Creamy Shrimp Bisque ~ it’s a little bit retro, a little bit ‘ladies who lunch’, but this delicious shrimp chowder is ready for a comeback! Enjoy it as an appetizer in small bowls, or as a light meal with a chunk of bread and a salad.
shrimp bisque is a creamy French shellfish soup, alot like a chowder, but bumped up a notch
Seafood bisques are definitely of the last century, but that doesn’t mean we should let them languish there. These elegant soups have so much to offer, from their creamy texture and beautiful pale pink color to their supercharged flavors. And while lobster and crab might be too pricey for everyday, shrimp is easy to come by and plentiful. Frozen shrimp is a completely acceptable option.
What you’ll need for a great shrimp bisque
- shrimp ~ fresh or frozen, start with medium or large shell-on shrimp. You’ll use those shells to make a broth.
- leeks ~ the gentle allium, leeks are sweet and onion-y without the bite.
- olive oil
- cognac and sherry ~ raid the liquor cabinet for this soup and you’ll be richly rewarded with restaurant style flavor.
- butter and flour for a roux to thicken the soup.
- half and half
- tomato paste ~ this is what gives shrimp bisque its exquisite color.
- salt and pepper
Little variations make each shrimp bisque recipe unique
The bones of a good shrimp bisque are always the same no matter what recipe you go with ~ there’s shrimp, of course, aromatic veggies, stock, cream, tomato paste, brandy, sherry, and a bit of spice. It’s the little extra touches that distinguish one recipe from another, but you don’t want to stray too far from tradition, because that’s what makes this soup a classic. Here are a few of the ways famous chefs have put their own special spin on it~
- Emeril uses lots of fresh herbs to distinguish his bisque.
- Martha actually roasts and purees the shells right into her shrimp bisque ~ I wasn’t expecting that one, but it turns out this is the most authentic way to do it…leave it to Martha!
- Tyler freshens his up with orange zest.
- Paula tops her soup with crunchy homemade croutons.
This shrimp bisque owes some of its flavor to a from-scratch stock that’s made using the shrimp shells. The flavor is delicate and the color is beautiful . The cognac and sherry add that unmistakable restaurant flair to an already luxurious soup.
TIP: Shrimp bisque is rich, so serve it in smaller bowls, a little goes a long way.
My friend Sandy makes my beautiful soup bowls, read about her and see her work in my American Artisans post.
Reader Rave ~
“Delish! Followed the basic instructions but used leftovers from the shrimp boil the night before. (potatoes and corn.) So glad I had shrimp stock in the freezer and didn’t have cognac so used straight sherry and still received rave reviews. Thanks Sue, can’t wait to make this again!” ~Nancy
- food processor or blender
- 1 pound medium or large shrimp, shelled and deveined, reserve the shells
- 2 leeks
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- baby shrimp or chopped shrimp
- thyme leaves
- First make the stock ~ put 4 cups water in a pot, along with the shrimp shells and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the broth and add water if necessary to make 3 3/4 cups. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, slice the leeks and then rinse them thoroughly to remove any grit.
- Heat the oil in a soup pot and saute the leeks for 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the cayenne and the shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are cooked, about 3 minutes.
- Add the cognac and cook for a minute, then the sherry, and cook for 3 more minutes.
- Puree the mixture, in 2 batches, in a food processor until it is coarsely pureed. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in the same pan and add the flour ~ cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Do not let it brown. Add the half and half and cook over medium heat until it is hot and thickened. Stir or whisk constantly.
- Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Season to taste, and serve in small bowls, garnished with fried leeks or chopped shrimp and thyme leaves.
Questions and Reviews
I have made this recipe several times now- my husband’s most requested dish. It does take a few hours especially when making the stock. What I have learned to do is make enough stock to freeze leftovers so next time doesn’t take quite so long. Thanks for sharing.
Your bisque looks fabulous! Can it be made with bay shrimp instead of if I can’t find seafood stock, is there a sub?
Thanks so much!
Yes, you can use bay shrimp, but of course then you won’t have the shells to make the stock. You might try a clam broth or clam juice as a substitute.
Can I use cooking sherry wine? Also don’t have cognac would I just use the sherry for both amounts? Also can I heavy cream instead of half and half? If so do I use the same amount or reduce the quantity?
If your sherry tastes good, then use it for both. Sometimes cooking wine isn’t quite up to snuff, and I definitely prefer an actual Sherry or other fortified wine.
This is a delicious bisque!
Sue what about the heavy cream? I have some in the house instead of half and half. If I use the heavy cream do I cut the quantity? Keep it the same as half and half.
You could use the same quantity, or, if you want to lighten it, just cut it with a little water.
Do you have nutritional I for for this bisque?
My nutritional calculator is glitchy right now, but I’ll get it up asap.
Is this recipe from the Green Flash Restaurant in Captiva Florida?
No, maybe they found my recipe!
Hello Sue – this is my first attempt at Bisque.. I will be using Head On – Royal Reds as they taste more like lobster than shrimp- when preparing the stock do I use the entire head as well as the shell? Thanks Sue. Can’t wait to try your recipe.
Yes, that will give lots of flavor, it sounds really special!
I made your shrimp bisque today and it was fabulous. I received rave reviews from my husband and he couldn’t stop eating it. I made my own stock from grilled shrimp shells and used leftover grilled shrimp from the day before. Thanks for the great recipe. For those that have not made this, it truly is worth the effort!!!!!
Appreciate your feedback Valerie 🙂
This is the best soup ever! Although I have been cooking for 50 years, your recipes have encouraged me to try new ingredients (leeks) and techniques (making a shrimp broth) I am really enjoying getting your recipes via email. Keep up the good work!!
Just found your website – Love it! Question about the leeks in the shrimp bisque recipe – do I use the whole leek or just the white? I’m newer to leeks so not sure. Am so looking forward to making this for my family!
I always use the white and just a little bit of the pale green, Ann. As long as its tender it’s great to use. I trim off all the dark green tough parts, and then peel off the tougher outer layers before slicing. Make sure you rinse the slices well, leeks have a tendency to be gritty.