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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!

Two bowls full of creamy homemade crab bisque topped with oyster crackers.
Table of Contents
  1. The Most Incredible Crab Bisque
  2. Shrimp and Crab Bisque Ingredients
  3. How to Make Crab Bisque
  4. What to Serve with Crab Bisque
  5. How to Store Leftover Crab Bisque
  6. Recipe Variations
  7. Tips for the Best Crab Bisque Recipe
  8. Aunt Bee’s Crab Bisque Recipe

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.

Creamy crab bisque soup in small ceramic bowls topped with mini oyster crackers.

Shrimp and Crab Bisque Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make Aunt Bee’s easy, creamy crab soup recipe! As always, refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for exact ingredient measurements and directions.

  • Butter: to saute the vegetables and make a roux. You can use unsalted butter if you prefer, but salted butter adds additional flavor.
  • Onion, celery, and scallions: the vegetable base of the soup that provides so much flavor to the finished dish.
  • All-purpose flour: a necessary ingredient to make the perfect roux, which will thicken the crab bisque.
  • Chicken broth (or vegetable broth or seafood stock): the liquid base of the soup. Use your favorite store-bought brand, or go for a homemade chicken broth.
  • Sherry: a fortified wine that adds a nutty, savory flavor to this cream-based soup. In this recipe, it will also help deglaze the pot after cooking the vegetables and roux.
  • Ketchup and tomato paste: adds a hint of acidity that pairs well with the creaminess of this seafood bisque.
  • Seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay): adds classic seafood flavors with spices like celery salt, paprika, and other spices like red pepper and black pepper.
  • Heavy cream or half-and-half: the key to creating the creamy broth that is the base of this soup.
  • Lump crabmeat (or a special blend): use the good stuff! Crabmeat has a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
  • Fully-cooked baby shrimp or “salad shrimp”: using baby shrimp ensures a taste of delicious seafood in every bite if bisque.
  • Kosher salt and pepper: key seasonings that enhance the flavors of a dish. Taste and season as you go – you can always add more seasoning.
The ingredients needed to make crab bisque laid out on a wood chopping board - Old Bay seasoning, mini shrimp, crab meat, scallions, and tomato paste.

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!

  1. Sauté onion, celery, and scallions in butter.
  2. Add flour to thicken.
  3. Whisk in broth, bring to a boil, and then simmer until the broth thickens — about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Stir in the sherry, ketchup, tomato paste, seafood seasoning, and cream. Bring to a simmer, but don’t let it boil.
  5. Add the crab and shrimp, cooking just until warmed through — about 5 more minutes.
  6. Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve!
Pouring heavy cream from a Pyrex measuring cup into a cast iron soup pot.
A metal ladle holds a scoop of cream crab bisque.

Is this crab bisque a traditional bisque recipe?

While this crab bisque doesn’t fit exactly with tradition, it’s pretty close! The main difference between this recipe and a traditional bisque is that I don’t puree and strain the ingredients for a smoother texture.

What is the difference between a bisque and a chowder?

Seafood chowder is yet another creamy soup recipe. However, bisques and chowders have some key differences. Traditional bisques typically have a much higher cream-to-broth ratio, making them extra creamy. Chowders are also seen as a less expensive or fancy version of a bisque.

How do you thicken crab bisque?

If the crab bisque isn’t thick enough for you, whisk together a quick cornstarch slurry using 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons of cold cream or half and half. Mix the slurry into the soup and bring it up to a low simmer until it thickens to your preferred consistency.

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:

Two white ceramic soup bowls filled with creamy crab bisque soup, topped with oyster crackers and fresh herbs.

How to Store Leftover Crab Bisque

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).

Recipe Variations

  • 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.
Two small soup bowls filled with a creamy homemade crab bisque soup, garnished with oyster crackers.

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.
A creamy homemade crab bisque soup served in small ceramic soup bowls.

More Easy Soup Recipes to Try

Square side shot of a bowl of crab bisque

Aunt Bee’s Crab Bisque

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings 5 cups
Calories 336 kcal
A creamy and flavorful shrimp and crab bisque that's perfect for a special holiday meal, an easy lunch, or a quick prep-ahead dinner!

