Quick ’n’ Easy Shrimp Bisque

Who needs reservations when there's restaurant-quality, occasion-worthy bisque on the table in an hour? This simple bisque is actually half bisque (think a creamy, tomato-y broth) and half chowder (think meaty chunks of shrimp) and 100% delicious. It's lighter than other bisques but still plenty rich without turning thick and heavy.

Quick 'n' Easy Shrimp Bisque ♥ KitchenParade.com, part bisque, part chowder, all delicious.

Shrimp Bisque for Two Made from Scratch with a Quick Shrimp Stock Made from Shrimp Shells. Easy DIY. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Occasion Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free. Low Carb. High Protein.

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Let's Toast: Here's to More "One-of-a-Kind" Days

When you get up at the same time, when you wear the same clothes, when you always have peanut butter on toast for breakfast, when you pass the same houses on the walk to school, when you do homework from the same spot every afternoon, when you eat dinner at exactly six o'clock, well, what you end up with is one "every-day day" after another "every-day day".

That was the assessment of the irrepressible eight-year old Billy Watson, one of four boys on a cross-country high-jinks road trip in The Lincoln Highway (affiliate link) by Amor Towles, author of A Gentleman in Moscow, Rules of Civility and more.

Billy's innocent conclusion? We need more "one-of-a-kind" days!

And that's how Shrimp Bisque strikes me as we approach the two-year anniversary of the social isolation and uncertainties of 2020-2021 that for many of us remain the lives-we-live in 2022.

A special soup like bisque is usually saved for restaurants. But really, it's an easy but inspirational way to celebrate a special day, brighten a hard day or even turn a plain ol' "every-day day" into Billy's "one-of-a-kind" day.

It calls for surprisingly few ingredients and is surprisingly simple to make, whether for a romantic, candle-lit dinner-for-two or dinner-in and Netflix on the couch at home.

So call upon your inner chef: some restaurant recipes taste even better at home!

What Is Bisque?

The lines between bisque vs chowder and bisque vs soup are fuzzy.

And truth be told, my Shrimp Bisque swings back and forth across those lines.

Here are the traditional descriptions.

  • BISQUE [pronounced BISK, rhymes with risk not risqué] is a thick, smooth and creamy soup. It often has a touch of tomato so is reddish not pale in color. Because bisque is usually richer than chowder, the servings are often smaller. For example, Tomato Bisque is so rich (even though not as rich as most bisques) that 1/4 or 1/2 cup servings are plenty.

  • CHOWDER [pronounced CHOW-duh in New England where it's famous and teehee, just chow-der by the rest of us] is a thick, smooth and usually milky soup studded with fish, potatoes, corn, carrot, etc. I make a light Summer Seafood Chowder and of course, Finnish Summer Soup is really a vegetable chowder and Finnish Salmon Soup is really a fish chowder.

This SHRIMP BISQUE crosses back and forth between those fuzzy bisque-to-chowder lines. It's creamier than a fish chowder but lighter than a traditional bisque. Its liquid is smooth like a bisque but packed with shrimp bites like a chowder.

And with your very first slurp, nobody but nobody's gonna be worrying about bisque and chowder. The only question will be, "Is there more?"

Quick 'n' Easy Shrimp Bisque ♥ KitchenParade.com, part bisque, part chowder, all delicious.

What's In Shrimp Bisque? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • Shrimp Stock Made from Shrimp Shells And yeah, you're going to make your own. But don't worry, this stock needs only shrimp shells and water. It simmers for just a few minutes while the rest of the bisque is getting started. A good seafood base would be a fair substitute, so would clam juice. You'll need 1-1/2 cups.

  • Fresh or Frozen Shrimp Fresh shrimp make for one magnificent Shrimp Bisque but honestly, we're never disappointed by frozen shrimp. You'll want to buy shrimp with their shells on which, if frozen, will need to thaw before making the Bisque, see how to safely thaw shrimp.

  • Onion and Garlic Since this Bisque isn't puréed in a blender, it's important to cut up the onion, especially, as small as you can so that it'll almost melt into the liquid. Still, the onion flavor, the garlic flavor, are important to the overall combination of flavors here.

