Learn how to make a delicious, creamy seafood bisque with fresh shrimp, lump crab, rich cream and tons of delicious flavor! This recipe is incredibly simple to prepare, made entirely in one pot and totally customizable – make it with your favorite seafood or shellfish! This is more than just a soup – it’s a luxurious, indulgent seafood experience that will keep you cozy and warm all season long!
Continue to read on for easy ways to customize this bisque, plus a quick homemade seafood stock recipe! And, don’t miss the in-depth step by step photos included in the post! Searching for more cozy soup recipes? Check out these family favorites: Easy Chicken Corn Chowder, Sweet Potato Soup Recipe, Creamy Parsnip Soup, Chicken Tortellini Soup and Italian Sausage Soup.
You are watching: How To Make Seafood Bisque
Hi, friends! I hope you are ready, because today you are in for a real tasty treat!! If you love ordering creamy bisque at restaurants, but have been too nervous to make it at home, I am about to rock your world!
This seafood bisque recipe tastes fancy and impressive, however it’s fuss-free to prepare and totally customizable! You can take the easy route and have it on the table in 30 minutes, or you can make a quick homemade seafood stock and have a restaurant-quality dinner ready in under one hour! No matter which direction you take, making creamy bisque at home is way easier than you think with this simple, foolproof recipe!
Easy Shrimp & Crab Seafood Bisque
This bisque is luscious, rich, irresistible and sinfully delicious! It’s bursting with robust flavors and loaded with big chunks of succulent lump crab and decadent heavy cream!
This seafood bisque tastes like you spent the entire day slaving away in the kitchen; however, it’s insanely easy to prepare and made with simple, easy-to-find ingredients! Plus, it’s made entirely in one pot – yes, just one pot!
Lush, indulgent and deeply flavorsome, this soup is always a crowd pleaser! Just one bite (or slurp!) and your family will fall in love with this unapologetically delicious bisque!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- This recipe uses easy to find ingredients along with a few pantry staples!
- Made entirely in one pot! From the homemade stock to the creamy bisque, you only need to dirty (and clean) one pot!
- Rich, cream, luxurious taste with plenty of robust flavor and generous chunks of real lump crab meat!
- Totally customizable – use your favorite seafood or whatever your budget will allow!
- Fancy enough for special occasions, yet easy enough for any given day of the week!
What is a bisque soup?
A bisque is a type of smooth and creamy pureed soup that’s traditionally made from a strained broth of shellfish. Classically, bisques also include cream, cognac and wine (brandy), along with a combination of spices.
The most common types of bisque are lobster, crab and shrimp; however, there are many varieties today, such as crawfish or clam. There are also variations of bisque which completely omit the shellfish and instead use utilize fresh produce, such as mushrooms, tomatoes or pumpkin.
What is the origin and meaning of bisque?
Seafood bisque is French in origin. The first reference of bisque as a soup dates back to the 17th century. While today bisque is classified as ‘fancy soup’, that wasn’t always the case. Originally, bisque was a fisherman’s dish, and it was made from finely crushed shells of whatever seafood was readily available.
The origin of the name bisque is still debated. Some food historians claim the term refers to a soup that is cooked twice (bis cuits). They propose the word bisque is a contraction of two words – bis, meaning “twice” and cuites, meaning “cooked” – since the classic way to prepare bisque is to first sauté the shells, then simmer them in an aromatic broth, before straining and adding cream. However, others suggest the name ‘bisque’ pays tribute to the Bay of Biscay – the shellfish-rich gulf of water that lies along the western coast of France and the northern coast of Spain – since the cuisine in this region typically uses spicy ingredients very similar to those typically used in bisque soup.
Why is seafood bisque reddish orange in color?
Bisque can range in color from creamy ivory with just a hint of pink to dark red with a slightly brown hue, with many shades in between. The exact color of bisque will depend upon the ingredients and the amount of those ingredients.
Seafood bisque gets its pinkish color from the use of seafood stock and tomato paste. Adding cognac will make the bisque darker in color, while using a lot of heavy cream will give the bisque a lighter pink appearance.
Soup vs. Bisque – what’s the difference?
