’t making and eating po’boys. This is my favorite recipe. And let me say up front: battering, breading, and frying food is such an ordeal, an ordeal, I say, so I only do it when the taffy is worth the pull, and trust me, it’s worth it here. This will make a real mess, and you will still write me and say “THANK YOU, JEN HATMAKER.” One final note: Don’t you dare look at this ingredient list and turn the page because it feels too long. Almost all of this is in your spice rack and the door of your refrigerator. Everyone calm down.

This feeds eight. Halve it if you’re feeding fewer people than I am, which is probably everyone. Dear Lord. —Jen Hatmaker, from her new cookbook, Feed These People: Slam-Dunk Recipes for Your Crew

See Jen Hatmaker’s Pimento Cheese with Candied Jalapeños and Green Chile Chorizo Queso.


  • Spicy Cajun Shrimp Po'boys (Serves 8)

  • for the RÉMOULADE

    • 1¼ cups mayo

    • 1 large garlic clove, smashed and minced

    • 1 tbsp. prepared horseradish

    • 2 tsp. whole-grain mustard

    • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

    • 2 tsp. hot sauce

    • 2 tsp. Creole seasoning

    • 1 tbsp. paprika

    • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper

    • 2 tsp. pickle juice, dill or sweet (Hatmaker writes: “bread-and butter pickles are one of my core values.")

    • Salt

  • for the shrimp

    • 2 lb. peeled and deveined large shrimp

    • 2 tbsp. Creole seasoning

  • for the shrimp batter

    • 1 cup flour

    • ½ cup cornstarch

    • ½ tsp. baking powder

    • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

    • 1 tbsp. onion powder

    • 1 tbsp. garlic powder

    • 2 tbsp. Creole seasoning

    • 1½ cups beer (light- or medium-bodied; Hatmaker uses Shiner Bock)

  • for the shrimp breading

    • 4 cups panko bread crumbs

  • for assembly

    • 8 French rolls

    • 2 or 3 tomatoes, sliced

    • Thinly sliced iceberg lettuce

    • Pickles


  1. Preheat your oven to 250°F and set a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Fill your cast-iron skillet, pot, or deep fryer with oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat it up to 350°F. (I like to use my massive cast-iron skillet because I can fry more shrimp at once instead of in 7,000 batches.)

  2. While that’s heating up, throw everything on the rémoulade list into a bowl and whisk to combine. This is all up for grabs. Too tangy? Add mayo. Too flat? Add pickle juice. Too spicy? Go with God. This gets better the longer it sits, so keep it in the fridge for an hour at least, too. Better yet, make it way earlier and tick something off the dinner list.

  3. Rinse your shrimp, throw it in a bowl, and toss it with the Creole seasoning. Set it aside while you do the next bit. (Do I buy frozen shrimp that has already been cleaned, peeled, and deveined? You know good and damn well I do. If you think I’m going to peel 2 pounds of raw shrimp for this and then still have to BATTER AND FRY IT, you’ve lost your mind.)

  4. Whisk everything on the batter list in a bowl, then throw in the shrimp. Let them swim in the batter for 10 minutes or so while you slice the rolls and tomatoes and lettuce.

  5. Panko time. This is where the crunch factor gets meta. I was going to let this go, but dredging (like an assembly line to batter your shrimp) can turn into a real clumpy shitshow, so here’s your trick: Spread a cup or so of the panko in a shallow dish, place your battered shrimp in a single layer on the panko, then just sprinkle more panko over the top. Replenish the bottom layer of panko before each batch. Otherwise, it starts to resemble kitty litter, and now you’ll never forget that disgusting comparison. You’re welcome.

  6. As you dredge the shrimp, set them aside on a pan, then fry in batches in the hot oil until golden brown on both sides. This takes anywhere between 3 and 5 minutes. Put each finished batch on the prepared rack and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the rest. (Do you see the dish-and-pan situation I have created for you? It is no joke up in here.)

  7. A word about the bread: If you have room for this in your heart, please get French rolls the Martin brothers would be proud of. Bakery bread, you know what I’m saying? A little chewy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. Don’t mess around. Otherwise, putting all this deliciousness on inferior bread is like lipstick on a pig.

  8. Now build those beautiful sammies. I like rémoulade on the bottom, then tons of shrimp, then more rémoulade, because the only thing better than sauce is more sauce. Pile on the lettuce and tomato slices and pickles. This po’boy is actually too good. It is too sexy for this cookbook.

  9. NOTES:


  10. Alternative Batter: Buttermilk plus Creole seasoning

  11. Alternative Breading: Seasoned cornmeal

  12. No-Damns Alternative: Frozen breaded shrimp

From Feed These People by Jen Hatmaker. Copyright © 2022 by Jen Hatmaker. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.