Lobster Bisque is a classic, rich, creamy, flavorful soup that's perfect for special occasions or when you want to serve something fancy!
I love classic recipes like lobster bisque. It's an iconic dish and the epitome of elegance and luxury. You’ve probably noticed my love for lobster from my Lobster Corn Fritters and Cape May Lobster Rolls, which are pretty casual dishes. Lobster bisque, on the other hand, is an upscale soup perfect for holidays like Christmas Eve, Valentine's Day a fancy dinner date night at home.
This lobster bisque recipe is the real deal, made with butter, cream, sherry, white wine and - of course - lobster. It's a time-tested, 5 star restaurant quality recipe that I learned to make in culinary school. It's rich, silky and has a major wow factor.
Why This Recipe Works
- A classic, traditional recipe that can be made with homemade lobster stock or packaged shellfish stock.
- Uses tarragon and sherry (also a secret ingredient in my mushroom risotto) to bring out a deep lobster flavor.
- Creamy, silky and rich – everything you want in a lobster bisque.
- Can be more budget-friendly (and still delicious) by using shrimp shells and using less lobster meat.
- Lobster Meat- I recommend using 10 ounces of lobster meat for this recipe, but lobster bisque can still be delicious with much less. You can use whole lobsters or frozen lobster tails (and use the shells for stock!) cut into bite-sized pieces, or you can even use frozen pre-cooked chopped lobster meat. I recommend using Maine lobster or lobster from other cold water locations such as Canada. Warm water spiny lobster can be used, but it will have slightly less flavor. You can also use this recipe to make a bisque out of other crustaceans, such as crab, shrimp, langoustines, prawns, crawfish, crayfish or a combination.
- Lobster Stock - Follow my recipe for lobster stock on this page to for the most incredibly rich lobster flavor. You can also use packaged shellfish stock, broth or even clam juice in a pinch. But if using a store bought broth, add the shells from your whole lobster or lobster tail for extra depth and flavor.
- White Wine - Stick to a simple dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio, Savignon Blanc or an un-oaked Chardonnay. Avoid anything sweet or with a heavy or oaky flavor.
- Sherry - Sherry is a Spanish fortified wine that is a quintessential flavor in classic lobster bisque and in my opinion should never be skipped. I recommend using a dry sherry, but medium sherry or cream sherry can also be used. Cream sherry is not creamy, but is sweeter than dry sherry and is a nice compliment to the sweetness of lobster.
- Heavy Cream - Heavy cream helps make this bisque ultra creamy and luscious. If you’re tempted to use a lower-fat dairy or non-dairy milk, I don’t recommend it. Anything less than heavy cream and you’ll sacrifice the creaminess of this soup.
- Vinegar - This is not a traditional ingredient, but I find a tiny splash of vinegar at the end of cooking really makes the flavors pop and come alive. I recommend using sherry vinegar, but red or white wine vinegar or even lemon juice will work too.
- Tarragon - This is my secret ingredient for exceptional lobster bisque. It has a slightly licoricey flavor that's a natural pair with lobster and helps to bring out its lobstery flavor. You'll never taste licorice in there, but it will really enhance the lobster flavor. Fresh or dried tarragon work equally well.
Blender - You cannot make a bisque without a blender, as it needs to be pureed until silky smooth. I prefer using an immersion blender since it's easier and cuts down on clean-up, but a traditional blender will work just as well. Do not use a bullet style blender or other air-tight blender unless the soup has first cooled down completely.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is exactly how to make lobster bisque and how to make the stock if you choose to make it homemade (recommended) instead of buying pre-made stock.
For the Lobster or Shellfish Stock
- Remove lobster meat from the shells and refrigerate until needed.
- Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, peppercorns, fresh thyme, bay leaves and lobster/shrimp/crab sells to a large stock pot over medium heat. Press down to condense any space between the ingredients.
- Add water to cover, then bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat so the water is gently simmering and cook for 20-30 minutes.
- Strain the stock and store it in mason jars or plastic quart containers. The yield will vary. Stock can be frozen for up to 6 months.
Note: If you can't make homemade lobster or shellfish stock, you can use boxed or canned broth or bottled clam juice in a pinch. If you have any lobster shells from your lobster meat, add that to the simmering soup and remove them before blending. It will add extra depth and lobster flavor.
For the Bisque:
- Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and season with salt and white pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 8 minutes.
- Add the tarragon, tomato paste, paprika and cayenne pepper, stirring until the tomato paste is well combined.
- Stir in the flour then add the white wine and sherry. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir until the liquid is absorbed.
- Add the lobster stock, thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and white pepper, then cover and simmer on low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the thyme sprig and bay leaf, then puree the soup until it's totally smooth. You can use an immersion blender or do it in a regular blender in batches.