Soup is an umbrella term for any type of dish that is primarily liquid and made by combining ingredients of meat and/or vegetables with stock or water. Bisque is a smooth and creamy type of soup, so while all bisques are soups, not all soups are bisques.
What’s the difference between a bisque and a chowder?
Bisques and chowders are both delicious varieties of thick and creamy soups with French origins. While they do have a lot in common, there are two key elements that set them apart.
- Cream: Bisques usually contain a higher ratio or cream to stock than a chowder.
- Consistency: A chowder is chunky and full of hearty chunks of ingredients, such as potatoes and corn. A bisque, on the other hand, is pureed resulting in a smooth and velvety texture.
What is seafood bisque made of?
This easy bisque with shrimp and crab only requires 11 easy to find ingredients, plus a few pantry seasonings to create a soup that is luscious in texture and robust in flavor!
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.)
Ingredients in this shrimp and crab bisque
- Butter: Butter provides a base of rich flavor for sautéing the shrimp and vegetables. Make sure you use unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt in the bisque.
- Seafood: This recipe calls for shrimp and crab; however, you can use whatever variety or combination of seafood you prefer! (See below for more seafood options!)
- Vegetables: Green onions, carrots and celery create a base of sweet and savory flavor.
- Garlic: Three to four cloves of garlic provide a subtle, yet distinctive punchy taste. Make sure you use fresh garlic, not the pre-minced variety sold in a jar!
- Seasonings: A combination of bay leaves, sweet paprika, Old Bay, thyme, cayenne, kosher salt and ground black pepper all provide a ton of robust flavor!
- Tomato Paste: Two tablespoons of thick tomato paste give the bisque a bit of body while adding a highly concentrated flavor to the soup. It’s also what gives bisque its beautiful pinkish color!
- Flour: ¼ cup of all-purpose flour helps thicken the bisque.
- Brandy & Sherry: A combination of brandy and sherry add rich, luxurious flavor. You can substitute cognac for the brandy and a dry white wine for the sherry if you like. However, I highly suggest you don’t skip the using the spirit/wine – it will cook out of the bisque, leaving behind none of the alcohol and all of the flavor!
- Stock: Four cups of seafood stock make up the liquid base of this bisque.
- Cream: 1 ½ to 2 cups of heavy cream deliver rich flavor and a decadent mouthfeel. Use the cream to taste, adding the full 2 cups for a more luxurious bisque. You can use a 50/50 combination of heavy cream and half-and-half if you would like to cut a few calories; however, I do not recommend using milk!
Seafood bisque variations
Want to make a few changes or additions to this shrimp bisque? Wonderful! I encourage you to make this recipe your own! Get creative or simply eliminate the ingredients you don’t like and substitute the ones you love! Below are a few easy ideas to get you started!
- Leeks: Prefer a slightly sweeter onion flavor? Substitute the green onions with fresh leeks!
- Bell Peppers: Shake things up and substitute bell peppers for the carrots!
- Bacon: Love crispy bacon? Dice up a few strips of bacon and cook it until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and use the fat to sauté the shrimp!
- Corn: Try adding a can of creamed corn for a burst of sweet flavor and added creamy texture!
- Clam Juice: Prefer a salty, briny flavor in your seafood bisque? Try substituting some or all of the fish stock for clam juice!
- Feeding a crowd: This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled!
Types of seafood you can use in homemade bisque
When selecting seafood for bisque, make sure you use fresh seafood what hasn’t already been par-cooked! And, for the most flavor, purchase shellfish with the shells still on!
For the best taste, use fresh or frozen shrimp, but make sure purchase shrimp with the shell-on! You will use the shrimp to make an easy, yet deeply flavorful seafood stock! I prefer to purchase large (21/30 count) shrimp, but medium-size shrimp will work as well! Short-cut: If you are looking to save time, you can use pre-cooked shrimp in this bisque. Omit the first two steps of the recipe and add the shrimp according to the recipe instructions in step six. Please note, your bisque will lack some complex flavor.
