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The Best Traditional Shrimp Bisque Recipe

Shrimp bisque is a simple soup rich with the flavor of sweet shrimp, thickened with rice, and enriched with heavy cream. It’s easy to make, but the flavor and texture are divine.

Shrimp bisque in a white bowl garnished with shrimp and chives

Last week, as I was toiling away in my home office on a typically cool and foggy Bay Area Fall day, a hankering for shrimp bisque struck me. As I mentioned yesterday, I was working on an assignment for a client that required me to make a large pot of shrimp stock.

So there I was, with a pile of peeled and deveined shrimp and a pot of shrimp stock. I found myself dreaming of sitting outside at Abbott’s in Noank, Connecticut, on a warm mid-August afternoon.

The view of sailboats coming and going in Long Island Sound is the perfect backdrop for tucking into a buttery hot lobster roll and a bowl of creamy lobster bisque.

But here I was in the chilly Bay Area, with shrimp and shrimp stock. So shrimp bisque with a side of crusty sourdough bread seemed like a reasonable substitute.

What is shrimp bisque?

Bisque is a soup of French origins. To make a traditional bisque, you first sautee shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab, or crayfish) shells in butter. Then you cook the shellfish a second time by steeping it with other ingredients. The word bisque derives from the french bis cuites or “twice cooked.”

What makes a bisque a bisque?

A traditional bisque uses rice to thicken the broth. In doing my research for this post, I found a surprising number of recipes that refer to this traditional thickening method in their headnotes, only to provide instructions for a soup thickened with a butter-flour roux. Using the rice method is far easier.

This very simple shrimp bisque recipe uses the traditional method of thickening the seafood stock with rice. Puree the broth with the rice just before adding the cream. There’s no need to make a roux.

If you don’t have shrimp stock and don’t care to make it (even though it’s really easy! See my recipe here), feel free to substitute a store-bought shellfish stock, such as Better Than Boullion’s Lobster Base, just be sure to taste the soup before adding the salt (you’ll certainly want to add less than what’s called for in this recipe).

And if you are so fortunate as to find yourself with a lobster, a pot, and a couple of hours to kill, you could use this recipe to make a lobster bisque (substituting lobster, obviously) to rival Abbott’s (but you’ll still have to go to the Connecticut shore for the view, the weather, and the perfect, buttery hot lobster roll.)

Yield: Serves 6

Shrimp Bisque

Shrimp Bisque

This is a classic seafood bisque that is made with shellfish, shellfish stock, onion, carrot, celery, lemon juice, and tomato; enriched with heavy cream; and, most importantly, is thickened with rice instead of flour. You'll find many similar versions that include various herbs and other aromatics (thyme, bay leaves, tarragon, garlic, leeks, and even orange zest) or are spiked with booze (brandy, cognac, white wine, or sherry)—all perfectly authentic embellishments. This simple version leaves no doubt that the flavorful shrimp is the star.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1–1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 8 cups homemade Shrimp Stock or store-bought low-sodium shrimp or fish stock, divided
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 pounds shrimp, shelled (shells used for stock, if making from scratch), deveined, cooked in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and, when melted, add the onion and cook, stirring, until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add rice, tomato paste, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring, for another minute or so.
  3. Add the carrot, celery, and stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes until the vegetables and rice are soft.
  5. Using an immersion blender or in batches in a countertop blender, puree the soup. Bring the soup back up to a simmer.
  6. Meanwhile reserve 4 whole shrimp for garnish and chop the rest into bite-sized pieces.
  7. When the soup is hot, add the diced cooked shrimp, cream, and lemon juice and cook until heated through.
  8. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
  9. Serve garnished with the reserved cooked shrimp and chives.

Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 526Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 748mgSodium 7470mgCarbohydrates 15gFiber 1gSugar 3gProtein 82g

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8 thoughts on “The Best Traditional Shrimp Bisque Recipe”

  1. I used toasted rice flour instead. Stock was made from roasted shrimp heads tossed with butter. Lots of flavor in those. Even pureed them in the blender then strained them. I have made lots of bisque in my day. Thanks for the inspiration! I just happened to have shrimp heads on hand. The rest of the shrimp (minus heads but with shells on) are being pickled at the moment. Wanted to find a way to do that without having to peel the shrimp first. My test batch of 5 shrimp were very, very good so I decide to do the rest. Many recipes call for chicken stock. I just don’t understand using chicken stock in a seafood bisque when it’s so easy to make your own! I even keep a bag of roasted shrimp shells and heads (sans the butter) around for stocks and cat treats! Lots of calcium. Once again thanks! Btw, now I’m hungry for a lobster roll…darn you! Lol!

    Reply
  2. Hello Robin, I was wounding if I could use ½ cup of rice flour in place of the ½ cup of long -grain rice. Hopefully this would omit the Puree step in the broth with a counter top or immersion blender. Now don’t laugh too hard… I had to Google immersion blender. It didn’t look anything like my handheld blender (smiling here). Okay, a little background on me. I’m an average 66 years of age man that does enjoy cooking. Well anyway, my wife and I enjoy my cooking… Think I’ll put an immersion blender on my Christmas list. Thanks in advance for your help and your time. I look forward to your responce.

    Reply
    • Hi James, It seems like rice flour should work? I have never tried it and it never occurred to me! If you try it, let us know how it turns out! And I think you’ll be very happy with your immersion blender–they are great for pureeing sauces and all sorts of things.

      Reply
    • Hello Robin, I bought an immersion blender and used long grain rice. The soup turned out awesome!!! Everyone enjoyed their meal. After dinner, our son and his wife used the immersion blender to make milkshakes – LOL. Call me crazy but I ended up using your Shrimp Bisque recipe to make Crab Bisque, using canned crab. Go figure eh…

      I did something a little different to make my seafood stock for the recipe. I used low sodium vegetable stock for the broth. I added all your ingredients into the stock (carrots, onions, celery, rice, etc.). I also added about a half a cup of frozen peeled and deveined shrimp. Per your instructions I let everything simmer for about 30 minutes. Then I used the immersion blender to puree everything including the shrimp. It made for a tasty bisque soup.

      I’ve never been a very good rule follower. I guess it’s the same for recipes too. I’ve always thought of myself as just an average/okay cook. I keep surprising myself when I come up with ideas like adding the frozen shrimp and pureeing them. Okay, so now I want to use up some of that extra rice. Been thinking about making some shrimp etouffee. Yep, another soup I’ve never made in my life!!!
      Cheers, James

      Reply

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