The Connecticut lobster roll is a famous New England tradition made from tender and juicy lobster meat dripping in hot butter. It sits on a grilled brioche split-top bun and is topped with fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon. Serve it for lunch or dinner with a bowl of classic New England clam chowder!
I love my lobster rolls hot, dripping with butter with a side of delicious creamy coleslaw! This is a lobster roll in it’s most simple form!
Maine vs. Connecticut style lobster rolls
Here in New England, we have two rivals when it comes to lobster rolls. There’s the classic Maine lobster roll, which is undoubtedly the most famous of the two. It’s lobster chunks tossed in mayo with pieces of chopped celery and a little salt and pepper.
Then you have my favorite, the Connecticut style lobster roll, which is as simple as it comes. Chunks of tender, sweet lobster meat that’s tossed in hot butter with herbs (usually parsley or chives).
Both styles of rolls are served on grilled split top hotdog buns with a squeeze of fresh lemon. The Maine style roll unfairly gets referred to as the classic. What is more classic than lobster meat in hot butter? I digress.
Here’s a very short list of ingredients you’ll need to make these delicious hot lobster rolls.
- Lobster meat – a mixture of claw, knuckle and tail meat is recommended. I used 4 live lobsters weighing a little over a pound each.
- High-quality salted butter – leave the cheap butter for another time. Quality butter is usually deep yellow in color.
- Split top hot dog buns – use brioche ones if you can find them!
- Fresh herbs: typically just chives but I also like to add some fresh parsley and tarragon into the mix!
- Fresh lemon wedges for drizzling the buttered lobster rolls with.
- Black pepper
Refer to the recipe card for quantities and exact measurements.
Step 1: Boil the lobsters
For live lobsters, fill a large stockpot with water and 4 tablespoons of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the lobsters into the water and cover the pot. Boil them for 14 minutes. Transfer the lobsters to a bowl of ice water.
If you’re just using lobster tails, you can use a smaller pot and shorten the boiling time to 10 minutes. Transfer the lobster tails to an ice bath just like you would if you were boiling whole lobsters.
Tip: The lobsters will turn bright red and the tails will curl as they cook. The ice-water bath stops them from cooking in their shells, which can make the meat tough.
Step 2: Shell the claws
Separate the claws from the bodies by twisting them off. Use a nut cracker to break the claws (or a hammer in my case) and make sure to reserve the claw meat and the knuckle meat!
Tip: go easy when using a hammer on the claws, you want to apply just enough force to break the shell. Try to leave the lobster meat as in-tact as you can manage. Also when using a hammer, cover the lobster meat first with an old dish towel. This can be a messy process!
Step 3: Shell the tails
Twist the tails off of the bodies and run them under cold water to clean them. Make sure to rinse the cavity of the tail thoroughly. You don’t want any of the green/yellow stuff left on the tails (which is the pancreas and liver by the way).
I find that it’s easiest to use kitchen shears to cut along the front and back of the tails. Don’t worry if your shears leave marks. You’re going to chop the lobster into chunks anyway.
Steps 4 & 5: Chop the lobster and fresh herbs
Using a kitchen knife, chop the lobster meat up into bite-sized chunks and place in a mixing bowl. Then chop the parsley, chives and fresh tarragon if you haven’t already. Keep the chopped herbs separate from the lobster meat.
Step 6: Grill the buns
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet or griddle. Spread the brioche buns open and lay them flat on the skillet. Grill them for 1-2 minutes on each side. Keep the buns in a warm oven (170°F) while you prepare the lobster meat.
Tip: Some split-top buns may be hard to press flat without breaking. If this is the case, just grill the outsides of the bun.
Step 7: Prepare the lobster filling
Cut the stick of butter in half and place both halves in a clean skillet. Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts completely, mix in the chopped parsley and tarragon.
Add the lobster meat to the pan and toss it in the hot butter. Season with black pepper to taste and turn the flame off.
Step 8: Assemble the lobster rolls
Divide the lobster meat between the 4 buns and top off each lobster roll with fresh chives and a squeeze of fresh lemon! Serve them right away with extra melted butter and lemon wedges on the side.