You can find crab in two forms – whole or picked meat. While you can cook whole crabs or crab legs yourself, I prefer to use picked and pasteurized fresh crabmeat, which can be found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. There are five grades of picked crabmeat. You can use whichever grade you like, depending upon your budget and taste preference. The grades below are listed by price, from most expensive to least. Note: I do not recommend using the shelf-stable cans of crabmeat that can be found in the canned fish aisle of your grocery store – those cans lack flavor and are riddled with preservatives.
Grades of lump crab
- Colossal and Jumbo Lump Crabmeat: These are the two most expensive grades of crabmeat; however, they also yield the best sweet taste and tender texture! These grades are a delicacy; therefore, I recommend saving them to enjoy on their own with some drawn butter.
- Lump Crabmeat: Lump grade crabmeat is my personal preference for bisque. It is less expensive than jumbo or colossal and consists of sizable broken jumbo lumps mixed with large chunks of body meat. The crabmeat is flavorful, and the large chunks are perfect if you are looking for a truly decadent, restaurant-quality bisque!
- Backfin Crabmeat: This grade consists of smaller, broken chunks of lump crabmeat and flakes of white body meat. Backfin has good flavor and enough texture to hold up well in bisque if you are looking for a cheaper option than lump crabmeat.
- Special Crabmeat: Special grade is made up of smallish flakes of white body meat. Special crabmeat has a nice delicate flavor that works well in bisque if you aren’t looking for a smoother bisque with less textural impact.
- Claw Crabmeat: Claw-grade crabmeat is the least expensive of the bunch; however, it also has the most robust flavor. Claw meat has a hearty flavor versus the delicate, sweet flavor found in the other grades. It’s also brownish-pink in color rather than snowy white. If you are looking for an incredibly smooth bisque without lots of fresh, lump crab texture, claw meat is a great option!
You can use fresh, frozen or canned lobster meat, however fresh is always best!! You can use the lobster shells and meat in the same exact way you use shrimp in this recipe!
Crawfish is a great option if you love the delicate flavor of lobster or crab, but don’t love the price tag! Fresh or frozen crawfish works great; just make sure you select Louisiana raised crawfish tail meat for the best taste!
Love salty, briny flavor? Try using clams in your bisque! I recommend using a can (or two) of baby clams. Make sure you drain the clams before using. Add the clams to your bisque during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Fresh or high-quality frozen scallops are delicious in creamy bisque! Both bay scallops and sea scallops work beautifully, depending upon your budget. Bay scallops are fine to use as is; however, consider roughly chopping larger sea scallops into generous bite-size pieces.
Regardless what size scallops you select, make sure you seek out scallops with the label “dry-packed” or “dry”. Some wholesalers will soak the scallops in a salt-based brine that can leave a faint chemical aftertaste. Also, look for firm scallops and avoid any that appear shiny, wet or soft.
How to make seafood stock from shells?
Learn how to make flavorful seafood stock for bisque with this quick and easy shortcut using seafood Boullion cubes, clam juice or store-bought stock and seafood shells!
Shrimp, crab or lobster shells make delicious stock – they add body and tons of flavor for very little money (or effort)! Feel free to add onions (quartered), cloves of garlic, wine or any vegetable trimmings you have on hand for even more flavor!
(Scroll down for the detailed instructions in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.)
- Melt butter: Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a Dutch oven or large heavy pot over medium-high heat.
- Saute shrimp: Add the shrimp shells and sauté, stirring frequently, until they are lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add liquid + flavorings: Add the bouillon cubes, water and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer. (Note: You can also add onion, vegetable trimmings, seasonings or wine at this time if you would like!)
- Simmer: Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
- Strain: Strain the stock into large bowl, discarding the shells. Transfer the stock to a large (4 cup) measuring cup. You should have 3 ¾ cup of stock. If not, add enough water to make 3 ¾ cups.
- Use or Store: Use right away to make shrimp and crab bisque. Or, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. To extend the shelf life you can freeze the stock in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags!
How to make quick seafood stock with shells at home step by step photos:
How to make seafood bisque at home?
This crab bisque is easy to prepare and made in one pot! Plus, it’s totally customizable – make this recipe as fast or as fancy as you like! Try making your quick and easy seafood stock (see above) or take a shortcut by using store-bought stock and cooked cocktail shrimp! No matter which way you make this, it’s the perfect soup to keep you and your family cozy and warm all season long!
