A well-made lobster bisque is nothing short of incredible: velvety smooth, rich and packed full of seafood flavor. The secret to getting there is to make the broth from scratch. The broth is unique as it uses lobster shells and a touch of tomato paste to create deep, complex flavors that are perfectly rounded out when you add a splash of heavy cream. Finish it off by studding the creamy soup with chunks of buttery lobster meat, and you have a date-night dinner winner.
It might feel overwhelming at first to learn how to make lobster bisque from scratch, but you can whip up a restaurant-quality version at home with a handful of pantry staples and a few specialty ingredients. Better yet, our version is naturally gluten-free, pureeing rice to thicken the soup and give it body instead of using flour.
What Is a Bisque?
Bisque is a blended soup that’s characterized by its thick, creamy texture. The soup itself is smooth but not thin, and it’s usually garnished with large chunks of cooked lobster, shrimp, crab or vegetables. The soup gets its body by pureeing flavorful broth with cooked rice, thickening it up without having to add flour or cornstarch. Most bisque also contains butter and heavy cream, making it very rich and filling.
Classic bisque is made with shellfish like lobster, but modern versions stray outside the boundaries. You can make it with other seafood like crab and shrimp or use vegetables like tomatoes, butternut squash or parsnips and celeriac.
How to Make Lobster Bisque
This creamy lobster bisque recipe is from James Schend, the deputy editor of Taste of Home. It makes about two quarts of bisque.
- 1 quart water
- 2 live lobsters (about 1 pound each)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup white wine or sherry
- 1 carton (32 ounces) seafood stock
- 2/3 cup uncooked long grain rice
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- Minced fresh parsley, optional
Editor’s Note: Experiment with other types of seafood for this bisque. Look for lobster tails if whole lobster is too hard to find, or use crab, shell-on shrimp or a combination.
Essential Tools You’ll Need
- If you want to make a restaurant-quality bisque, you’ll need a powerful blender. You could certainly use an immersion blender to puree the rice into the broth, but we recommend a high-powered blender like the Vitamix. It’s expensive, but it will ensure that your soup will turn out silky smooth.
- You’ll also want to pick up a 6-quart Dutch oven. It’s large enough to steam whole lobsters and make stock, and it holds heat well enough to simmer delicate soup at low temperatures. That makes it a one-pot workhorse for bisque making.
- Finally, it’s a good idea to have a roll of cheesecloth. Straining your homemade lobster stock through cheesecloth is the only way to ensure little bits of shell won’t make their way into your finished soup.
Step 1: Cook the lobsters
In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat the water over high heat until it reaches a boil. Add the lobsters and cover the pot. Steam the lobsters for 8 minutes, until the shells are bright pink and the meat is opaque.
Remove the lobsters from the cooking liquid, reserving the liquid for later. When the lobsters are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the claws and tail, saving the shells and any juices. Refrigerate the meat until step three.
Editor’s Tip: You can cook the lobster up to two days in advance, storing the meat, shells, cooking liquid and juices in the refrigerator.
Step 2: Make the broth
Wipe out the Dutch oven and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook until they’re tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it starts to caramelize and release its oils, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
Deglaze the pan with the wine or sherry and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the reserved lobster cooking liquid, juices and shells, along with the seafood stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.
Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth-lined colander, pressing on the shells to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the shells and solids.
Step 3: Create the lobster bisque soup
Return the strained broth to the Dutch oven and add the rice. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the rice is very soft, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the contents of the Dutch oven to a blender and puree until the mixture is very smooth.
Return the pureed soup to the Dutch oven and add the cream, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a very low simmer over medium-low heat. Add the lobster meat and cook until it’s heated through.
Serve lobster bisque with additional black pepper and parsley, if desired.
How to Store Lobster Bisque
Store any leftover lobster bisque in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where it’s good for about two to three days. Unfortunately, freezing lobster bisque isn’t recommended, so you won’t want to make a ton of leftovers. The cream can separate as the soup thaws, creating an undesirable grittiness. Since part of bisque’s magic is its smooth texture, it just won’t be the same.
What to Serve with Lobster Bisque
Lobster bisque soup can be served as the starter course for a special-occasion meal, or you can turn it into the main meal itself by serving it with some well-placed sides. For the latter, try serving bisque with homemade dinner rolls or breadsticks. You can also lighten up the meal with a salad or vegetable side, like oven-roasted vegetables, broccoli slaw or grilled zucchini.