how to make a lobster roll | kelly’s kitchen

Hi everyone! Welcome back to Kelly’s Kitchen, I am happy you’re here this week. Today’s recipe comes from a request sent via email from Joanna in Ontario, Canada. In her email, Joanna requested a recipe with lobster, because her family will sadly miss their annual trip to the American Northeast this year. I love how food can transport us to a place; be it in our memories or a geographic location.  

Maine is known for many things; donut holes were invented there. Maine is the largest producer of blueberries in the U.S. But perhaps most notably, 90% of this country’s lobster supply comes from Maine. So it goes without saying that when you take a trip to Maine, you’re gonna have some lobster. 

How to make a Lobster Roll

I’ve never been to Maine. It’s one of the few states I haven’t been to. I’ve also never made lobster rolls. So, I was all too excited to accommodate Joanna’s request. So let’s get to it! Here’s how to make a lobster roll. 

Instead of whole lobsters, I have 6 lobster tails. I don’t have an in-pot steamer basket, but my opens in a new windowbamboo steamer will work just fine. 

I lined my baskets with parchment paper and fit three tails per basket. Get your pot of water boiling and set your lidded basket tiers on top of your pot. 

They cook fast, about 6 minutes. If you use a bamboo steamer like mine, the top tier may need another minute longer. So use oven mitts to take the whole basket off the pot and set it down on a cutting board or a towel-lined countertop. Then, take the top tier and lid, and place it back on the pot for one more minute. Tails are done when they are bright red.

Let the tails sit until they are cool enough to handle. Then, take a tail, and with the underside up, slice down the length of the tail with a large, sharp knife. Starting at the top, wiggle your fingers between the meat and the shell to dislodge the meat. Do this down the length of the tail until the meat is free. then slice the tail into large-ish chunks.

This recipe is from Bon Appetite and they call it the Best-of-Both-Worlds Lobster Roll. Why? Well, it turns out that there is quite a debate between Maine and Connecticut about the best lobster roll. Maine has its own style, which is served cold and involves a mayonnaise based sauce that coats the lobster – more like lobster salad. And Connecticut has its own style, in which the warm lobster is tossed in melted lemon butter. No mayo in the Connecticut version. 

BA’s recipe perfectly blends the two styles for a whole new sandwich. Serve it warm or cold. It’s delicious both ways. 

Dice your celery and thinly slice the chives. Mix the mayo with the lemon juice and zest, add the celery and one tablespoon of the chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the dressing aside.

The recipe calls for six tablespoons unsalted butter; four for the lobster and two for toasting the buns. I wanted to do something a little different, so I swapped one tablespoon of unsalted for one tablespoon of a garlic basil compound butter. If you want to do this too, you can easily make your own by mixing softened butter with herbs, garlic and salt. I like to keep some kind of compound butter on hand, it’s a nice thing to use on corn on the cob or to top a steak. 

Put the butter in a saucepan and gently melt it on the stove over low heat. Transfer two tablespoons of the butter for brushing the buns. Then, toss your lobster in the butter remaining in the pot. Over very low heat, slightly warm the lobster through and stir to coat in the butter. Remove it from the heat

I could not find the traditional New England style buns so I got brioche hot dog buns and very thinly sliced off the top and bottom of each bun. Brush your reserved melted butter on the cut tops and bottoms of your buns and toast in a hot, dry skillet.

Gently stir your lobster into the dressing and you’re all set!

Another lobster roll controversy: lettuce. I like the addition of the lettuce leaf to keep the bun from getting too soggy. Especially since I have brioche buns, which are so soft to begin with. BA recommends this in their recipe and I think it’s a sound idea. But you can go without the lettuce leaf, if you prefer. 

To assemble, lay your lettuce leaf on your bun, pile on the lobster and sprinkle on the remaining chives. 

This recipe was a lot of fun to make. We don’t often have lobster so it was quite a treat. If lobster is too pricey for you, this may be the most controversial thing to say…but, try it with shrimp. I know, I know it’s a completely different animal. BUT! Texturally, they’re similar and I think shrimp would be a delicious way to go.

