A rich and creamy shrimp bisque recipe that’s absolutely loaded with flavor! With a buttery seafood base and large chunks of shrimp, a bowl of this bisque is cozy, comforting and celebratory. Top with fresh chives and enjoy with homemade bread or dinner rolls.
Why You’ll Love This Shrimp Bisque
First and foremost, this shrimp bisque recipe is cozy, comforting and loaded with flavor. Instead of relying on so-so boxed seafood stock, this recipe uses the shells from the shrimp (which usually get tossed) to create a nuanced and dynamic soup base.
Furthermore, that soup base is much lighter than most. We skip the heavy cream and instead use vegetables, tomato paste, a bit of flour, and whole milk to create a soup that has body and is ultra-creamy.
What is Bisque?
At its simplest, a bisque is a thick, rich soup most often made of puréed seafood and cream. Vegetables are occasionally part of the mix but are always puréed (unlike chowder which leaves them in chunks).
Traditional bisques are loaded with cream and butter. And if you like it that way, you can certainly do that here (just swap the milk for cream or half-and-half and double the butter).
But since we do things healthyish around here, we rely on a few tried-and-true cooking techniques to bolster both the flavor and creaminess of this soup.
- Shrimp: You’ll need extra-jumbo shell-on shrimp (also labeled 16/20 shrimp). For more info on shrimp sizing and labeling, check out this shrimp size chart. PLUS, be sure to reserve the shells! This recipe uses the shells to make a quick shrimp stock.
- Dry Vermouth: Vermouth is a classic addition to any fish or seafood soup recipe. We love it in this shrimp bisque as well. Though you can also use your favorite dry white wine.
- Clam Juice: Bottled clam juice is an essential ingredient in this soup. It helps build a delicious flavor base, and further fortifies our homemade shrimp stock. Look for bottle clam juice next to the anchovies and tinned fish.
- Whole Milk: We like whole milk in this recipe. It’s both light and a little decadent. For even more decadence, you can use half-and-half or cream.
- Unsalted butter: we recommend using unsalted butter so you can control the seasoning. If you have salted butter, use that instead and just go light on the added salt/season to taste.
- Celery: just 2 stalks of celery is all you need here. It adds foundational flavor to the soup.
- Carrot: you’ll need 1 large carrot or two small-medium carrots.
- Shallot: grab 1 large shallot or two small shallots.
- Flour: you can use all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour here. It’s just used for thickening the soup.
- Tomato Paste: this recipe uses 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. We recommend getting the tomato paste sold in a tube since you can open it, use what you need, and refrigerate the rest.
- Thyme: a couple sprigs of fresh thyme add depth and savory herbiness to the soup. If you would prefer to use dried, use 1 teaspoons dried thyme.
- Bay Leaves: a couple dried bay leaves round out the flavors. If you don’t have them, skip ’em.
- Tabasco: many traditional shrimp bisque recipes add a dash of Tabasco. We like the spicy tang it adds as well. Use it if you like, or keep it out for a more mild shrimp bisque.
- Chives or scallions: for a punch of fresh green, we like to top each serving with some fresh chives or scallions.
- Red pepper flakes: another option for adding some heat to the soup! Sprinkle a dash of red pepper flakes over each serving if desired!
How to Make Shrimp Bisque
- Make a quick shrimp stock by toasting the shrimp shells in some butter. Once they are starting to brown, add in the celery, carrot, and shallot. Cook the mixture until the vegetables start to soften.
Stir in the flour and and cook briefly then stir in the tomato paste and herbs. Cook for another minute before deglazing with the vermouth then adding the clam juice and water. Simmer the mixture until it’s thickened—this will take about 15 minutes.
- Blend and strain the stock by transferring the reduced shell mixture to a blender and blending until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve back into the pot now-empty pot. Press the mixture through the sieve and discard the solids.
- Finish the soup by stirring in the milk, shrimp and Tabasco, if using. Cook briefly until the shrimp are cooked through, this will take about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and tabasco
- Once you’ve added the milk, keep the soup at a low simmer. Any vigorous boiling can make the milk separate.
