Bisques have always intimidated me a bit. They can be time-consuming affairs, especially if you make them from scratch. But they can be ridiculously easy too! And the “easy” in this easy crab bisque recipe is all about having a pre-made seafood broth.
This is why I’m a big proponent of making homemade broths and stocks in large batches.
This past winter I made a large amount of lobster broth and froze about 6 quarts of it. When I found myself with a bunch of leftover crab meat recently (from a family crab cake dinner), I realized I could thaw the broth and make an easy crab bisque recipe.
Of course, it’s more ideal to use a crab stock for a crab bisque, but other shellfish broths are very interchangeable and lobster broth works great too.
And if for some reason you do find yourself with a bunch of live crabs or lobsters, you can certainly make a nice broth from the leftover shells. It’s not hard at all. It just takes a little more time and ingredients. You can check out my post, how to make a lobster broth, for some good guidelines.
I’m guessing that 99% of you reading this post will not have a homemade seafood broth on hand. No worries! You have two options.
First, Bar Harbor brand stocks has a good quality lobster stock which I’ve seen in most health food stores and even conventional grocery stores.
They also have a good seafood stock as well which is a blend of clam, fish and lobster stocks.
Either would be good to use in the recipe though I think the lobster stock would be a slightly better fit.
Your second option would be to use a chicken broth in place of a seafood broth. This is actually not uncommon in bisque recipes and many chefs use chicken broth in lieu of a seafood broth (or even both).
If you don’t have a pre-made chicken broth on hand you can make a fairly quick one as I describe in my post, How to Make Flavorful Broths in Only 45 Minutes.
You can also use a good quality boxed organic chicken broth. I promise I won’t tell anyone.
Beyond the broth there are two more things that make this recipe so simple.
The first is the thickener. Many bisque recipes use a roux of flour and butter but I much prefer using white rice. I find it easier to get the right consistency. You’ll add the rice with the broth, cook it until tender and then blend everything together. It’s neutral flavor won’t compete or detract in any way from the other flavors. It gives the soup a wonderful grainy texture that is characteristic of many bisques. Also, using white rice makes this a gluten-free recipe!
The second thing that makes this recipe easy, and I can’t recommend this enough, is to use an immersion blender for pureeing the soup. It will save you SO. MUCH. TIME.
If you don’t have an immersion blender, please get one NOW! It’ll come in handy when you make other blended soups in the future.
Here’s the one I use by Cuisinart, which is basic and affordable:
Alternatively, you can use a regular blender for pureeing the bisque. Beyond taking more time, it’s also a lot more messy and even potentially dangerous. You’ll have to transfer hot soup from the stockpot to the blender in batches and then back to the stove top again. Make sure to hold the blender top down firmly to prevent burning yourself with splattering hot soup. Better yet, just get an immersion blender!
This is where fresh tarragon comes in.
It is quickly becoming my new favorite herb, especially for seafood dishes. It has a anise-like flavor and works beautifully in bisques. If for whatever reason you can’t get fresh tarragon, try other fresh herbs like thyme, parsley or oregano.
This crab bisque recipe only takes about a half hour from start to finish (once you have your broth). It's really only 4 steps - 1. saute onions in oil 2. add broth, wine, rice and tomato paste 3. Add 1/2 of crabmeat and blend and 4. add cream, other 1/2 of crabmeat and tarragon and stir together. That's it!
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.