Crab Bisque


Delicious, rich and creamy crab bisque, made with fresh cracked Dungeness crab meat, and stock made from the crab shells.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

During the winter months, our local Whole Foods gets one or two shipments in a week of freshly cooked Dungeness crab. Like all seafood, crab tastes best when it is as fresh as possible.

When buying crab, ask the guy or gal behind the counter when they got the shipment in. The answer you want to hear is “this morning”. If the crab came in that morning, or even the day before, it should be good. If it is 3 or 4 days, I would wait until the next shipment.

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Make sure that you get a crab that is at least 2 lbs. If they don’t have any that big displayed, ask if they have any more in the back. Have them clean the crabs and crack them.

Crab Bisque

To make this creamy, flavorful crab bisque, you will need to make some homemade shellfish stock, so it pays to keep your leftover shells and freeze them until you have the occasion to make the stock.

Making stock isn’t hard, like making chicken stock, it just takes time. You can freeze it in advance of using it.

Crab Bisque Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4


Stock ingredients:

  • 4-6 cups crab shells
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly sliced or chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly sliced or chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Several sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10-15 whole peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Soup ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 1/3 cup shallots, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups of shellfish stock
  • ¼ cup white rice
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 ¼ lb or more of cooked crabmeat
  • 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Making the stock

Before making the bisque, you'll need to make the shellfish stock (see these instructions for details and photos).

1 Break up large pieces of crab shell: If you have large pieces of crab shell, you'll want to break them into smaller pieces. A good way to do this is to put them in a plastic freezer bag and use a rolling pin or wine bottle to roll over them to break them up a bit. Don't crush them.

2 Roast shells for 10 min: For extra flavor at this point, put them on a roasting pan in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes. That will help bring out more of the crab flavor.

3 Cover shells with water and heat to almost a simmer for one hour: Put the crab shells in a large stock pot and cover with an inch of water. Put the heat on medium high and slowly heat up the water. When you see little bubbles of air starting to rise to the surface, lower the heat to medium.

Do not let the water boil! You want to keep the water temp at just below a simmer, around 180°F if you have an instant thermometer. The bubbles should only occasionally come up to the surface.

Do not stir! Stirring the shells will muddy the stock. As foam develops on the surface of the water, skim it away with a large spoon. Keep skimming off the foam every so often, and maintaining the heat at just below a simmer, for about an hour.

4 Add wine, carrots, onions, celery, tomato paste, herbs, peppercorns: Once the stock is no longer generating foam, add the wine, carrots, onions, celery, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, parsley and peppercorns.

Increase the heat to return the stock to a low simmer, then lower the heat to maintain that very low simmer for 30 minutes. Skim off any new foam that develops. Add salt and remove from heat.

5 Remove large solids and strain through lined sieve: Use tongs or a spider strainer to remove and discard the largest pieces of shells from the stock.

Then place a few layers of dampened cheesecloth or paper towels over a large, fine mesh strainer placed over a large bowl or another pot. Pour the stock through the strainer to strain. Discard the solids.

Either use the stock right away, or cool for future use. If you aren't going to use the stock in a couple of days, you can freeze it.

Remember to leave enough headroom at the top of any jar you use so that the liquid has room to expand as it freezes. You should use frozen shellfish stock up within 2 months.

Makes 2-3 quarts. Reserve 4 cups for the crab bisque, refrigerate or freeze the rest.

Making the bisque

Now on to the bisque...

6 Sauté shallots in butter in large pot: In a large, 4 or 6 quart saucepan, melt butter on medium heat, add the shallots and cook gently until translucent, about 5 minutes.

7 Add wine, stock, rice, tomato paste, then simmer 25 min: Add the wine, stock, white rice, and tomato paste. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to continue to simmer until rice is completely cooked, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for several minutes.

8 Add two thirds of crab meat, then purée: Add about two thirds of the crab meat to the soup. Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender and purée until completely smooth. Return puréed soup back to soup pan.

9 Add cream, remaining crab meat, salt, cayenne: Add cream and gently heat soup until it is hot enough for serving. Add the remaining one third of the crab meat. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste (about ½ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne).

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Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Soups and Stews.

Wolfgang Puck has different recipe for making crab bisque on the Food Network that you might want to review as well.

Crab Bisque

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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43 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Kristine

    hi. i made this but noticed the bisque has a lumpy texture to it. maybe from pureeing the crab into the soup? i used snow crab. what would you suggest next time so it maintains it’s smooth texture?

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  2. Beverly

    Followed the recipe with the exception of using whole milk instead of cream with delicious results. Soup was thickened perfectly without the addition of flour as per some suggestions.


  3. Julie

    This was excellent. I picked the crab meat out of the crab in the morning & set it aside. Roasted the shells, then threw the roasted shells & all the stock ingredients into a crock pot on high. Left it all day until I made the soup at dinner time using the stock. So easy, so good!


  4. Mark Andrich

    U should never have the market clean your crab because the best parts u r having thrown away, the crab fat, the white parts in the shell as well as the new shell that is forming is excellent for making your crab bisque. You can put it in a blender and mix it and it will make an excellent base along with the liquid that comes from the shell which should have a nice briney flavor if the crab have been cooked in salt water which is an absolute must if you want crab to be flavorful, unless you want it to be bland and tasteless then just cook it in plain water. I might know what I’m talking about as I’ve only been fishing for 45 years 17 yrs commercial Dungeness fishing 5 yrs commercial King crabbing 40 yrs commercial salmon fishing

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  5. Diane

    Delicious. Loved the hint to crush the shells after roasting. It made for a much richer crab stock than I usually make. The shells were roasted for 15 minutes at 425 after tossing with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I doubled the times for simmering the shells and after adding the veggies to the stock. I had some leftover cooked rice that I used instead of cooking the rice in the broth, seemed to work just fine. A stick blender worked great for pureeing. The bisque was served with a dollop of sour cream, a dash of dry sherry, and finely chopped fresh chives. It was a big hit. (I always make crab stock whenever we go out and catch Dungeness crabs. It makes a really terrific base for seafood stews and bouillabaisse. )


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