(Scroll down for the detailed instructions in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.)
- Sauté Shrimp: Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shrimp and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until opaque. Turn off the heat and remove the shrimp from the pot, transferring them to a plate. Set aside.
- Sauté vegetables: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Sauté (sweat), stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic and seasonings. Cook until fragrant.
- Add thickening agents + wine: Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the brandy and sherry to the pot. Cook until the liquids are almost evaporated.
- Add stock: Slowly whisk in the seafood stock – whisking continuously while you add the stock to the pan to prevent clumping. Bring soup to a simmer. Cook, whisking occasionally, for 15 minutes.
- Add shrimp & puree: Turn off the heat and add the shrimp to the pot. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or transfer the soup in batches to a high-powered blender.
- Add cream & crab: Return the heat to medium-low and stir in the heavy cream. Add half of the crab meat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until warm throughout.
- Serve: Divide the bisque among serving bowls. Top with remaining crab meat and sprinkle with scallions. Serve and enjoy!
How to make shrimp and crab bisque step by step photos:
Why isn’t my seafood bisque thick?
Traditionally, bisques are ultra-creamy, and they should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. If you prefer your bisque to be thicker, there are several ways to thicken soups depending upon the consistency and thickness you are going for! Below are the most common techniques and tips for thickening soup.
How to thicken bisque
- Blend it: Traditionally, bisque recipes call for grinding seafood shells into a fine paste to thicken the soup. This easy seafood bisque purees the shrimp meat and the vegetables to create a silky-smooth, thick soup. Pureeing not only thickens the soup, but it also intensifies the flavors! You can use an immersion blender or transfer the soup in batches to a high-speed stand blender to puree the soup.
- Flour (Roux): This recipe uses a traditional roux (a combination of butter and flour) as a thickening and stabilizing agent. Once you add the flour to the bisque, make sure you cook it for 2 minutes to remove any raw flour taste!
- Cream: Full-fat heavy cream adds plenty of richness and body to this bisque! Make sure you add the cream after the soup is fully cooked and pureed. Make sure you do not boil the bisque after adding the cream as boiling can cause the bisque to break and curdle.
- Rice: Long-grain white rice is another common ingredient used to add body to a bisque. If you prefer an extremely thick soup, you can add rice to this recipe! Add about ¼ cup of rice to the soup right after adding the stock. Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is soft. Proceed with pureeing the bisque according to the recipe instructions.
- Cornstarch: If your bisque still isn’t thick enough, you can use a cornstarch slurry to add more body to the soup! Whisk a tablespoon of cornstarch together with 2 tablespoons of cold cream. Whisk the slurry into the soup and bring everything to a gentle simmer. Simmer the bisque until it thickens to your desired consistency. Note: To activate a slurry, you must bring the soup to a simmer!! However, be careful, as you do not want to boil this cream-based soup!
Tips for serving shrimp & crab bisque
Wondering how to garnish your bisque or what to serve with it? From topping it with oyster crackers to serving it with a loaf of artisan bread, there are plenty of ways to dress up your bisque and transform it into a full-blown meal!
How to serve seafood bisque
You should serve shrimp and crab bisque warm or hot, as soon as possible after making it. While you can serve it at room temperature or cold, the soup lacks the same depth of flavor isn’t as appetizing.
You can serve crab bisque as a show-stopping appetizer or starter if you are entertaining, as a delicious side dish to sandwiches and salads, or as a light, mouthwatering main meal.
If you are looking for easy, fun serving ideas, try serving this seafood bisque in a bread bowl! Or, throw a party and set up a bisque bar complete with an abundance of toppings and garnishes!
What toppings can I add?
Toppings are the easiest way to customize your seafood bisque! You can get as creative as you like when garnishing or adding toppings to your bisque! If you are entertaining or serving a crowd, try setting up a bisque bar and place each topping option in individual bowls, that way your guests can help themselves and customize their bisque to their liking!
The best toppings for seafood bisque
- Oyster Crackers: Creamy seafood bisque plus crunchy crackers is a classic combination for a reason!
