Crab Bisque

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

  • 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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  • Ashley

    I didn’t have enough crab so i cut this recipe in half and it turned out so good!! I actually just used 2% milk instead of heavy cream and it was great and definitely thick enough. Will definitely make this again!


  • Dianne Dunn

    I have never used rice as a thickening I always do a flour white roux. I’m going to try it but I’m nervous about the flavor. New Orleans girl!

  • whatcomfalls

    This is the best tasting crab bisque recipe I’ve made. I used King Crab shells and meat in lieu of Dungeness since I had them on hand.

  • John Pixley

    This is a good recipe I will make good use of it

  • Duncan

    A cracking recipe. I used a couple of blue swimmer crabs and some green prawns. Left out the cream. A dead-set showstopper.

  • Dakota

    I’m making this as we speak. It looks like a great recipe, but I’m kind of confused about the stock part. At least on my stove, starting at medium-high and reducing to medium would cause the broth to rise to a raging boil. I’ve got my burner on medium-low, and it’s brought the water up to the point of pre-simmering.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Dakota, it all depends on the heating strength of your burner. Use medium low if that is what works for you.

  • Jackie

    Wow. I made this using assorted shells I’d frozen over the past few months…shrimp, crab, clam, mussels for the stock. That took all afternoon, but boy was it worth it! Then for the bisque, I used white wine vinegar instead of wine, not quite as much, of course, a can of clams and the juice, and a pound of fresh mussels. I removed the mussels before blending, then after returning it to the pot and adding half and half, I put in the meat from about half of the mussels. I placed the remaining mussels, in the shells, in each bowl of soup and added some homemade croutons. Yum!

  • ken

    Wow. I am just finishing a bowl of this made with a blue crab stock (shells left over from Memorial Day.) this is unbelievably good.

  • RJ

    Excellent recipe! Very easy to follow instructions. I started with a whole dungenous crab steamed in white wine and vege broth. Instead of carrot and celery, I cut back on the onion and threw in some vegetable stock. I also added some scallops to the puree and whole ones to the soup along with the broth from sauteing the scallops. lick the bowl delicious. time consuming, but every spoonful worth every minute!

  • yeago

    I had no crab-meat left after making crab cakes, but I made the bisque anyway and then used it as a stock for a broccoli soup.

  • Kathleen Huffman

    The crab bisque was sensational. I didn’t have as much crab as the recipe called for, or the shallots, forgot to roast the shells, and yet it tasted like the bisque I’v had in fine Las Vegas restaurants! My husband is going to get more crab since he tasted this “ambrosia of the Gods”
    thanks for the methods, and excellent instructions.

  • Jason

    Thank you, I enjoyed this dish very much! I followed it very closely. Next time I might skip the rice and the pureeing because I just thought the broth came out so beautifully after step 7. To me, you take that broth, throw in some fresh lump crab and you’ve got yourself a bisque (fine, not an absolute bisque as it’s absent of cream, could throw in just a touch) that’s as good as anything I’ve had in a restaurant. Best,

  • Jay

    I used frozen crab with the sea shell stock which is made in the same way as this blog says.

    It was great! I almost thought it’d be the most luxurious taste in any soups you could ever make! (well, except the one with lobster ;) )

    Its smell is so deep and rich. I recommend to put 1.5 ~ 2 table spoons of cognac, as I tried.
    It will only make your soup more sensual.

  • Jacquie

    Stone crab season just opened up in South Florida. I used what was left of a pound of stone crab claw shells and shrimp shells saved up. WOW!!! This was my first time making seafood stock. I had the misconception that it needed to cook all day long on the stove to get that level of intensity.

    Bottom line – I will NEVER throw out another scrap of shellfish again. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    FYI – I paired the Bisque (and a fresh claw per person), with fresh streamed asparagus and your poached Marsala pears (for desert). YUMMY!

  • Alex Johnson-Buck

    Excellent recipe! I made a few modifications as I am on a budget, both money- and time-wise. First, I used dried bouillon and water instead of the stock recipe; second, since I didn’t have cream on hand, I substituted 1 c. of thick bechamel; and third, I used 2 cans of white crab, draining and rinsing thoroughly before using. I’m sure the original would be even better, but this already beat most restaurant bisques I’ve tried. Thanks a bunch!

  • Dan McIntyre

    I made this for a friend who had jaw surgery and is off solid food for a few weeks. I used an organic vegetable stock and cold-packed crab, and omitted the salt and cayenne pepper. I tried canned crab; too salty. I pureed the entire amount, and it was perfect for my friend who had to eat it through a straw! Thanks for the great recipe.

    I can’t imagine having any left over to freeze, but if I did I would freeze it prior to adding the cream. Add the cream and a couple of tablespoons of Sherry when reheating.

  • Ken Bowers

    Can you freeze Bisque after making?

  • Shutchison

    I tried this recipe and it was fantastic. I used vegetable stock instead of seafood as I didn’t have time to make it from scratch. The recipe is an absolute winner!! Thank you, I have been looking for a bisque recipe like this for some time.

  • Abby

    I haven’t eaten much crab – shrimp seems to be much more popular on the North Carolina coast (with the exception of deviled crab – one of my husband’s faves before he developed shellfish allergies.)

    I love She Crab Soup – it’s one of my favorite things to eat when I’m in Charleston. This recipe and post reminded me of it. I’m going there in April and I have to get some! (But I’ll continue to avoid the boiled peanuts. Gag.)