If you love chowder, you will fall in love with Shrimp Bisque. It’s not quite a chowder, and it’s not quite a soup. While it was popular a century ago with elegant ladies at their luncheon parties, it is now coming back in style. It makes an exceptional appetizer or ideal soup and salad combo.
What Is Shrimp Bisque?
The first time I tried shrimp bisque, I knew I had found the perfect comfort food for a chilly day. Have I ever told you how much I love seafood? And the heavy cream and intense seafood flavor go perfectly with a salad or sandwich.
If you’re starving, it goes well with both salad and sandwich.😍
Don’t let its simplicity fool you. Shrimp bisque makes a delicious and elegant side for your special date night with your better half.
The original bisque was lobster (see my Lobster Bisque), but who can afford that every day? Shrimp is much more up my alley. And, yes, I use frozen shrimp if that’s what I have.
What Is Shrimp Bisque?
If you were to ask a French chef, he would tell you that bisque is a thick, creamy soup thickened with a shellfish paste. I like to use shrimp. Julia Child made lobster bisque famous here in the States. She used lobster shells and rice to thicken it. The most important ingredient is heavy cream. Yum!
Bisque is a French word that could mean twice cooked, or it could refer to the Bay of Biscay where the dish may have originated.
Lobster, crab, shrimp, or prawns are the base for this tasty thick chowder-like soup.
The shells flavor the stock, giving it an intense flavor. Having a good blender is essential for this dish to puree the shells and make them smooth and creamy. A good immersion blender will work, too. Additionally, you can also use rice to thicken it.
Bisque vs. Chowder
Chowder is actually quite different from bisque, though the ingredients are similar.
First, bisque is velvety smooth, and heavy cream is one of the main ingredients. Chowder is chunkier (see my Corn Chowder); it has carrots and potatoes and can use milk instead of cream.
Oh, and don’t forget the bacon. Chowder is “scrumptilicious” but not the same.
Shrimp Bisque Recipe Ingredients
- Extra-Large Shrimp in the shell because you’re going to need the shells to flavor the bisque. The shrimp and their shells flavor and thicken it.
- Butter intensifies the creaminess of whatever dish you put it in and adds a wonderful buttery flavor.
- ExtraVirgin Olive Oil – The distinct olive flavor is more robust in the extra virgin oil, making it the perfect addition to soups and salads.
- Celery has a flavor that is hard to describe. It is unique, slightly salty, and pleasingly mild; enhancing any stew or soup.
- Thyme is so good in soups. It tastes similar to, but not the same as, oregano. I prefer fresh thyme, but dried works fine if that’s what you have.
- Onions are surprisingly sweet, especially if caramelized. They add a subtle flavor when used in moderation.
- Garlic gives any soup a wonderful mouthwatering and warm earthiness and aroma.
- Bay Leaves are aromatic and delicious. The flavor is subtle and minty, but the delectable smell is where it really shines.
- Peppercorns offer spicy with just the right amount of heat without pulling out the big guns, aka hot peppers.
- Flour with oil or other types of fat makes a roux for thickening stews, soups, and gravies without changing the dish’s flavor.
- Dry White Wine adds umami and a little extra kick to whatever you add it to. The alcohol evaporates long before it goes into the bowl. For savory dishes like shrimp bisque, it’s important to use a dry wine and not a sweet one.
- Worcestershire Sauce is a thick flavor enhancer with sweet, sour, and umami flavors for an extra kick without adding more liquid.
- Creole Seasoning is a ramped-up mix of spices that totally kicks up the heat. My homemade Immaculate Bites Creole seasoning is super easy.
- Paprika not only adds a great flavor, but it also gives the dish a beautiful color naturally.
- White Pepper gives you the spice of black pepper without the black flecks floating in your soup. For a cream-based soup, it’s more attractive.
- Tomato Paste is concentrated tomatoes, so no need to have to simmer juicy tomatoes for hours to thicken your sauce or soup.