- Croutons: Crunchy homemade croutons are a great way to add a touch of contrasting texture to velvety bisque!
- Bacon: Because everything tastes better with crispy bacon!
- Avocado: Rich and creamy slices of avocado perfectly complement the creamy texture of this soup!
- Jalapeño: If you like it hot, thin slivers of jalapeños are the perfect topping option!
- Scallions or Chives: Delicate onions are a great way to add a touch of mild onion flavor along with beautiful flare!
- Sour Cream: Tangy sour cream is an easy way to add even more rich, luxurious flavor to your bisque! Or try Greek yogurt if you are looking to keeps things on the lighter side!
- Hot Sauce: A few splashes of your favorite hot sauce is a must if you like to bring the heat!
What to serve with creamy seafood soup?
Seafood bisque is filling enough to serve as a stand-alone meal; however, you can also serve it as a starter or side dish! See below for some of my family’s favorite dishes that pair perfectly with bisque!
13 best side dishes to serve with bisque
- Bread: Artisan bread, flaky biscuits or dinner rolls are always a wonderful option for dunking!
- Hush Puppies: Fluffy crisp hush puppies are a delicious side, plus they’re perfect for dipping!
- Green Salad: A light and simple green salad is a wonderful way to balance out this rich soup!
- Coleslaw: Not a fan of plain salads? Try tangy, fresh coleslaw instead!
- Fruit: While it may sound like an odd pairing, sweet fruit goes fabulously with crab bisque! Try grilling your fruit to really bring out the flavor!
- Sandwiches: A crispy, warm panini or grilled cheese is an obvious choice for serving with a creamy chowder!
- Roasted Vegetables: Your favorite seasonal vegetables are another wonderful light side dish to serve with rich bisque!
- Corn on the cob: Fresh corn on the cob is one of my favorite sides to pair with seafood bisque!
- French Fries: Because bisque and frites should totally be a thing!
- Shrimp: Shrimp is a delicious, healthy protein option! Make this bisque with lump crab only and try pairing it with shrimp on the side!
- Crab Legs: Similar option to the above side – make this bisque with crab only and pair the crab on the side! Steamed crab legs with plenty of drawn butter is a luxurious side option!
- Mussels or Clams: Turn your bisque into a seafood extravaganza and pair it with mild clams and mussels!
- Steak: Give the phrase surf and turf a new meaning! Try pairing your seafood bisque with a juicy steak!
Tips for storing and freezing seafood bisque
Food safety is important when it comes to storing leftovers! Follow the simple tips below for properly storing and reheating this creamy crab and shrimp bisque!
How long is shrimp bisque good for?
Store any leftover crab bisque in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, bisque will keep for up to three days.
How to reheat it?
Leftover bisque makes a wonderful heat-and-eat meal as long as you take proper precautions when reheating it!
- Stovetop: Transfer leftover seafood bisque to a medium saucepan or large pot. Reheat over medium-low to low heat, stirring occasionally, until warm throughout. Take care to avoid rapidly simmering or boiling the bisque as high heat will cause the cream to separate or curdle!
- Microwave: Add an individual portion of leftover bisque to a microwave-safe container. Place the lid on the container, leaving the lid slightly cracked at the side to form a vent. Reheat for 45-second intervals, stirring in between, until the soup is warm throughout. Make sure you microwave in short increments, or at lower power, to avoid overheating the bisque!
Can you freeze bisque with crab and shrimp?
Freezing bisque is not recommended due to the inclusion of heavy cream. Dairy products do not freeze well as they tend to separate or become grainy in texture when defrosted and rewarmed.
If you are looking for a luxurious seafood experience for your tastebuds, look no further than this delicious, fuss-free bisque! Rich, creamy and insanely delicious, this seafood soup will quickly become a family staple!
Craving MORE? Follow all the deliciousness on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram!
The best Shrimp & Crab Seafood Bisque Recipe👇
©No Spoon Necessary. All images and content under copyright protection. Please do not use any images without prior permission. Please do not publish this recipe without prior consent. To reference this recipe, please link directly to this post.