Oyster Stew

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A creamy holiday oyster stew with oysters, milk, butter, onions, celery, parsley, and a dash of Tabasco.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

When I told my friend Becca that I had made oyster stew, she looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and asked, “well, did you like it?” As I nodded yes, she added laughing, “it’s a lot better than you would think, isn’t it?”

Becca is from Biloxi, Mississippi and is well acquainted with this Southern stew. It’s normally eaten around the holidays, but I thought it might make a good Lenten dish.

Those of you acquainted with oyster stew know how good it is. Those of you who aren’t, and who like me the first time I heard of it, sort of cringe at the very idea, you’ll just have to take my word.

It’s beyond good. It’s lick the plate of every last drop good.

Even if you are not a big fan of raw oysters, not everyone is, but you like shellfish like clams or scallops, you’ll be fine with this stew. It reminds me a lot of a really good cream of mushroom soup, but with oysters instead of mushrooms.

About the oysters. You can use freshly shucked if you have access to them, though you’ll need quite a few for this stew. We used jarred oysters that we found in the refrigerated seafood section of our local grocery store (Raley’s).

I’ve since seen them in practically every grocery store I’ve been to in my area, so I assume that the jarred oysters are not that hard to find, and they’ll likely be much more cost effective than freshly shucked.

Oyster Stew Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6

You may or may not need to add salt to this stew, depending on how briny your oysters are. If you use freshly shucked oysters, be sure to save the juice, or liquor, that comes out of the shells. You need it for the stew. If you want to vary things, add a splash of brandy, Madeira or white wine, and play around with the herbs. Mint, dill, or fennel fronds are all good alternatives.


  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 pint oysters with their liquor, jarred or freshly shucked, about 2 dozen*
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, minced
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream (can use all milk if you want)
  • Splash of Tabasco, Crystal, or other hot sauce
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup parsley, minced

* You may be able to find refrigerated jarred oysters (without shells) near the seafood counter at your local grocery store.


1 Strain and reserve the oyster juice, rinse oysters: Strain the oyster juice through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl to remove any grit. Reserve the juices. Rinse the oysters well, under cold water. Put them in a bowl.

2 Make a roux: Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the mixture for a few minutes, stirring often.

3 Add celery and onions: When the roux turns the color of coffee-with-cream, stir in the celery and onions. Increase the heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

4 Add oyster juices, milk, cream, hot sauce: Add the oyster juice and any juices the oysters in the bowl have released. The flour in the roux will absorb the liquid and turn into a paste. Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring to incorporate as you pour them in. Add a healthy splash or two of hot sauce, to taste.

5 Heat soup until steamy: Heat the soup to steamy, but below a simmer, over low heat, cook for 15 minutes. (Do not let the soup boil!)

6 Add oysters: If you are working with large oysters, you may want to chop them into bite-sized pieces. Add the oysters and cook for another 2 minutes, or until the edges of the oysters just begin to curl.

If you want the stew to be more like a smooth soup, purée until smooth.

Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley to serve.

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Oyster Stew with Chorizo and Spinach - from TasteFood

Oyster and Fava Bean Stew - from No Recipes

Oyster Stew - from Never Enough Thyme

Smooth, puréed version of oyster stew.

Showing 4 of 35 Comments

  • Roger

    serve over mash cream potatoes and cream corn. unforgetable

  • fred

    I have had this recipie around for a long time but never used it until today. DELICIOUS BUT, cooking times left the celery and onion a bit crunchy even though finely minced. Next time I think I will cook them separately in a bit of butter and incorporate them into the rue when a bit softer. Great flavor.

  • Cyndie

    I live in Louisiana. I have made oyster soup since grade school from my Mawmaw’s recipe. Much simpler, oysters, milk, butter, salt and pepper. It is soooooo delicious. Lick every drop out of the bowl good. Your article has me craving a bowl or two. :)

  • Cathy B.

    THANK YOU FOR THIS RECIPE!!! I am from Maine and I am very familiar with the simple version of oyster stew mentioned frequently above. Never could stand the stuff -boring, no flavor, thin. Didn’t really matter because when you have a delicious lobster and steamers at hand, who needs oysters? I moved to Virginia last year and there went my easy access to lobsters and steamers. Shucked oysters are easy to come by here, however, so I made the oyster stew version I grew up with – oysters and their liquor, milk, butter, salt and pepper. It was just as unappealing as I remembered. Tonight I came across your recipe and decided to give it a try. Oh my God! SO good! Made it according to your directions except I also added about a tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning. The flavors and the texture of the stew were phenomenal. I also discovered I have always been seriously overcooking oysters. Adding them in and cooking them gently for just a few minutes made a huge difference. Thanks to you, I can now say I love Oyster Stew! :-)

  • Cary

    That sounds really good and simple (in a pure way). I am one who can’t stand raw oysters, but I really loved an Oyster Rockefeller Soup my sister made one CHristmas…crisp bacon pieces, fresh spinach at the last minute, Pernod, a creamy broth…it was delicious.

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Oyster Stew