  • Seasonings to Boost Flavor Celery salt and smoked paprika are used in small amounts but again, are present to boost the shrimp flavor. At the end, taste for salt and I do hope you'll consider adding a little extra because at that point, a little salt actually sweetens the shrimp: weird but true. And then for a touch of heat, add a tiny sprinkle of white pepper, a little cayenne would work too.

  • Cream and Butter for Richness This Bisque has a much lighter texture than other bisques which to my taste, are just unnecessarily rich and thick. Still, some creaminess is important.

  • White Wine There's a small measure of wine here, just a quarter cup, but it adds a touch of acidity that's needed to offset the richness. Much (not all) the alcohol will cook off but for an alcohol-free version, substitute water or more Quick Shrimp Stock plus a tablespoon of white wine vinegar.

  • Tomato Paste This recipe makes small batch of Bisque (just three or so cups), so it takes just a tablespoon of tomato paste to add color, acidity and umami, that extra taste of deliciousness imparted by ingredients like anchovies, mushrooms, Worcestershire, soy sauce, miso, aged cheese like Parmesan, for starters. Good news, tomato paste freezes well! See How to Freeze Tomato Paste.

  • Cornstarch for Thickening When you mix cornstarch and water and stir it into a hot liquid, the liquid will thicken in just a minute or two.
Thawing shrimp for Quick 'n' Easy Shrimp Bisque ♥ KitchenParade.com, part bisque, part chowder, all delicious.

How to Make Shrimp Bisque

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in three easy steps. You can do this!

  • STEP ONE Make the Quick Shrimp Stock, just simmering shrimp shells and water.
  • STEP TWO While the Stock simmers, make the Bisque's liquid in a separate pot, including thickening it with cornstarch.
  • STEP THREE Just before serving, cook the shrimp in the thickened liquid.

Here's What's NOT In This Recipe

Sometimes, what's left out of a recipe is just as important as what's put in. That's definitely the case here.

  • No sherry, no brandy, no bourbon. I especially love sherry in cream-based soups but this recipe is all about boosting the shrimp flavor, not adding other flavors.
  • No cheese. Some recipes call for cream cheese, even cheese like Velveeta for extra richness and thickening. To my taste, cheese adds way too much richness to bisque, it just gets too thick and gloppy. This recipe is much lighter, it's thickened with cornstarch plus a little cream and butter.
  • No vegetables. LOL, when my nephews were little, Auntie Al's "house rules" were "No TV. No vegetables. And no laughing!" Well, I'm just as adamant here, vegetables like zucchini, asparagus, potatoes, etc. have no place in Shrimp Bisque, nor do quinoa, rice or ...
  • No canned soup. Puh-lease! We're making bisque from scratch. We don't need any stinkin' canned mushroom or tomato soup.
Shrimp and shells for Quick 'n' Easy Shrimp Bisque ♥ KitchenParade.com, part bisque, part chowder, all delicious.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most iluminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

THE STOCK MAKES A DIFFERENCE Do make the Quick Shrimp Stock, it really boosts the shrimp flavors.

A SMALL BATCH As written, the recipe yields a generous 3 cups of bisque, that's a pretty small volume for soup. While this recipe can easily be scaled up by 3 or even 4 times (just make sure your pot is big enough), I don't recommend scaling the recipe down any further. It's just hard to control such a small volume.

Quick 'n' Easy Shrimp Bisque ♥ KitchenParade.com, here puréed, all delicious.

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

Can Shrimp Bisque be puréed? Yes, of course, but ... Me, I think what makes this recipe special is how it's a mix of a creamy bisque and meaty shrimp. But truth be told, my husband wanted to try a more traditional smooth shrimp bisque using this same recipe. And it was also delicious! However, I do recommend changing things up a bit. Before thickening the bisque with cornstarch, add the shrimp pieces and let them cook. Then purée the mixture in a blender (sorry, there's not enough volume for an immersion blender), to prevent a big mess and bad burns, you'll want to review How to Safely Purée Soups & Other Hot Liquids in a Blender first. Return the puréed mixture to the pot, it may not need the cornstarch for thickening. Stir in the cream and butter, season to taste with salt and white pepper.

What Makes This Recipe Special

  • It's super shrimp-y, thanks to both ingredients and technique
  • It's easy to make on a whim, especially with frozen shrimp
  • It's plenty rich and creamy but still, lighter than nearly all bisques
  • It's as good as (and maybe even better than?) a restaurant bisque
  • It's an easy dish to make alone but a fun, convivial dish to cook with someone else

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe for Shrimp Bisque inspires you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

Quick 'n' Easy Shrimp Bisque ♥ KitchenParade.com, part bisque, part chowder, all delicious.