I want to thank Joanna in Ontario for requesting a lobster recipe. And Joanna, I do hope this lobster roll helps you relive your vacation memories until you can safely get back to Maine. 

Thanks everyone for spending some of your Saturday with me and don’t forget you can find me on opens in a new windowInstagram and opens in a new windowFacebook too! I love the idea of cooking together so please do let me know if you have any requests for upcoming recipes. Take care, be well, xo Kelly

Best-of-Both-Worlds Lobster Rolls

  • 3 1.75 lb Live Lobsters (or 6 Lobster Tails)
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Diced Celery
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon Zest
  • 1/2 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tbsp Chives, plus more for serving
  • Kosher Salt, Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 5 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 4 New England Style Split Top buns (or hot dog buns with the top and bottom sliced off)
  • 2 Green or Red Lettuce Leafs
  1. Fit a large pot with a steamer basket and pour in water to come to top of basket. Place over high heat. If desired, dispatch lobsters by using a sharp chef’s knife (and one fell swoop) to split the front section of each between the eyes. Place lobsters in pot, cover, and steam (the pot should be actively filled with steam) until shells are bright red and tails are curled, 6–8 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle, 12–15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, mix mayonnaise, celery, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. chives in a medium bowl to combine; season dressing with salt and pepper.

  3. Remove lobster meat from shells and cut into large pieces; discard shells. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; transfer 2 Tbsp. melted butter to a small bowl and set aside for brushing buns. Add lobster meat to remaining butter in saucepan and toss to coat. Cook, tossing occasionally, until just warmed through (it should not be hot; you don’t want it to overcook), about 4 minutes. Season with salt, then spoon lobster meat into bowl with dressing with a slotted spoon and gently toss to coat.

  4. Heat a dry large skillet over medium. Brush reserved butter over outsides of buns. Toast, buttered side down, until golden, about 3 minutes per side.

    Line each bun with a piece of lettuce and spoon in dressed lobster; top with more chives.


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  1. Sarah wrote:

    Looks delicious
    Maine is a beautiful place to visit.
    Don’t misrouted!

    Posted 7.18.20
    • Hello Sarah, I bet Maine is gorgeous. I do hope to visit there one day… Have a great weekend, thank you for reading today. xo Kelly

      Posted 7.18.20
  2. Carroll Niesen wrote:

    Ummmm . . . looks so lovely!

    Posted 7.18.20
    • Hi Carroll! Thanks for tuning in today! Have a lovely weekend, xo Kelly

      Posted 7.18.20
  3. Cindy wrote:

    I’m from Maine and we are definitely missing our visitors like Joanna from Ontario. Most of us Mainers get a big kettle of salted water boiling to cook our lobsters. Once it boils again after adding the lobsters, time it for 15 minutes for hard shell and more like 12 for soft shell. Have fun picking them out; allow for splatter and mess by doing it outside on the picnic table! Make sure to discard the vein that runs down the back of the tail. Enjoying the tamale (green liver) separately is optional, but I like mine with a spoon and a touch of melted butter. Chew on the little legs as you work; don’t try picking them out. Simple, cheap hot dog buns, buttered and toasted is the preferred bread. And HELLMAN’s mayonnaise is all you need with your cut up lobster (JUST enough to bind it). Stuff your bun to the max and close your eyes for the first bite. You’ll smell the salty sea air and it’s heavenly. For the $$ buy it all picked out and skip the mess. You can get it shipped frozen! Can’t wait for you to come back soon! The strawberries and raspberries are ripe now. It’s almost Maine Wild Blueberry season. Mmmm. Blueberry pie, blueberry crumb cake….

    Posted 7.18.20
    • Sounds wonderful, Cindy! I love the idea of cooking it all outside, enjoying the salty sea air. I lived in Alaska for many years and your description reminds me of the King crab cookouts we would have; everyone gathered around a table with a pile of crab, cracking their crab bits and digging in to scoop out every last morsel. What a lovely picture you paint of summer in Maine! I will have to look into ordering some Lobsters online! Thank you for writing in to share how you do it in Maine. 🙂 xo Kelly

      Posted 7.18.20
    • Barbara wrote:

      Ahhh…The mayo brand controversy! Boiling the lobster works for me too.

