Spicy Crab Bisque


Tanya Holland's decadent crab bisque is studded with plenty of lump crabmeat. Thanks to a hit of cayenne and Tabasco, the soup has a sneaky heat.

Spicy Crab Bisque
Photo: © John Kernick
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
45 mins


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 white onion (small finely chopped)

  • 6 celery ribs (finely chopped)

  • 6 scallions (thinly sliced)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour

  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoons mashed roasted garlic

  • 3 cups whole milk

  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry

  • 1 tablespoon ketchup

  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste

  • ¼ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

  • teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 pinch of ground cloves

  • 1 pinch of ground mace

  • 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • ½ tablespoon Tabasco (to 1 )

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 2 pounds lump crab or Dungeness crabmeat (jumbo)

  • Oyster crackers (for serving)


  1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery, scallions and bay leaves and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the broth is thickened and the vegetables are very tender, 15 minutes.

  2. Add the roasted garlic and milk; bring to a simmer. Stir in the sherry, ketchup, tomato paste, paprika, cayenne, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cream and Tabasco and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, then add the crab; simmer until hot. Discard the bay leaves. Serve the bisque with oyster crackers.

Make Ahead

The crab bisque can be refrigerated without the crab for up to 3 days. Reheat the bisque gently and then add the crab just before serving.

Suggested Pairing

Ripe, fruit-forward California Chardonnay.

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