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Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time-to-table: 45 minutes
Makes about 3-1/4 cups

Allow an extra hour if shrimp need thawing.
  • 1 pound shrimp, any size, shells on, thawed if frozen
  • Shrimp Shells
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (30g) very finely chopped onion
  • 1 medium clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (also called pimentòn)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
  • 1-1/2 cups (more or less) Quick Shrimp Stock

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch stirred with 1 tablespoon water (or any extra Quick Shrimp Stock)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Uncooked Shrimp
  • Salt to taste (a little salt here will sweeten the shrimp)
  • White pepper to taste
  • Fresh dill for garnish, optional

PREP THE SHRIMP If needed, thaw the shrimp (see how to safely thaw shrimp just below).

Peel the shrimp, save the shells separately from the shrimp meat; if the shrimp is fresh, you may want to de-vein the shrimp as well. Set aside any whole shrimp you may want for garnish, chop up the rest into small bites. Refrigerate the uncooked whole and cut-up shrimp.

MAKE THE QUICK SHRIMP STOCK In a medium saucepan, bring the shells and water to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer and let the stock simmer while continuing the Bisque, about 15 minutes.

START THE BISQUE Heat a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven on medium heat, add the oil and heat until shimmery, then stir in the onion and garlic with a spatula or wooden spoon to coat with fat. Stir in the celery salt and smoked paprika and let gently cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste.

Add the white wine, the pan will sizzle a little; stir in the wine, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to collect all the flavorful bits (called "fond"). Stir in the Quick Shrimp Stock. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

To thicken the Bisque, stir together the cornstarch and water, be sure to give it a quick stir right before putting into the hot soup. Slowly drizzle the cornstarch mixture into the soup with one hand, stirring it in with the other. Let cook for a minute or two, the Bisque will noticeably thicken.

Stir in the butter and cream until the butter melts and the mixture returns to a simmer.

IF MAKING AHEAD OF TIME stop here and refrigerate the Bisque until ready to serve. Before continuing, gently bring the Bisque back to a simmer.

JUST BEFORE SERVING Stir in the uncooked shrimp pieces and any whole shrimp and let cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5-10 minutes.

Taste the Bisque, add salt to taste and a sprinkle of white pepper.

Serve hot, garnished with a little fresh dill.

LEFTOVERS should be eaten within a day or two.

ALANNA's TIPS If you like, set aside a few whole shrimp for garnish. Cook them along with the chopped shrimp but pull out of the Bisque before thickening. Be sure to simmer, not boil, the Quick Shrimp Stock, you don't want too much liquid to evaporate. The recipe allows for some evaporation, in the end you'll want about 1-1/2 cups shrimp stock. If you'd prefer a slightly thicker Bisque, double or even triple the cornstarch/water mixture.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2022/02/shrimp-bisque.html .

HOW TO SAFELY THAW FROZEN SHRIMP The best way to thaw frozen shrimp is to thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator, separating any shrimp frozen together every few hours. But really, who has time for that? The next best way (and the only technique I use) is to submerge the frozen shrimp in cold (yes cold, not hot) water for an hour. I usually put them in a colander and submerge the colander in a larger bowl filled with cold water. Break up the icy shrimp every 10 minutes or so, otherwise the ones in the center won't thaw completely and maybe not at all.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Half Cup appetizer-size serving: 198 Calories; 13g Tot Fat; 7g Sat Fat; 140mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium; 3g Carb; 0g Fiber; 1g Sugar; 15g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 5 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 7 & Freestyle 5 & myWW green 7 & blue 5 & purple 5 & future WW points

Got Shrimp? You've Got Recipes

~ shrimp recipes ~
Warm Baked Feta & Tomatoes with Shrimp ♥ KitchenParade.com. TikTok phenomenon worth the hype as an appetizer, casual meal or pasta feast.

Shrimp Veracruz, another one-pot Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy. Low Carb. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly. Gluten Free.

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Asparagus or other Fresh Summer Vegetables, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, just shrimp and your choices of vegetables tossed in an addictive sweet 'n' sour sauce. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly. Gluten Free.

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.