      Posted 7.18.20
      • It’s funny, I have about 4 different brands of Mayo (because my husband loves mayonnaise) and I thought twice before pulling out the Kraft… But the Hellmann’s wasn’t open yet, haha! 🙂 xo Kelly

        Posted 7.18.20
  4. Stephanie wrote:

    Kitchen shears work great for dealing with lobsters.
    We will also miss our trip to Maine this summer…..many grocery stores will steam lobsters for you & save a step.

    Posted 7.18.20
    • Hi Stephanie, great tip on the kitchen shears! I am sorry you too, will miss your trip up to Maine. Thank you so much for reading the post and for writing in! Have a great weekend, xo Kelly

      Posted 7.18.20
  5. Suzanne Smith wrote:

    I love lobster rolls! MMmmmm… I hope you get a chance to visit Maine sometime–it is beautiful, and you are so right–lobster is definitely on the menu! And sooooo good. I love your steamer idea. That’s a great way to steam them. Now, you have me wishing I was in midcoast Maine and downing one of these babies! Happy weekend!

    Posted 7.18.20
    • Hi Suzanne, we do hope to make it up there one day… Happy weekend to you too! It’s always nice to hear from you, xo Kelly

      Posted 7.18.20
  6. Sylvia Espinoza wrote:

    Your knack for transporting us to places and foods simply make weekends wonderful! Lobster Rolls sound delicious and as though enjoying one could take you to Maine or Conneticut in your mind…Happy Weekend, Kelly!

    Posted 7.18.20
    • Thank you so much Sylvia! It’s so nice to hear from you today. I am so happy you enjoy my posts each Saturday! Have a great weekend! xo, Kelly

      Posted 7.18.20
  7. Karen wrote:

    Kelly great recipe. I enjoy reading your Saturday post, i like that you include origin and food history trivia!
    FYI some larger grocery stores and fishmongers will steam whole lobsters for you free of charge. Whole lobsters are great to use because you get claw and knuckle meat yum!

    Posted 7.18.20
    • Hi Karen! Thanks so much for reading today’s post. Yes, I was disappointed to not find a whole lobster at my local grocery store…it’s a small grocery store, so that’s probably why. Next time I will have to venture to a different store. Thanks again, have a great weekend! xo Kelly

      Posted 7.18.20
  8. Elise Andersen wrote:

    Traditional Lobster Roll for Purists



    Posted 7.18.20
    • Haha, Elise! 🙂 you are so right on that one, couldn’t get more simple than that!

      Posted 7.18.20
  9. Cynthia wrote:

    What a coincidence, I went to the farmer’s market and I bought some fresh lobster meat and decided to try your recipe. This recipe is delicious and it is the BEST of both worlds! The only change is I didn’t have any chives, so I used green onions. Lord it was good. I’m not sharing this batch!!!!! Thank you for this recipe.

    Posted 7.18.20
    • Hi Cynthia, what a wonderful coincidence! I am so happy you enjoyed the recipe. It’s definitely a keeper! Thank you so much for writing in too, I love to hear about how the recipes go and what folks do to make it their own. Have a great day! xo Kelly

      Posted 7.19.20
  10. Heidi wrote:

    I was in Maine a couple of years ago, started in Portland and took my time driving along the Southern Coast, stopping at communities along the way. I ate nothing but lobster rolls and fried haddock for two weeks! Heaven. What I learned about lobster rolls is that they are to Maine like spaghetti is to Italy, or Pad Thai is to Thailand: everyone has their own slight variation or “secret.” And they are all delicious. So glad you posted this recipe–looks so fresh and simple. And I’d kind of forgotten about lobster rolls, though I love them. This is going to be my weekend recipe. Thanks, Kelly! Standing by for your next recipe. 🙂

    Posted 7.22.20
    • Hello Ms. Bohi, I remember your trip up to Maine… You know, I have always preferred King crab over lobster, but I really enjoy a lobster roll. I think it’s my favorite way to eat a lobster! xo Kelly

      Posted 7.22.20

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