Food/ Pescetarian/ Soups, Stews + Chili

Creamy Crab Bisque

I had friends over for dinner last week and, aside from this crab bisque, I kind of screwed up.

I love hosting and I love going above and beyond when we have pals over for dinner. Things usually work out well. But this time, I bit off more than I could chew.

Not only did I boil up two different types of pasta with different cooking times (gluten-free for my gal pal, regular ol’ pasta for the rest of us), but I pan-seared some luscious scallops in butter and simmered up a caper + wine sauce for the pasta—both of which need to be done quickly and vigilantly; both of which get cold really fast. REALLY FAST. What the hell was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking.

Luckily this glorious bisque redeemed my ass at the dinner table.

I have a few things to say about this recipe and its process. So, here we go.

We’re currently living in a world that fist-pumps at words like easy and fuss-free while frowning at any kind of extra steps. With that, I’m begging you to NOT exit out of this tab when I tell you that taking the extra 20 minutes to simmer your crab shells in your broth is totally. completely. crucial.

I mean, you could technically skip out on this step and come out with a crab bisque, BUT NO. The flavor the shells infuse into the broth is no joke and I’m obsessed. I want you to experience that.

Breaking your own crab meat (whether with legit crab crackers or hefty scissors) out of its shells is a pesky task and you can easily be left with tiny bits of crab shell in your meat. So be extremely careful about this. Crab shells are rough and sometimes sharp; you don’t want these in your soup. Feel out chunks of the meat with your bare fingers and look for hard bits, discarding any your find. Canned crab is okay to use in bisques and chowders. Just make sure it’s REAL crab meat—and say goodbye to the ultimate flavor power brought to you by simmering those shells. (I told you I’m obsessed.)

If you make this dish, snap a photo and tag me on the Insta @killing__thyme! I love seeing your creations.

5 from 15 votes

Creamy Crab Bisque

This Creamy Crab Bisque brings sweet lumps of Dungeness crab meat to your bowl with a rich flavor-packed broth. This makes for a great starter, side, or bougie lunch option.
Course Appetizer, Entree or Side, Soup
Cuisine Pescetarian, Seafood
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Author Dana Sandonato


  • 6 cups vegetable or seafood broth
  • 1.5 lbs Dungeness crab legs with shells; reserve the shells
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped white, yellow, or red onions all work fine
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 garlic loves, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • Kosher salt + cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 TBSP corn starch
  • 1/2 cup cold milk
  • Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish


  1. Spread the crab legs and claws over a baking sheet or pan and bake until heated through (6-8 minutes if thawed, 12-16 minutes if frozen, depending on packages instructions). Let them cool. Once cool to the touch, crack the shells open with crab shell crackers or strong scissors, and carefully remove the meat, setting it into a large bowl. Reserve your crab shells in a separate bowl.

  2. Roughly chop the crab meat. You can leave a few larger lumps for soup garnish if you wish. When done, cover the crab meat and place it in the fridge.

  3. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, bring your veg or seafood broth to a simmer. Add the crab shells to the broth and let simmer for about 20 minutes. When done, place a strainer over another pot in the sink, and carefully pour the broth into the pot through the strainer to catch any shells and bits. Set the broth aside.

  4. Give your original stockpot a quick rinse to rid of any possible shells or bits that might have been missed. Set on top of the stove over medium heat. Add the butter and heat until melted.

  5. Stir in the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery, and cook until soft and tender—about 5 minutes.

  6. Transfer your strained broth to your stockpot with the veggies and bring to a boil. Stir in the bay leaves, smoked paprika pepper, old bay seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

  7. Discard the bay leaves and carefully transfer the soup to a high-powered blender. Do this in batches if you must. Blend until smooth. Transfer the smooth soup back to the stockpot on the stove. (If you have a good immersion blender, you can keep the soup in the stockpot and blend it right in there.) 

  8. Over medium heat, bring the soup to a low simmer. Pour in the heavy cream, stirring to blend.

  9. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and milk vigorously with a fork; ensure there are no clumps. Then, slowly stir this mixture into the simmering soup, stirring constantly to thicken.

  10. Reduce heat to low, stir in crab meat, and simmer until warmed through—about 5 minutes.

  11. Serve and garnish with a drizzle of cream, chopped fresh parsley, and lumpy crab meat if you reserve some.

Recipe Notes

Be extra cautious when cracking your own shells. It's easy to leave bits of shell behind in the crab meat and you don't want that. Broken crab shell is rough and sharp. Use your bare fingers to press and feel through the meat thoroughly for any hard bits and discard them.

