My kräftskiva, with… shrimp?

What’s a kräftskiva, you may be wondering? Well, a kräftskiva is a traditional Swedish crayfish party – and something to be looked forward to in the calendar if you live in Sweden. Crayfish (or crawfish as some people know them) are cooked in a water solution made of dill, salt, and sugar, and served cold along with, usually, a buffet of cheese and bread, and various other little tasty bites. Everyone sits around cracking shells, sucking out juices and dining on the delicious flesh. Such parties tend to be held during the month of August, which coincides perfectly with my wife’s birthday, and so since a very young age her special birthday meal has often been crayfish – a tradition which I’m more than happy to continue through adulthood, and hey – since my son was also born in August… well, maybe we’ll be able to enjoy two kräftskivor!

What does one do then when you don’t live in Sweden and can’t seem to find a supplier of crayfish anywhere? Even IKEA has now let me down – once the bastion of all things Swedish, and a wonderful source of traditional Christmas hams, crayfish and the like, the food store stocks have now been completely replaced by IKEA’s own brand of products which I find not only significantly lower in quality, but they also seem to not stock crayfish (or Christmas hams!) anymore. Disaster, right? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I was determined to  actually have a crayfish party – it was my wife’s birthday after all!

Fresh shrimp

After spotting a box of large, frozen, raw shrimp in the store I decided to substitute them for crayfish, and cook them in the same way as one would normally prepare crayfish. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I realised the box I’d bought was rather on the large huge side. Sixty large shrimp for a “party” of two – whoops. Still – you can never have too much shrimp, right? Cooked up with dill, salt, and sugar, the final result was not at all dissimilar in flavour to traditionally cooked crayfish. Naturally you didn’t have the delicious legs to break open and enjoy but the meat itself was a worthy substitute.

Dill cooked shrimps

I made some aioli to go with the meal and ate it all with toasted bread and cheese. A successful aioli it was too – I tried the blender method which really did not succeed at all (that’s the second failed mayonnaise I’ve had with the blender now), so then I got traditional and did it the manual, time-consuming way. The result was a luscious, thick, smooth aioli – so thick in fact that I had to loosen it on more than one occasion with some warm water. It feels good to know I’ve cracked mayonnaise and aioli now though, and actually I should probably post that sometime, even though it is such an easy recipe.

Dill cooked shrimps with bread and cheese

So, the next time you find yourself somewhere where they don’t have crayfish, and you’re really hankering for a kräftskiva, try shrimp! At the very least, it’s better than nothing!

In other news, I’m trying out a slightly different format for my recipes – a plugin which makes them a bit more Google-friendly and easier to print and organise. Do let me know what you think – if I like it enough maybe I’ll spend some time one day going through all my older recipes and convert them to this format.

Crayfish-style Shrimp
Serves 4
All the flavour of traditionally cooked Swedish crayfish - this is perfect when you can't get the real deal. Choose the largest, raw shrimp that you can find.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
6 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
6 hr
  1. ~2kg large, frozen, raw Shrimps
For the stock
  1. 140g Salt
  2. 50g Sugar
  3. 3 litres Water
  4. A large handful of fresh Dill
To serve
  1. Toasted bread
  2. Aioli
  3. Cheese
  1. Defrost the shrimps, and then start off by placing the salt, sugar, dill, and water into a large pan.
  2. Bring the water to the boil, and allow to boil for about 10 minutes, before removing from the heat. Remove the dill from the water and discard.
  3. Place the shrimps into the hot water and cover the pan. Return to the heat and bring to the boil once again before removing from the stove and allowing the water to cool.
  4. Once cool, place the shrimps, still in the liquid, into the refrigerator and allow to rest there for at least 4 hours - preferably overnight - to allow the dill flavour to infuse.
  5. When ready to serve, drain the shrimps, peel, and enjoy.
  1. Don't forget - if you *can* get your hands on actual crayfish then that's even better! Cook them in the same way as the shrimps for the original, traditional meal.
Five Euro Food




  1. says

    That’s why my local Ikea was having this crayfish party! I never associated Sweden with crayfish because here, it’s usually Louisiana who’s the expert on crayfish. I have to admit, I don’t like them, but shrimp I don’t mind so I would try your version most definitely!

    Happy, happy birthday to your lovely wife and the littl’un!


    • says

      Thanks Nazneen – you know, even IKEA in France still has crayfish parties, but they don’t put the crayfish for sale… they just keep them for themselves… so unfair!