- Heavy Cream is oh so wonderful. It adds a smooth, creamy luxuriant feel and taste to just about anything.
- Cayenne is best-known quality is heating things up. Its flavor is actually quite mild, and I put it in almost everything.
- Bay Shrimp will work, but you won’t have the shells for the stock. Another option for the broth is using dried shrimp available in Asian and Latin grocery stores. Clam broth or juice is an acceptable substitute, though it won’t taste the same.
- Heavy Cream is hard to replace, but half-n-half would work. If you’d like more zing, you can replace half of the cream with sour cream. If you need a dairy-free version, coconut cream or cashew cream will work.
- Butter adds a unique flavor to whatever you sauté in it. Olive oil will do OK and taste fantastic. There are vegan butter substitutes for those who prefer non-dairy butter.
- Flour thickens the bisque, but you can either leave it out or use a gluten-free thickener, like arrowroot powder, cornstarch, or tapioca starch. It’s so easy because you can replace it with the same amount as your substitute.
- Cayenne adds heat and if you prefer a milder bisque, feel free to replace it with mild paprika.
- Dry White Wine is easily replaced by more shrimp broth. However, I don’t mind using sherry, brandy, or cognac.
Storage, Shelf Life, and Reheating
Bisque freezes well. Allow it to cool and pour it into airtight freezer containers. It will last in the freezer for up to six months.
Then when you’re ready for it, you can thaw it in the fridge overnight. Pour it in a saucepan and slowly bring it to a low simmer. DO NOT BOIL.
Alternatively, you can prepare the bisque up to the stage before adding the cream, allow it to cool, then freeze it in airtight freezer containers.
When you’re ready to enjoy homemade shrimp bisque, thaw it in the fridge overnight, heat it in a small saucepan to a low boil, then proceed with the recipe instructions (add the cream and puree).
Make it the day before. You can make the bisque the day before and store it in the fridge for a more intense flavor. Again, reheat gently to a barely a simmer and turn off the heat.
Pro Tip: Make sure to heat the bisque gently without letting it boil, so the cream doesn’t curdle or separate.
No-Knead Bread – Chewy, fresh-baked bread and shrimp bisque are a match made in heaven. This bread recipe has no fat, so it balances the bisque’s deliciously high-fat cream.
Tossed Salad – Soup and salad are popular comfort food. I really love a simple salad to complement the complex flavors of shrimp bisque.
Croutons – These crunchy squares of herbed bread are perfect for topping both the soup and the salad.
More Tasty Seafood Recipes
- Seafood Paella – One of my favorite ways to eat rice, with loads of seafood and chorizo and infused with the exotic saffron. And it’s so easy you’ll want to have it at least once a week.
- Lobster Bisque – The first time I made bisque, this was the recipe. It was sooo good! Good enough for a special occasion and simple enough for anytime you crave lobster.
- New England Clam Chowder – Cream, bacon, potatoes, and clams make a chunky stew that will warm your soul.
- Seafood Gumbo – I love playing with the flavors in this exquisite stew. And it has a special place in my heart because I can taste the African influence in the spices.