- Once you add the shrimp, it’s go-time for serving. Add the shrimp, cook for 2 minutes, then start serving. If you let the shrimp hang out in the soup too long, it will become overcooked.
Make Ahead & Storage Information
If you would like to prep this ahead of time, we recommend following the recipe up until the point where you add the raw shrimp (step 6). Store the creamy soup base in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before reheating and finishing the recipe as directed.
If you have leftovers, store them in a glass airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stove top just until warmed through. Keep an eye on it—you want to avoid overcooking the shrimp
This recipe for shrimp bisque only makes 4 cups. Doesn’t seem like much, but I find the soup is so flavorful and decadent that 4 cups can generally serve 4 people if served with milk bread rolls and a side salad.
However, if you’re planning on this being the main entrée with little to no sides, I would recommend doubling the recipe, especially if you’re serving 4 to 6 people. It’s easy to double the recipe—no special changes needed.
Alternatively, I find this cozy shrimp bisque to be a great appetizer or small bite for holiday parties and dinner parties. If you want to make this for a dinner party as an appetizer—follow the make ahead steps we share in the recipe notes.
- Our Simple Fennel Salad is a natural pairing with anything fish and seafood.
- Try this Smashed Cucumber Salad for a unique and flavorful salad.
- Celebrate the season with this Savory Citrus Salad.
- Is there a better pairing than Cornbread and bisque? We think not.
- Our Milk Bread Rolls are a classic dinner roll—perfect for soaking up the last drops of soup.
- There’s nothing more fun to make or tasty to eat than this Garlic & Browned Butter Naan Bread.
Absolutely. Use vegan butter or olive oil and swap the milk for canned coconut milk. Coconut Shrimp Bisque—yum! For lactose free, use vegan butter and lactose free whole milk. Our Seafood Soup is another great dairy-free seafood recipe!
Sure! Use a gluten-free flour blend or sorghum flour instead of all-purpose flour.
No, shrimp bisque should not be frozen. For starters, you want to avoid reheating this soup as that will likely over cook the shrimp. And secondly, you shouldn’t freeze milk-based soups. If you want to get ahead on prep, make the shrimp stock up to 3 days ahead of time.
No, shrimp bisque does not have shells in it. That being said, we do use the shells to make a flavorful and quick shrimp stock. But once all the flavor has been pulled from the shells, they get strained out of the soup.
Both tend to be seafood soups—bisque usually has a creamy soup bae with chunks of seafood. Chowder is usually creamy, a bit thicker and features chunks of both seafood and vegetables. If you’re looking for a chowder, our Salmon Chowder is a winner!
Shrimp Bisque Recipe
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound extra-jumbo (16/20) shell-on shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cup into ¾-inch chunks; shells reserved
- ½ cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
- ½ cup diced carrot (1 large carrot)
- ½ cup chopped shallot (1 large shallot)
- kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves
- ½ cup dry vermouth
- 2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
- 2 ½ cups whole milk, divided
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco + more for serving, optional
- Fresh chives or scallions and red pepper flakes, for serving
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add reserved shrimp shells (from 1 pound shrimp) and cook until spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup celery, ½ cup carrot and ½ cup shallot; season with salt and cook until beginning to soften, 5 minutes.
- Stir in 2 tablespoons flour and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 4 thyme sprigs, and 2 dried bay leaves; cook for 1 minute. Deglaze with ½ cup vermouth, scraping up any browned bits; cook 1 minute.
- Add 2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice and ½ cup water; bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer reduced mixture to blender, add 1 cup milk and blend until completely smooth, at least 1 minute.
- Pour soup through fine-mesh strainer back into Dutch oven or large pot, pressing on solids to extract soup. Discard solids.
- Stir in remaining 1 ½ cups milk; bring soup to simmer over medium heat. Stir in 1 pound diced shrimp and ½ teaspoon Tabasco, if using, and simmer until shrimp are cooked through, 2–3 minutes.
- Season with additional salt and Tabasco to taste. Serve with chives, Tabasco and/or red pepper flakes.