  2. says

    I was reading kräftskiva in German haha! I just read somewhere yesterday that swedish have crayfish there. I didn’t know. Well the prawns did a good job, didn’t they? Looking very appetizing Charles. =)

  3. says

    Lovely new recipe card Charles! A nice colour too – fresh and eye-catching. I like a party of any kind but I think I would opt for the shrimp here as well (the only crayfish I ever come across are the ones swept up on the sand that I kind of inadvertently step on :(). I’m a huge shrimp fan however and like you, can eat an embarrassing amount of them on my own! I bought a pound of fresh jumbo shrimp here in CA last week — an amount like that would cost me close to $30 in Canada. It was only $10 dollars here!! So naturally, our party of two had no choice but to devour the entire amount – and devour we did ;-). Love the addition of fresh dill here.

  4. says

    Congratulations to your wife and son on their birthdays.

    My nephew and SIL were also born in August so it seems like a lot of great people were born this month. :)

    What an amazing adaptation of a crawfish recipe. It sounds truly delicious. Sorry to hear that the blender aioli failed for you.

    • says

      Thanks A_ – as for the mayo… it was annoying to have to toss so much stuff, but I don’t really mind ultimately. I learned a valuable technique. I’ve always shied away from making mayo before and have tried to find workarounds (such as the blender). Making it from scratch with a whisk was incredibly satisfying (and delicious) and I think I’m going to always follow this method now!

  5. says

    That’s a lovely way to enjoy fresh seafood. I love how you made a simple aioli. And happy birthday to your wife and happy first birthday to William – hasn’t that year just flown! xx

  6. says

    You are a man after my heart, or should I stomach. :) We have a crawfish boil every summer and our friends love it. We do have to fly in about 30 pounds from Louisiana, but it’s so worth it! Wish you could get them from my supplier, but shipping would cost more than the crawfish itself. Very clever to substitute with that beautiful shrimp. I know your wife had a fabulous birthday!

  7. says

    So about 30 shrimp per person, that seems about right to me having a houseful of growing teenagers. Actually, that might not be enough… LOL Lovely dish and very fun for a gathering! Have a super weekend. BAM

  8. says

    Happy birthday to your wife, what s beautiful celebration you had for her, the shrimps look mouth watering. Why add sugar to the water? The aioli looks gorgeous too; in North America they usually serve cocktail sauce with this type of thing (ketchup and horseradish), the aioli would be a welcome change.

    • says

      Thanks Eva – I must admit I’m not entirely sure why sugar is added to the water. It’s the default solution for boiling crayfish in Sweden… dill, sugar, salt, water.

      If I were to guess then I’d think primarily it’s for the flavour – you don’t end up with “sweet” shrimp (or rather crayfish), but since it’s tradition to break off the crayfish claws and suck out the juices, having the sugar probably makes it significantly more palatable.

      It might also be a bit of curing going on, like with gravlax, which is rubbed with sugar and salt. Since the shrimp sit in the water for some hours it gives it all a chance to infuse nicely.

      Regardless, I wouldn’t want to skip the sugar – purely salt and dill on its own wouldn’t be so tasty I think.

  9. says

    I love a good crayfish party! I remember them well from my childhood memories of my Mormor & Morfar in Sweden. Your platter looks lovely despite not being crayfish. I would certainly still enjoy it and you are right again, you can’t have too many shrimp!!
    Side note – love the new recipe format. It looks really very good. I would be interested to know what plug in you are using… xx

    • says

      Thanks Anneli – hopefully in the future we’ll be able to get “real” crayfish… I do enjoy sucking on the claws!

      The recipe plugin is called “Recipe Card”!

  10. says

    Charles, I love crayfish! I used to pick it on my own with a net as a child… I have never bought them at IKEA, but I think what they do with their food products is a disgrace. They “substitutes” are horrible (have you tasted the “replacement” of Daim???? it tastes like dog food…). I have heard about this Swedish tradition and I always found it excellent idea. Anyway, good quality shrimp is always delicious, especially with aïoli :-)

    • says

      Hi Sissi – I’m so jealous… I’d love to pick crayfish. I think you mentioned you’ve seen The Children from the Noisy Village, right? They do it in one of those films… looks so much fun, and so tasty at the end!

      I have tasted the “fake daim”… not good at all :(

  11. says

    I still remember the first time I had crawfish in the US! In Japan kids go get crawfish and keep it as a pet. I was shocked to find out that it’s edible! I have to admit that I really liked it too. 😀 Good idea to replace it with shrimp – so more people will get to enjoy this dish. I would love to eat both kinds!

    • says

      LOL! Crawfish as pets?? That’s so cute!! People keep soft-shelled crabs for pets in Sweden I think, though I never heard of keeping a crayfish :)

  12. says

    Our neighboring city of Tualatin is famouse for annual crawfish festival in August. Is it same thing as crayfish? It must taken you a long time to remove the shell? The plate is super nice and so your photos, you’re very artistic. Love the dish.

    • says

      Thanks Nipponnin – yeah, crayfish is the same as crawfish I think… I think in the US it’s called craw, but Europeans often say cray – no idea why, lol! 😀 And yes… it took AGES to shell them all. Not fun!

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