Note: Use caution when blending hot liquids and avoid using an air-tight blender such as a NutriBullet (or cool down completely before blending to avoid injury).
- Make sure the soup is very smooth with no remaining lumps or graininess. You may have to run your blender for a long time to achieve this. If your blender can't get it super smooth, strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer.
- Place the soup back on the stove over medium-low heat. Add the heavy cream and sherry vinegar, then stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Tips for Success
- Lobster can get expensive, so don’t stress over how much you can use in this recipe. Cook whole lobsters and remove the meat yourself (that way you can use the shells!), but you can also use frozen lobster tails (use those shells too) or even frozen pre-cooked lobster meat.
- Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut up the lobster shells into smaller pieces when making a stock so they fit better in the pot.
- This bisque is creamy, but not super thick. If you prefer your bisque on the thicker side, you can create a slurry by whisking together flour and water until smooth, then slowly pouring it into the boiling soup while whisking, a little bit at a time, until you reach your desired thickness. Simmer for several more minutes to cook out any remaining raw flour.
- If you don’t have a super high-powered blender, like a Vitamix, you may just have to blend for a longer period of time so that all of the graininess is out of the soup. If blending still leaves the soup grainy, just run it through a fine mesh strainer for a silky smooth soup.
- Warm your bowls in a low oven or microwave right before serving. This is a restaurant trick used to help keep the soup hotter for longer.
How to Make The Best Stock for Lobster Bisque
Surprisingly, most lobster bisques aren't made with much lobster meat. A good bisque gets most of its flavor from shells, which are used to make a rich stock that becomes the foundation of the soup.
It's a brilliant way for restaurants to utilize their inventory, but most people don't have a bunch of lobster shells just lying around their kitchens. Don't worry - here are some easy ways to make the best stock for lobster bisque.
Use shrimp shells instead.
Shrimp shells produce a wonderful shellfish stock that tastes very similar to lobster. When I learned how to make bisque in culinary school, we always used shrimp, not lobster, probably because it was cheaper. Regardless, the bisque was always delicious and tasted practically identical to lobster.
More often than not, I use a combination of shrimp and lobster shells when I make stock. Crab shells could arguably work too - just make sure they're totally cleaned of any spices like Old Bay or Zatarans.
Collect shells all year long.
Anytime I cook lobster or shrimp, I always save the shells and store them in zip-top bags in my freezer until I have enough to make stock. You can also ask your fishmonger if they have any crustacean shells lying around.
A good lobster or shellfish stock is very easy to make, and unlike stocks made from bones, it only needs to simmer for 20-30 minutes to extract all the flavor from the shells.
Can I use boxed or canned seafood stock?
Absolutely! You can also use bottled clam juice. Using a prepackaged commercial product means your soup might lack just a little depth, but it will still be completely delicious.
If you're using a whole lobster or lobster tails for the meat, you can add the shells to the soup as it simmers to impart some flavor - it will make a big difference! Just be sure to remove the shells before blending.
How to Serve Lobster Bisque
This soup will make 4 generous servings or 4-6 smaller bowls. To serve your bisque, divide lobster meat among bowls, setting aside some for garnish if desired. Ladle hot soup over the top, then sprinkle with remaining lobster meat and chives. Serve immediately while still hot.
Serve it as a starter course as part of an elegant dinner or serve it as a main dish along with a nice green salad and toasted garlic bread.
FAQS About Lobster Bisque
Lobster meat becomes tough and rubbery when it's overcooked. Since this recipe calls for cooked lobster, you don't want the perfectly cooked, tender lobster meat simmering in the soup or it will become overcooked in a matter of minutes. To avoid this, keep the cooked lobster meat separate in the refrigerator, then add it to each bowl and ladle the soup over top right before serving. The hot soup warms the lobster through without cooking it any further.
I recommend making lobster bisque on the stove, but it can be transferred to a slow cooker or crock pot to be kept warm for serving. The lobster stock can be made in a slow cooker. Cook on high heat for up to 1 hour.
Because of the cream, I don't recommend freezing lobster bisque as it can break and separate upon defrosting and reheating. However, the lobster stock freezes beautifully. Cool it down to room temperature, transfer to freezer safe containers and freeze for up to 6 months.
Yes! Lobster bisque makes a wonderful, flavorful sauce for pasta, especially ravioli or lobster ravioli. Stick to short shapes like penne or farfalle.
Yes. This recipe can be made gluten free with no issues. Use an all-purpose cup-to-cup gluten-free flour blend such as Cup-4-Cup.
Did you make this recipe and LOVE it? Please leave a star ⭐️ rating and/or comment to help other readers. I absolutely love hearing from you and do my best to answer all questions and comments. I love seeing when you make my recipes, so please tag me @ColeyCooks on Instagram and I will repost!Print