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 336kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 22gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 194mgSodium: 1255mgPotassium: 410mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 784IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 206mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: crab bisque, crab soup, shrimp and crab bisque, Soup
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Soup
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This post was originally published in September, 2016. It was updated in December, 2020.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says:

    Your Aunt Bee makes the best recipes! I love that you share all of them, Blair. Such special meanings, and deliciousness, too. And I’m in awe of how easy this is! I can definitely use more simple dinners, so I’m definitely pinning this one. Sounds delicious!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks so much, Gayle! Easy recipes like this are always the best! 🙂

  2. Robyn @ Simply Fresh Dinners says:

    5 stars
    Love Aunt Bee’s recipes, Blair! How lucky you are to have her in your life to share her culinary and life skills – a treasure.
    This looks delicious and I’m very glad I’m about to eat dinner because now I’m starving!

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you, Robyn! She is such a gift, you’re right! 🙂

  3. Sarah @ The Gold Lining Girl says:

    I always love your Aunt Bee’s recipes! Whenever I see one with that label, I know I’m going to like it. She sounds so dear! It’s amazing that you guys email too – I wish I could get my Gma to figure out a computer. Haha!

    This looks absolutely wonderful – and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even eat seafood. Lol!! My S.O. would LOVE this, and he likes to cook, so I’ll share the recipe with him!

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you, Sarah! Aunt Bee is the best (and so is her food)! I hope that you share this with your man! 🙂

  4. Kristy from Southern In Law says:

    This looks AMAZING! And so so easy to make too! How lucky you are to have your Aunt Bee with all these delicious recipes!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Kristy!

  5. Krystle says:

    5 stars
    This looks so comforting! Love the idea of using crab and shrimp for a seafood bisque!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Krystle! It’s total comfort food!

  6. Blair says:

    Hi, Linda! Yes — another can of the cream of celery would be perfect! 🙂

  7. Blair says:

    Hi, Michele! The key to cooking with wine is just finding a wine that you actually like to drink. If you like to drink the wine, it will probably taste good in your food, too. Don’t buy those cheap “cooking wines” at the grocery store — they’re often salty and not very good. If you’re not too particular about the wines you drink, I would suggest going with a middle-of-the-road (price wise) chardonnay or sauvignon blanc in this recipe. Enjoy!

  8. Blair says:

    Hi, Elaine! These recipes are merely offered as inspiration — I encourage you to make any changes that you like and adapt it to suit your tastes. 🙂

    I’ve actually never tried the cream of asparagus soup, so I have no idea if it would overpower the dish. I imagine that it would be fine if you like the taste of both the cream of celery and cream of asparagus. I don’t have a specific kind of sherry to suggest — just something that’s high quality enough to actually drink (I don’t recommend the cooking sherry at the grocery store). Hope that helps!!

    1. Elaine says:

      HI Blair, I kind of followed Aunt Bee’s, using the cr.mushroom, asparagus and celery soups. 1 C. Light Cream and 1 1/4 cup milk
      I used 1/2 Tsp Worcestershir Suace adn 1/8 tsp tabasco abut 2/3 c. dry Sherry from the liquor store….there is NO ZIP in the soup…what else can I do to make it more pungents sauce woth a Bisque taste…ok yes….and 1/2 lb. chopped IMitation ….Thaks for your help Blair it’s good but VERY BLAND I’ll check my em,ail again tomorrow tos ee if there is any message from you or anyone ealse..Thank You for your sugggestions and time!!!

      1. Blair says:

        Hi, Elaine! Yes, it’s definitely just a very simple creamy soup flavored mostly by the crab. If you want more flavor in the soup, you could saute carrots, celery, onion and garlic in butter (just like you would for a lot of other soups). Then add the milk, condensed soups, etc…and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Otherwise, feel free to season with any of your favorites — cayenne or Cajun seasoning for some kick, paprika, or herbs like thyme, parsley, etc. Hope that helps!

  9. RebaFay says:

    5 stars
    Great recipe. I used lump crab, lobster, and shrimp and it was delicious. I’ll definitely make this again.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      YUM! Sounds amazing! Thank you. 🙂

  10. Denise says:

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious and very easy to make. The only thing I did extra was added a pound of shrimp, and I did not use the old bay seasoning. It really didn’t need it, the flavors were so intense and wonderful. This will be my favorite!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you so much, Denise!!!