Cozy up with a bowl of Aunt Bee's Crab Bisque -- a rich, creamy, and flavorful soup that's perfect for an easy lunch or a special holiday dinner. Serve the homemade shrimp and crab bisque with a loaf of crusty bread, some oyster crackers, or a simple green salad for a restaurant-quality meal in the comfort of your own kitchen!
The Most Incredible Crab Bisque
You guys know that my great Aunt Bee holds a special place in my heart. Even though she's over 100 years old, you would never know it. We still manage to correspond regularly via email, phone, and handwritten notes, she spoils my boys with goodies constantly, and she's been kind enough to share her favorite recipes with me over the years. This tomato crab bisque is the latest gem from Aunt Bee's collection and it's definitely a keeper!
My parents were in South Carolina a couple of months ago, so they made a quick side trip to North Carolina to visit Aunt Bee while they were nearby. Aunt Bee doesn't do a lot of elaborate cooking at home anymore, but she is always the ultimate hostess. She pulled together a delicious lunch for my Mom and Dad, which included bowls of this southern favorite -- Shrimp and Crab Bisque. My mom made sure to request the recipe on my behalf, and a few days later Aunt Bee's handwritten note arrived in my mailbox.
What is the difference between She Crab Soup and Crab Bisque?
She Crab Soup is a popular Charleston dish made with lump crabmeat and crab roe. By contrast, crab bisque is a creamy soup made with crabmeat -- but not the roe.
A traditional bisque is a French style soup that's made from crustaceans (such as lobster, crab, shrimp, and crayfish). The shells of these crustaceans are used to make the stock, while the meat is incorporated into the finished soup. While you can certainly use a seafood stock in this recipe, I keep it simple with chicken broth or vegetable broth instead. The main characteristic of any bisque is its smooth, velvety texture, which is achieved in this case with heavy cream and a roux that thickens the broth.
Shrimp and Crab Bisque Ingredients
Here's what you'll need to make Aunt Bee's easy, creamy crab soup recipe:
- Chicken broth (or vegetable broth or seafood stock)
- Ketchup and tomato paste
- Seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
- Heavy cream or half-and-half
- Lump crabmeat (or a special blend)
- Fully-cooked baby shrimp or "salad shrimp"
- Kosher salt and pepper
How to Make Crab Bisque
Since the shrimp and crab are already fully cooked, this quick and easy crab bisque recipe comes together on the stovetop in less than 45 minutes! Prep it ahead and then just store it in the refrigerator and reheat when ready to serve. It's simple to make, but it tastes like you're dining in a fine restaurant. Perfect for holidays and entertaining!
- Sauté onion, celery and scallions in butter.
- Add flour to thicken.
- Whisk in broth, bring to a boil, and then simmer until the broth thickens -- about 5-7 minutes.
- Stir in the sherry, ketchup, tomato paste, seafood seasoning and cream. Bring to a simmer, but don't let it boil.
- Add the crab and shrimp, cooking just until warmed through -- about 5 more minutes.
- Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve!
What to Serve with Crab Bisque
Aunt Bee says that you can serve this Crab Bisque hot or cold (depending on the season). Sometimes she makes it with a full pound of crabmeat, but she also suggests the combination of shrimp and crab (shown here) for a more affordable dish. High-quality lump crab can get pricey!
Since the soup is rich, a little bit goes a long way. A cup of soup served as an appetizer before a special holiday dinner is lovely. Pair it with some oyster crackers, a loaf of crusty French bread, or a simple side salad for a light first course or an easy entertaining lunch or dinner.
The crab bisque works well as a starter when paired with any of these entrees:
- Southern Bourbon-Glazed Beef Tenderloin
- Salmon Pasta
- Grilled Salmon
- Crab Cakes or Virginia Crab Imperial
- Pineapple Glazed Ham or Virginia Brown Sugar Baked Ham
- Easy Maple-Glazed Roasted Turkey Breast
Keep leftover crab bisque in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the soup over a low flame just until warmed through, being careful not to let it boil.
I do not recommend freezing the crab bisque, as cream-based soups have a tendency to "break" when thawed (resulting in an undesirable texture and appearance).
- For an even thicker, more indulgent soup, use a full 16 ounces of crab (in addition to the shrimp).
- Swap out the shrimp and replace it with an extra 8 ounces of crab, if you prefer.
- Crab and Lobster Bisque: swap out the shrimp and replace it with 8 ounces of cooked lobster meat.
Tips for the Best Crab Bisque Recipe
- Sherry is a fortified wine that adds so much rich flavor to this broth. Don't omit this ingredient -- it really sets the soup apart from its counterparts! In a pinch, you can substitute with white wine, marsala wine or port. Just make sure that you're not using sherry vinegar.
- Fresh herbs are best, since they brighten up the soup and add a nice contrast to the rich, creamy soup.
- Once you add the cream, do not let the soup boil. Warm over low heat, then serve. Boiling may cause the cream to curdle.
- This recipe yields a relatively small portion of soup -- about 5 cups. If you're feeding a larger family, I recommend doubling all of the ingredients.
More Easy Soup Recipes to Try
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Grandmother's Hamburger Soup
- New England Clam Chowder
- Corn Chowder
- French Onion Soup
- Crock Pot Vegetable Soup
- Lentil Soup
- Tomato Soup
Aunt Bee's Crab Bisque
- ¼ cup (½ stick) salted butter
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- ¼ cup finely chopped celery
- ¼ cup sliced scallions
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or seafood stock
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
- 2 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
- 8 ounces lump crabmeat
- 8 ounces fully-cooked baby shrimp or “salad shrimp” (or additional 8 ounces of crabmeat)
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Garnish: sliced scallions or chives and chopped fresh parsley
- For serving: oyster crackers or bread
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery and scallions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the broth thickens and the vegetables are tender, about 5-7 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and whisk in the sherry, ketchup, tomato paste, seafood seasoning and cream. Bring to a simmer, but do not let it boil. Season with salt and pepper (to taste), then add the crab and shrimp. Cook just until the crab and shrimp are warmed through, about 5 more minutes.
- Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with additional sliced green onion or fresh parsley, if desired.
This post was originally published in September, 2016. It was updated in December, 2020.