My lobster bisque soup features fresh lobster meat in creamy stock made from lobster shells. Make this recipe for a flavorful holiday soup!
What is a bisque?
A bisque is a smooth, creamy soup with origins from France, Traditionally, a bisque was considered a bisque only if it included seafood (typically lobster, shrimp, prawns, or other crustaceans. Also, rather than relying on a roux to thicken the soup stock, a traditional lobster bisque was thickened by blending rice into a strained stock made from lobster shells.
These days, there are other types of bisque, such as tomato; one of the more popular versions. Most are thickened with a combination of roux and heavy cream, for better stability.
In an effort to make the best lobster bisque recipe possible, I prepare it old-school style, using a lobster stock made from shells. I also thicken the lobster bisque soup with rice for a better flavor and consistency.
Lobster bisque soup
This restaurant quality gourmet lobster bisque recipe is one that I adapted from James Sakatos, the former executive chef at Carlyle’s restaurant in NYC. Deliciously and indulgently rich, it’s a bisque worthy of serving for special occasions like New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day.
First things first; live lobsters do not scream when you boil them. That’s an old wives tale.
The truth is, the noise you might hear when you place a live lobster into its cooking liquid is actually trapped air escaping the shell. When the air heats up and expands, it is forced out through small gaps in the shell. So, now you can now rest easy!
Ingredient notes and substitutions
For an incredible, nuanced-flavored soup, using fresh lobster is a must. Don’t be afraid, these guys come with strong rubber bands to hold the claws together. You’re safe. 🙂
If you can’t use fresh lobster, frozen shell-on, whole lobster will be fine. The flavor won’t be as fresh, but it’ll still be darned tasty.
- Long grain rice
Be sure to use traditional, long grain white rice. Do not use converted rice, also known as quick cooking rice. The texture of pureed converted rice is too grainy. As a result, the consistency of the lobster bisque soup will be grainy.
Lobster bisque recipe instructions
Making a lobster stock from shells isn’t difficult, but it does take about an hour. Trust me, though; the flavor of a homemade stock can’t be compared to anything you could buy already prepared. It’s how restaurant chefs prepare a gourmet lobster bisque!
Rather than boiling lobster I prefer steam cooking. This way, the strained liquid for the stock isn’t as diluted.
If you’d like a more humane way to cook the live lobster, place them in the freeze it for 15 minutes and they’ll go to sleep. Forever. Then, transfer them to the fridge to thaw before you cook them.
How to remove lobster meat
After the lobster is steamed, place it onto a bowl full of ice cubes to let it cool slightly before you try to crack open the shells.
🎯 SAFETY TIP
Use cooking tongs or wear kitchen gloves when adding and removing lobster from the pot. #NoBurns
To break down a lobster:
Use a large cutting board, with grooves to catch any liquid. That goodness will become part of the lobster bisque soup!
- Twist the claws and tail to remove them.
- Crack open the knuckles and claws. Use the side of a chef’s knife or a nutcracker to crack open the shells. To remove the meat, use a small seafood fork or your fingers.
- Crack open the tail. Set the tail shell side up on a hard surface. Then, use your hand to press down and crack the shell. Remove the tail meat and slice it in half lengthwise to remove and discard the black intestinal vein.
Making lobster stock
After the meat is removed from the shell, set it aside and place the shells into the pot with a mirepoix of vegetables. This fancy French word is what we call a combination of sauteed carrot, celery and onion. It’s also known as the French trinity.
All of the seasonings will go into the pot with a bit of alcohol and clam juice. Tomato paste is stirred in to help thicken and flavor the stock, and then, you wait. The lobster bisque soup broth will simmer for about an hour, creating a rich flavorful stock for the bisque.
After cooking, you’ll strain the stock to separate out the solids. The lobster shells can be thrown in the trash. They did their job, thanks for coming.
Making the lobster bisque
To thicken the bisque soup, this recipe calls for rice. It’s added to the pot and steamed for 30 minutes, then the entire mixture is blended in a food processor or blender until smooth.
To create a rich, creamy soup, you’ll add a touch of cream and then it’s time to add the delicious, succulent steamed lobster chunks.
Serving and storing lobster bisque soup
Like any good soup, the best side is always loaf of crusty bread, potato rolls, or yeast rolls. Lobster bisque is great as a starter course or appetizer. Or, you can add a side salad to make it a complete meal.
A fresh seafood soup like this is fantastic, but the shelf life is very short. I recommend storing any leftover bisque in the fridge for no longer than 2-3 days.
Unfortunately, bisques and other creamy soups do not freeze well.
Perhaps that’s a sign to enjoy a second helping right away. 😉
This post, first published on Kevin Is Cooking Dec. 15, 2018, was last updated with new content on Nov. 18, 2021.
Kevin’s Lobster Bisque Soup
- 3 lbs lobster including shells (See Note 1)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large carrot chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 1 medium white onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tsp dried tarragon
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper optional
- 1 1/2 cups sherry or sherry vinegar (non-alcoholic)
- 3 cups seafood stock or clam juice
- 1/2 cup long grain white rice (See Note 2)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Cook lobster in an 8 to 10 quart stockpot. Bring 2 inches of water and salt to a boil over high heat. Using metal tongs or gloves, place the lobsters head first into the pot and cover tightly. When water returns to a heavy boil, turn the heat down to a rolling boil and steam lobsters for 9 minutes for the first pound, and add 4 minutes for each additional pound. Shells of lobsters will be bright red when fully cooked. Remove with metal tongs or gloves and place in ice water bath, or allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before removing meat from shell. Reserve the steaming liquid.
- Twist lobster claws and tails off. Using the side of a kitchen knife or nutcracker, crack the knuckles and claws and take meat out, reserving any liquid that comes out of the shells and onto cutting board. Set the tail on a hard surface and use your hand to press down and crack the shell. Remove the tail meat and slice in half lengthwise, removing the black intestinal vein. Coarsely chop the meat and refrigerate. Roughly chop the shells along with all the lobster remains into small pieces and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and herbs. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the lobster shells and reserved liquid from cutting board; Cook for 6 minutes more. Add tomato paste and cayenne pepper and cook 4 minutes.
- Add the sherry (ignite or cook for alcohol to evaporate). Add seafood stock or clam juice and 1 cup of reserved lobster-steaming liquid. Bring to a simmer, cover pan and cook for 1 hour. Strain the broth through a colander/sieve, pressing down hard on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Wipe out the pot and add the broth and rice. Bring to a boil, cover pot and cook on low for 30 minutes, or until the grains are cooked and VERY soft. Blend the bisque in a blender or food processor, then strain through sieve again. Add cream and bring to a low simmer. Add chopped lobster meat and heat through. Season to taste with salt and serve.
- Two live lobsters weigh about 3 pounds total, depending on size. Can substitute with frozen whole shell-on lobster. Thaw under cold running tap water and use immediately.
- Do not use any type of converted rice as the soup consistency will not be smooth.
- Adapted from a recipe by James Sakatos.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.