How to Make Shrimp Bisque from Scratch
- Prepare the shrimp – Peel shrimp, season with Creole seasoning and salt, and set aside, reserving the shells for the stock. (Photos 1-4)
- Sauté stock ingredients – Add 1-2 teaspoons of butter or oil to a saucepan or skillet. Then throw in the reserved shrimp shells, celery, thyme, onion (peel and all), garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns. (Photos 5-8)
- Prepare stock – Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, constantly stirring to prevent burning it. Then add about 3-4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and let it simmer for about 10-20 minutes. (Photos 9 & 10)
- Finish the stock – Remove from heat, then strain using a sieve. Set aside. (Photos 11 & 12)
- Sauté soup ingredients – Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy saucepan and drizzle in a little olive oil. Add minced garlic, thyme, onions, and celery, cook over moderately high heat, occasionally stirring for about 5 minutes until vegetables are soft and beginning to get a brown color. (Photos 13 & 14)
- The roux – Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and frequently stir over low heat for about a minute until the mixture is smooth and the flour is fully incorporated. This helps to thicken the soup later. (Photos 15 & 16)
- The soup – Slowly add the wine (or replacement stock) to the pot, then stir in the Worcestershire sauce, Creole seasoning, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cook for about a minute. (Photos 17-20)
- Add tomato paste and stock – Then stir in the tomato paste, followed by the prepared shrimp stock. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes. (Photos 21 & 22)
- Add the cream and butter – let it melt, then remove from the stove. (Photo 23 & 24)
- Puree – Add to a blender and puree. Puree in batches because it helps prevents pressure from building inside. Alternatively, you may use a stick blender in the pot until smooth. (Photo 25)
- Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste, if desired.
- Sauté the shrimp – Place a saucepan over medium heat, add about a tablespoon of butter to it followed by the cleaned shrimp, and lightly sauté for about 2 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through. (Photos 26 & 27)
- Serve – Top individual bisques with the sautéed shrimp and serve. (Photo 28)
Watch How To Make It
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- 1-1½ pounds (453- 680g) extra large shrimp, with shells
- 1 teaspoon (4g) Creole seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon (1g) salt, or to taste
- 1-2 teaspoons (14-28g) butter or olive oil
- 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ onion, roughly chopped
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1-2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon (0.75g) black peppercorns
- 3-4 cups (720-960ml) water
- 2 tablespoons (28g) butter
- Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons (10g) garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon (2g) fresh thyme
- ½ cup (58g) onions chopped
- ¼ cup (25g) celery, diced
- 2 tablespoons (20g) flour
- ½ cup (120ml) dry white wine (or replace with stock)
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon (4g) Creole seasoning
- ½ teaspoon (1g) paprika
- ¼-½ teaspoon (0.5-1g) cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 tablespoon (16g) tomato paste
- 2-2½ cups (480-600ml) shrimp stock, adjust to desired thickness
- 1 cup (240g) heavy cream
- 2-3 tablespoons (28-42g) butter
- ½-1 teaspoon (1-2g) ground white pepper
- Salt to taste
- Peel shrimp, season, and set aside, reserving the shells for the stock.
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of butter or oil to a saucepan or skillet.
- Then throw in shrimp shells, celery, thyme, onion (peel and all), garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns.
- Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, constantly stirring, to prevent it from burning. Then add about 3-4 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat, and let it simmer for 10-20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain using a sieve. Set aside.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle in a little olive oil. Add minced garlic, fresh thyme, onions, and celery, cook over moderately high heat, occasionally stirring for about 5 minutes until vegetables are soft and beginning to get a brown color.
- Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and frequently stir over low heat for about a minute until the mixture is smooth and the flour is fully incorporated. That helps to thicken the soup later.
- Slowly add the wine, if using, then stir in the Worcestershire, Creole seasoning, paprika, and cayenne pepper (optional). Cook for about a minute.
- Then stir in the tomato paste, followed by the prepared shrimp stock. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the heavy cream, butter, white pepper, and salt to taste. Let the butter melt, then remove it from the stove.
- Add to a blender and puree. Puree in batches – it helps prevents pressure from building inside. Alternatively, you may use a stick blender in the pot until smooth.
- Place a saucepan over medium heat, then add about 1 tablespoon butter to it followed by the cleaned shrimp, season with Creole seasoning, and lightly sauté for about 2 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through.
- Top individual bisques with the sautéed shrimp and serve.
Tips & Notes:
- No shrimp shells? You can use store-bought seafood broth or look for dried shrimp in the ethnic section of your local supermarket.
- Do you like your soup a little chunky? Pureeing gives it a silky smooth texture, but no one has to know you skipped this part.
- Double or triple the recipe for more people or to freeze leftovers.
- Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.