Chef John's Lobster Thermidor


I used a nice light sauce on this iconic special occasion dish--lobster thermidor--rather than the thick, cheesy sauce popular in the '80s. Lobster is sweet and rich tasting on its own, so the lighter sauce makes so much sense. And what's even better, you can prep these ahead of time and just pop them in the oven when your guests arrive!

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
30 mins
Additional Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
1 hr
2 servings


  • 4 (4 ounce) lobster tails

  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided

  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots

  • Salt, to taste

  • 1 ½ cups diced mushrooms (Optional)

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy

  • ½ cup whole milk

  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

  • Cayenne pepper, to taste

  • 2 teaspoons fine dried bread crumbs

  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • 2 teaspoons melted butter


  1. Cut bottom shell of lobster tails using kitchen shears along each side where it meets the top shell; do not remove the shell at this point.

  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place lobster tails cut side down in the butter. Cook, covered, about 3 minutes. Turn lobster tails over (they are curved so will lean to 1 side); cover and cook 1 minute. Lean them to the other side; cover and cook 1 minute more.

  3. Remove from heat. Transfer lobster tails to a bowl. Remove any shell pieces from the skillet.

  4. Place 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet over medium heat; add shallots and pinch of salt. Cook and stir until pan starts to deglaze and shallots soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook stir until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add flour; stir until mushrooms are coated and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in cognac; use a kitchen torch to flame cognac to burn off alcohol. This will take just a few seconds. Add milk; cook and stir until pan is completely deglazed and milk begins to thicken and turn bubbly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in creme fraiche. Let cool.

  5. Remove lobster meat from the shell, leaving top shell intact. Remove any bits of bottom shell from the meat.

  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking pan with crinkled up foil. Make 4 channel-like indentations in the foil to hold and stabilize the lobster tails as they bake.

  7. Slice lobster meat down the middle and check for and remove any dark veins. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer meat to a mixing bowl. Add cooled sauce, tarragon, pinch of salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir gently until well blended.

  8. Divide mixture among the lobster tail shells; place in prepared foil-lined pan. Sprinkle each lobster tail with about 1/2 teaspoon bread crumbs and 1/2 teaspoon grated cheese. Drizzle melted butter on the stuffed shells.

  9. Bake in preheated oven until nicely browned and heated through, about 10 minutes. If you like, you can turn on the broiler and broil 1 minute until tops are golden and crispy.

    close up view of Lobster Thermidor served with salad on a white plate
    Chef John

Chef's Note:

This recipe makes 2 main dish or 4 appetizer-size portions.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

590 Calories
35g Fat
14g Carbs
41g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 2
Calories 590
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 35g 45%
Saturated Fat 22g 108%
Cholesterol 220mg 73%
Sodium 1008mg 44%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 41g
Vitamin C 2mg 10%
Calcium 220mg 17%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 926mg 20%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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