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  • Reply
    January 17, 2019 at 2:10 pm Serving size?
  • Reply
    December 17, 2018 at 7:31 am I can't wait to make this on Christmas Eve! Can I make this the day before, store in the fridge, and heat to serve the next day or is it best to make the day of?
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      December 23, 2018 at 10:43 pm Hi Danielle! You can definitely make this the day before :)
  • Reply
    Mila Kopko
    November 2, 2018 at 9:13 pm Hi there, Dana! I’ve never commented on a recipe that I’ve borrowed online, but, I just had to let you know that yours for the Creamy Crab Bisque is sublime!! I could not get over the amazing flavor! And I couldn’t believe I made something so delicious!! THANK YOU for sharing your wonderful recipe! Instead of using Dungeness, I used leftover Blue Crab and diced redskins with garlic. And I took your advice and used the shells for my broth! It ended up being a very late dinner but was well worth the wait! This recipe is a keeper. Thank you so much for sharing it!! Take care!
    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      November 3, 2018 at 10:25 am Mila! I really *really* appreciate you taking the time to comment with feedback! This made my day :) I think commenting is a lost art, so you're not alone. People are busy and can't find the time. So when I do get comments, especially ones like this, it's huge <3 I'm so glad you loved this recipe and that it was worth the wait! Have a great weekend xo
  • Reply
    Rachel Herrington
    September 9, 2018 at 8:52 pm I just made this for dinner and we loved it! Five stars. We were fortunate to catch a couble crabs last weekend and needed to use them up - perfect recipe. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      September 10, 2018 at 9:04 am Rachel! Thank you so much for taking the time to throw me some feedback. I'm so glad you loved this recipe! Definitely one of my favorites. Also, very awesome that you were able to catch your own crab. You've got some serious ocean to table bragging rights there ;)
  • Reply
    Marisa Franca
    April 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm This recipe has my name all over it. I know. I know. Your name is there but it's truly all me. It sounds fabulous and I do the same thing with shrimp shells. Save them and they make an amazing broth. And frankly, as long as you tell your guest about a few micro shells all is well. I wouldn't say anything like, "Oh by the way, I was wearing a band-aid when I was cooking but then it wasn't on my bloody finger. You may want to watch it." Nope that wouldn't be good. This recipe is a keeper.

  • Reply
    Amy Nash
    April 9, 2018 at 12:19 am Okay, I'm in love with this recipe - it looks and sounds so good! But also, can I just say amen to your writing about how it's sometimes totally 100% worth celebrating the extra effort for a supremely delicious version of something and not just a fast/easy/instant version?

  • Reply
    April 8, 2018 at 9:15 pm This bisque is everything I love! It's so true, too, that sometimes you just really need to take the extra time for a proper simmer. This crab bisque, simmered with the shells, must have such fantastic flavor. Love your disclaimer about finding a few shell fragments. I definitely haven't mastered the art of cracking crabs without a couple of strays...but you can't beat fresh crabmeat! So sweet and delicious, and now I want a bowl of this immediately. :)

  • Reply
    Annemarie @ justalittlebitofbacon
    April 8, 2018 at 8:24 pm I love easy as much as the next person, but I love flavor more and I know you can't get a get soup base without spending a little time. So don't worry, you didn't scare me off! :) Also, that crab bisque looks amazing. I'm not surprised all was forgiven once everyone tasted it.

  • Reply
    April 7, 2018 at 9:21 pm First- I love that bowl and plate. Second- I totally agree- crab with the shell on is the way to go with bisque! And this looks SO PERFECT for this weird wintery spring we're having!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Bigler
    April 7, 2018 at 5:01 pm I have never attempted a bisque let alone lobster, but now I want to! My family would go crazy for this recipe and it doesn't look as difficult as I would imagine it to be. I can probably get my hubby to crack the shells in exchange for me making this for him, lol. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      Killing Thyme
      April 7, 2018 at 7:55 pm Hey Jennifer! This one is a crab bisque, but with Dungeness crab, the meat is about as good and sweet as lobster ;) It's definitely an easy recipe, and you should *totally* cajole your husband into cracking the shells! Sadly that doesn't fly here, since my husband could take or leave crab. (Savage.) I hope you and your family love this if you do give it a go!
  • Reply
    April 7, 2018 at 12:11 am I've been craving crab bisque ever since my visit to Seattle and seeing all the fresh seafood. This absolutely looks delicious! But I'm not sure if the Dungeness crab will make it into the bisque though because I might just eat all of it first!

  • Reply
    April 5, 2018 at 9:17 pm Well this sounds wonderful. I just made crab bisque (a different version) for the first time a few months ago, it was so good. Yes peeling crab is a major pain...just like pomegranates and hard boiled eggs. The end result is so worth it. I can see why your guests LOVED this soup.

  • Reply
    Kathy McDaniel
    April 3, 2018 at 12:40 am This crab bisque looks creamy and delicious. You are absolutely right about making your own broth with the shells. It is one extra step that makes a world of difference in the flavor of the bisque (or any selfish soup or sauce). Definitely a must. Pinning this to make soon! We love crab!

  • Reply
    April 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm I love seafood bisque! I need to try this ASAP!
  • Reply
    Veena Azmanov
    April 2, 2018 at 12:57 pm Wow, this Creamy Crab Bisque looks very tasty and delicious! This is the perfect soup for me! I definitely want to try it for lunch or dinner! Thank you for sharing this great recipe!

  • Reply
    April 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm Ohhhhh, THIS! Omgosh Dana...I think you've outdone yourself with this one! There is a Dungeness crab season every year...and I need to save this recipe for the next one! For now, I'll pin and share, and dream about it :) thanks for the recipe inspiration!

  • Reply
    April 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm We've all had our food flops but I'm glad this one worked out for you. And I can see why with this creamy crab bisque and it definitely looks like a show stopper as well.

  • Reply
    April 2, 2018 at 12:20 pm Everything was still delicious and so so appreciated! Crab and scallops in one meal... ❤️ I can eat my weight in either of those lol.

  • Reply
    April 2, 2018 at 11:43 am This looks so light and delicious. Your photos are beautiful too! I am craving a big bowl of this now.

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