I Tried 8 Popular Lobster Roll Recipes and the Winner Blew Me Away
To know me is to know that I am a shellfish enthusiast. I have heard stories about people who have developed shellfish allergies later in life, which is why I try to consume a consistent amount of shellfish, just to continually confirm that I have not developed such a tragic medical condition. Perhaps it was my fervent love of shellfish that manifested this assignment into my life, but to say I jumped at the opportunity would be an understatement.
To me, lobster rolls are one of the many joys of summertime. I am from Long Island, and while I wouldn’t say lobster rolls were a huge part of my childhood, I can definitely remember taking trips out east to the Hamptons to get my hands on one. Now as an adult in Los Angeles, my most recent lobster roll experience was at Broad Street Oyster Co. in Malibu and my lord was it a good one.
Like any dish, lobster rolls are a subjective experience. In fact, the debate between Maine-style lobster rolls and Connecticut-style rolls can get pretty intense. It often comes down to where you grew up and/or your stance on mayo. Before this showdown, I was firmly in the Connecticut-style camp, but feel that I’m able to appreciate any and all lobster rolls.
Meet Our 8 Lobster Roll Contenders
As I started to gather recipes to feature in the showdown, I kept coming back to one central dilemma. How am I supposed to compare Maine-style lobster rolls and Connecticut-style lobster rolls? The former consists of a chilled lobster and mayonnaise mixture, whereas the latter features lobster that’s been warmed in melted butter. Putting these vastly different styles up against each other felt nearly impossible.
The solution to this predicament? A MEGA showdown, of course. So, for this showdown, I chose EIGHT contenders (a mix of Maine-style, Connecticut-style, and a couple of recipes that were a little bit of both), instead of our normal four, to go head-to-head in the most epic way. There is no scenario that I would ever turn down the chance to make eight lobster rolls in a day — especially if it’s in the name of hard-hitting, brutally honest journalism. Here are the recipes that I chose.
Jasper White: This guy has literally written the book on New England-style seafood and cooking lobster at home, so it only made sense to throw his lobster roll recipe into the mix. It consists of steamed, whole lobster, plus a homemade tarragon mayo. This one is certainly a more involved method, but I was excited to see if the added effort paid off.
Food & Wine: This recipe immediately caught my eye because each roll is topped with a whole claw. If that’s not visually enticing, then I’m not sure what is. The claw and knuckle meat from a lobster is said to be the tastiest, so I was absolutely ravenous to find out if the specialized meat yields a tastier, more luxurious lobster roll. This one also has a some butter-leaf lettuce tucked into the bun, which I was excited to try.
Martha Stewart: Another good Maine-style recipe that I came across was from New Jersey native Martha Stewart. The main recipe was pretty basic and I was very eager to try the variations that she offered, but because I was already preparing eight lobster rolls, the powers that be advised that I don’t create even more work for myself (and they were correct in this recommendation). Regardless, this one, as written, was a must-try for the showdown.
Luke’s Lobster: If there is any establishment that has proven that it knows its way around a lobster roll, it’s definitely Luke’s Lobster. With plenty of locations around New York City, this small business is known for its mastery of East Coast seafood. They make a roll with warmed butter, earning it a spot on the Connecticut-style side.
Ina Garten: If I am going to be making eight lobster rolls in one day, I definitely need a contender in my ear to let me know that store-bought is OK. (I don’t need to always punish myself with day-long culinary excursions.) Ina’s lobster roll includes lightly sautéed lobster and celery, and is topped with fresh dill. I had to give this one a go — especially because she allows for pre-cooked lobster. Thanks for the shortcut as always, Ina.
How Sweet Eats: What set this lobster roll apart from all the other contenders is that the raw lobster meat is removed from the shell and sautéed in melted butter. This recipes also called for garlic, an ingredient that obviously plays well with seafood, but isn’t traditionally in lobster rolls.
Hybrid Lobster Rolls
Foodie Crush: This one admittedly straddles the line between Maine- and Connecticut-style because the lobster is warmed in butter, then tossed in a chilled mayo mixture. Best of both worlds, if you will. Because this roll aims to please all types of lobster roll consumers, I was super curious to know if it actually offered a solution to the divisive lobster roll debate.
Geoffrey Zakarian: This lobster roll caught my eye because while it does follow a Connecticut-style preparation with warmed butter, it also calls for a chilled spicy mayo garnish. Could this be the ultimate compromise for the mayo-versus-butter battle? Compared to some of the other recipes, this one seemed to be slightly more involved, but I was ready and willing to see if the extra effort would pay off.
How I Tested the Lobster Roll Recipes
I made all eight lobster rolls in one day (it was tiring work but one of the greatest days of my professional life). I tried each roll immediately after I made it, and then put them all side by side at the end and revisited them to make any final notes.
Of course, lobster is expensive and there is no reason why I needed to make several rolls of each recipe, so I scaled each recipe down to only make one roll. Most of these recipes call for about 1 pound of lobster meat for about 6 rolls per recipe, which means that I used 2.6 ounces of lobster meat for each roll. For the recipes that specified using whole lobster or lobster claws, I used live lobsters (from my local seafood market), and for the remaining recipes, I used lobster tails (from Whole Foods).
I was not able to find split-top hot dog buns, only brioche, so that was the vessel for all of the rolls except for the recipe that called for a classic hot dog bun.
Going into testing, I identified as a lover of butter or mayo, but preferred a warmed-with-butter, Connecticut-style lobster roll. I chose the winner based on the lobster roll that tasted the best and would be the one that I want to eat all summer long.
1. The Lobster Roll with the Most Room for Improvement: Luke’s Lobster
Get the recipe: Luke’s Lobster Roll
Read more: I Tried the Lobster Roll Recipe from Luke’s Lobster to See If Mayo + Butter Really Is Better
When you make eight lobster rolls in a day, there are going to be rolls that impress and there are going to be rolls that just don’t quite do it for you. This roll fell in the latter category. I was not a huge fan of the spice mixture with dried oregano, thyme, and celery salt. Lobster rolls are a peak summertime food so I personally want a roll garnished with fresh herbs.
This one also weirdly straddled the Maine chilled mayo style and the Connecticut warmed butter style because the lobster is chilled and the insides of the bun get a thin smear of mayo; however warmed, melted butter is then poured over the chilled lobster. Finally, this recipe makes no mention of trimming off the edges of the bun, which I think is quintessential for an even, golden-brown toast. However, I will say that a subpar lobster is still a very great thing.
2. The Best Lobster Rolls for Heat Seekers: Geoffrey Zakarian
Get the recipe: Geoffrey Zakarian’s Lobster Roll
Read more: Geoffrey Zakarian’s Lobster Roll Has a Spicy Surprise
Most lobster rolls don’t incorporate any spicy components, so I really enjoyed that this roll dared to be different and called for a spicy mayo. I think any of these lobster rolls could benefit from a couple dabs of hot sauce. Although the spicy mayo wasn’t anything too groundbreaking, it was a nice touch and I very much enjoyed the added heat.
I didn’t love that the warm lobster mixture was stuffed into a cold lettuce leaf, which made the lettuce lose its crispness. I didn’t enjoy the raw shallots in the lobster mixture, either. All in all, I felt like this lobster roll required quite a bit of effort without much return on that investment.
3. The Best Lobster Roll for Butter Lovers: How Sweet Eats
Get the recipe: How Sweet Eats’ Favorite Warm and Buttery Lobster Rolls
Read more: These Extra Buttery Lobster Rolls Taught Me Some Valuable Lessons
This is the lobster roll for tried-and-true butter enthusiasts (or absolute mayonnaise haters). This was the only lobster roll that called for the raw lobster meat to be cooked in butter. Personally, I would rather steam, boil, or bake lobster because I find the meat is much easier to remove after the lobster is cooked. However, if you want as much butter as possible with your lobster, this might be the technique for you.
Additionally, I found the garlic in the lobster roll to be somewhat unnecessary. Of course, garlic and seafood go hand in hand, so it didn’t hurt, but I just didn’t feel like it needed the added aromatics. My biggest complaint about this roll is the bun. The recipe doesn’t specify a split-top bun and this is absolutely crucial for optimal stuffing and even toasting.
4. The Speediest, Easiest Lobster Roll: Ina Garten
Get the recipe: Ina Garten’s Warm Lobster Rolls
Read more: I Tried Ina Garten’s Warm Lobster Rolls and They’re Almost Perfect
If there’s one thing that I can always appreciate about an Ina Garten recipe, it’s the approachability. Unlike a lot of the other recipes, this one calls for pre-cooked lobster meat, which feels like an invitation to skip the most annoying step of any homemade lobster roll: cooking the lobsters and removing the shells.
I didn’t love that the celery is quickly sautéed with the lobster; I would’ve preferred if it was left raw so that is was still super crunchy and fresh. Regardless, this roll came together super easily and it was probably my favorite Connecticut-style option. The fresh dill was a nice touch and for the minimal effort that this roll required, it was quite tasty.
5. The Best Basic Lobster Roll for Beginners: Martha Stewart
Get the recipe: Martha Stewart’s Perfect Lobster Roll
Read more: Martha Stewart’s Perfect Lobster Roll Lives Up to Its Name
If you’ve never made a lobster roll before, this is the roll that I would recommend. It offers a straightforward synopsis of how to steam lobster, which is a fun skill for culinary enthusiasts to have in their tool kit. The lobster meat mixture is extremely straightforward (lobster, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and salt), although she offers a variety of fun ingredient options at the bottom of the recipe if you want to jazz it up a bit.
There are no fresh herbs (which I believe that every lobster roll needs) in the recipe as written, but she offers them in the variations. I was slightly confused by her bun-toasting method, but I think she butters the sides of her split-top bun and toasts them directly on the pan. My only edit would be to trim the sides for more even toasting. All in all, this is a really simple but very delicious option that’s great for first timers.
6. The Best Lobster Roll Presentation: Food & Wine
Get the recipe: Food & Wine’s Maine-Style Lobster Rolls
Read more: Food & Wine’s Lobster Rolls Are Creamy, Crunchy, and Totally Cover-Worthy
This recipe touts the claw and knuckle meat of the lobster to be superior to what you find in the tail, but I have to admit that I didn’t notice a huge difference in flavor or texture. That said, I loved the look and taste of the whole claw on top of the rolls. It looks super elegant and was super meaty and toothsome. Frankly, I think it was hard to decipher if the lobster claws tasted much different because after you douse anything in mayonnaise, it all starts to taste the same.
Despite feeling like the claws were pretty similar to the tails, this was still one of my favorite rolls. The butter lettuce leaf and minced celery were a great touch, adding a subtle vegetal flavor and crisp texture to each bite. The mayonnaise mixture was simple but really delicious. I am a sucker for chives, and I think that might be my preferred fresh herb garnish on a lobster roll.
While shopping, I did notice that my local Whole Foods seafood counter was selling cooked lobster claws, so that could be an easy shortcut if you want to avoid cooking whole live lobsters (keep in mind, the claws were being sold at $39.99/lb). If you want to save money or time, I would say that you can definitely make this one with whatever lobster meat you can get your hands on, whether it’s whole tails or pre-cooked lobster meat.
7. The Best Lobster Roll Compromise: Foodie Crush
Get the recipe: Foodie Crush’s The Best Lobster Rolls
Read more: I Tried Foodie Crush’s Lobster Rolls and They’re the Best of Both Worlds
This recipe is positioned as the solution to the butter-versus-mayonnaise debate and I was quite impressed with the results. Calling for butter and mayo seemed a bit excessive to me, but I really felt like it worked quite nicely. I feel like this roll would be a great way to convince an adamant mayo-hater that mayo is, in fact, actually kinda good. It’s hard to put this into the Maine-style or Connecticut-style category, and I think that’s the beauty of it.
I appreciated that you get the subtly nutty warmth of the melted butter, but also the acidic creaminess of the lemon-laced mayonnaise. I’ll admit that I had low expectations for this one because I didn’t think it’d be able to make mayo and butter work together, but it totally did. The first non-divisive lobster roll of its kind. History is made.
8. The Lobster Roll That Changed My Mind About Lobster Rolls: Jasper White’s Lobster Roll
Get the recipe: Jasper White’s World-Famous Lobster Rolls
Read more: This Lobster Roll Is a Labor of Love — And It’s 100% Worth It
Okay, this roll, hands-down, was my favorite. This recipe was by far the longest and most involved, and in this case, it resulted in the best lobster roll. As I mentioned before, I previously gravitated towards a Connecticut-style roll because who can say no to warm, melty butter? This roll completely turned me into a Maine-style enthusiast after one bite. It’s OK to admit that the thing you thought you loved is not as good as something else, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Making homemade mayonnaise is certainly an extra step, but I found the effort to be well worth it. I made the mayonnaise in a food processor because I absolutely refuse to whisk it by hand. I think you could shortcut this and mix store-bought mayo with fresh tarragon, lemon juice, and a pinch of cayenne and call it a day.
This was the only Maine-style lobster roll that called for at least a 30-minute chill in the fridge, and I feel like that really helped the lobster mixture ingredients get to know each other, and that step also ensured that the seafood was thoroughly chilled. The juxtaposition of the chilled seafood and mayo against the warm, butter-toasted bun was perfection. I found this to be much more interesting and enjoyable than warm lobster in a toasted bun, you feel me?
This was the only recipe that incorporated cucumbers and scallions and not only did I love the flavor that each added, but I also liked how it bulked up the lobster mixture, making the same amount of lobster meat feel a bit more substantial. The recipe offers a pretty involved method for steaming lobsters, but don’t let that intimidate you. I think you should cook your lobster however you prefer, or even opt for pre-cooked meat if that feels more in your wheelhouse. As long as you’re rocking with the tarragon mayonnaise, then you’re good to go. And if you’re like me, it may even convert you to a Maine-style lobster roll fan, if you aren’t already.
Do you have a favorite lobster roll? Let us know in the comments.