Sides and Substitutions
Here are some side dishes and alternate ways to serve these lobster rolls:
- Side dishes – coleslaw, corn on the cob, and New England-style clam chowder all pair really well with lobster rolls! Check out the recipes by clicking on the highlighted text!
- Fresh herbs – tarragon tastes a little bit like licorice which some people don’t like. Feel free to omit it and stick with just the chives and/or fresh parsley.
- Buns – I highly recommend using brioche hotdog buns if you can find them. They’re softer, they look prettier and taste slightly sweet. If you can’t find them, regular split-top hotdog buns are fine.
- Frozen lobster meat – usually doesn’t contain shells and is a good alternative if you don’t want to boil live lobsters. Try to find a mixture of claw, knuckle and tail meat.
- Tails only – lobster rolls usually contain a combination of tail and claw meat but if tails are your preference that’s completely fine!
Keep leftover lobster meat in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it by tossing it with some melted butter in a hot skillet. If it already has butter on it, just reheat it in a warm skillet. Do not microwave it or it will turn rubbery!
Recommended tools and tips
You may find these helpful:
- You can boil the lobsters the night before to cut down on prep time.
- If you have trouble breaking the claws with a nutcracker, cover the claws with an old dish towel and use a hammer to crack the claws. Don’t use too much force though, just enough to crack the shell!
- Kitchen shears are highly recommended for cutting the lobster tails and the soft shells between the knuckles.
- I recommend a 10-inch stainless steel skillet for preparing the melted herb butter. You want it to be large enough to sauté the lobster meat.
- A cast iron skillet or griddle works well for toasting the buns
- Silicon tongs are recommended for tossing/sautéing the lobster meat. The soft material keeps the lobster meat in-tact.
Other seafood recipes you’ll love
- Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl – New England Style
- Crab Spinach and Artichoke Dip
- Easy Baltimore Crab Cakes
- Seasoned Fried Calamari
Connecticut Lobster Roll Recipe - No mayo
- 1 pound lobster meat claw, knuckle and tail meat
- 4 tablespoons kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons salted butter + 2 tablespoons for grilling the buns
- ½ teaspoon fresh tarragon chopped
- ½ teaspoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh chives chopped
- pinch black pepper
- 4 split-top hot dog buns brioche preferred
- 1 fresh lemon wedged
- Fill a large stockpot with water and 4 tablespoons of salt. Bring the pot to a boil and lower the lobsters into the water. Boil them for 14 minutes. Once they're fully cooked and bright red in color, place them in a bowl of ice water.
- Separate the tails and claws from the lobster. Use a sharp pair of kitchen shears to cut vertically along the along the front and back of the lobster's tail. Remove the meat from the tails and set aside.
- Use a nut cracker to break open the claws and knuckles. Set aside with the tail meat.
- Using a kitchen knife, chop the lobster meat up into chunks and place in a mixing bowl.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet or griddle. Grill the buns for 1-2 minutes on each side. Keep them in a warm oven (170°F) while you prepare the filling.
- Cut the remaining stick of butter in half and place both halves in a clean skillet. Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, add the chopped parsley and tarragon. Add the lobster meat to the pan and toss until the lobster is warm throughout. Cut the flame and add black pepper to taste.
- Divide the lobster meat between the 4 buns and top each lobster roll with fresh chives and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Serve with extra melted butter and lemon wedges on the side.
- Lobster can be boiled ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator overnight.
- Toss the lobster meat in melted herb butter and assemble the rolls right before serving.
- Store any leftover lobster meat in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and reheat in a hot skillet
Just a few tips:
- Leave the rubber bands on the lobsters’ claws for obvious reasons
- Whole lobsters must be alive when boiling them. Dead lobsters decompose very quickly, this is why people advise you not to eat dead lobsters unless they’re frozen.
- Do not place live lobsters in fresh water or they’ll die! Keep them in the bag that they came in and place them in the refrigerator – they’ll stay alive for 1-2 days.
- Always wash your hands after touching live lobsters.
- Don’t leave lobster meat sitting at rom temperature for extended periods.
- Never leave boiling lobsters unattended.
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove