Classic Oyster Stew

A bowl of homemade oysters stew.

Homemade oyster stew is easy to make and is so delicious. This classic oyster stew recipe uses a pint of fresh oysters for this oyster soup recipe.  Garnish with oyster crackers and your favorite hot sauce. 

Draining oysters in a colander.

You’re either an oyster person or you’re not and I suspect that since you’ve clicked on this post, you’re an oyster lover like me.  Welcome to the club.  I grew up near the Chesapeake Bay and developed a natural and intrinsic need for oysters, blue crabs and Smithfield ham. As anyone who is from that region will attest, this Classic Oyster Stew is a standard for us.

Reserved oyster liquid in a bowl.

The simplicity of this dish is what makes it so special — it’s little more than fresh oysters, milk and cream.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to shuck a bushel of oysters to enjoy the flavors — a fresh pint from your local fishmonger will do the trick.   Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the oysters, and be sure to fish out any bits of shell.  Set the oysters aside.

Reserve the oyster liquid for the stew.

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sweating onions and celery in a pot.
Straining oyster liqueur into the vegetables.

Saute onions and celery, then pour the oyster liquor through a fine mesh strainer (to filter out any grit) and into the pot with the vegetables.

Next comes the milk, cream and thyme.  Heat until hot, but not boiling and slide in the oysters.

A pot of oyster stew with oyster crackers.

You don’t want to cook the oysters, just warm them through, otherwise they’ll become tough and chewy.  This classic oyster stew doesn’t need further embellishment, but if you’re like me, a little garnish just makes it more inviting.  I add a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning, chopped celery leaves and a sliver of butter to swirl into the stew.  A little hot sauce is good too.

Serve the oyster stew recipe with oyster crackers, celery leaves and hot sauce.

More seafood soups you’ll love:

A bowl of hearty oyster stew with hot sauce.

More oyster recipes:

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A steaming bowl of oyster stew.
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4.47 from 13 votes

Oyster Stew

Oyster stew is little more than milk, cream and oysters but the flavor is beyond the sum of its parts.  This makes a delicious appetizer or a light supper.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword cream soups, oyster stew, oysters
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4


  • 16 ounces oysters in their liquid
  • tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot minced
  • 1 stalk celery minced (celery leaves reserved)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional Garnishes:

  • sprinkle Old Bay Seasoning
  • dash hot sauce I like Crystal’s or Tabasco
  • celery leaves chopped
  • slivers butter


  • Set a colander over a small bowl.  Add the oysters into the colander, reserving the liquor. 
  • Set a fine mesh sieve over another small bowl and pour the oyster liquor over the sieve. This will remove any sand or grit from the liquor.  Discard solids.  
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots and celery, stirring for 2-3 minutes until vegetables are slightly softened and translucent.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low and add the strained oyster liquor, milk, cream and thyme.  Heat slowly until broth reaches a simmer (just a few bubbles rimming the pan)  Do not boil, to avoid curdling the milk.  Taste the broth and adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  • Slip the oysters into the broth and let them simmer for 2-3 minutes, just until the edges start to curl. You want the oysters to be tender, not tough – overcooking will make them rubbery.
  • Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with celery leaves and/or other optional garnishes.


Calories: 350kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 117mg | Sodium: 94mg | Potassium: 250mg | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1335IU | Vitamin C: 1.1mg | Calcium: 188mg | Iron: 0.5mg

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This classic oyster stew recipe is easy & delicious. Oysters, milk & cream make this seafood stew rich & hearty! Great with oyster crackers & hot sauce. #seafood #oysters #soup #stew #milk #cream #oysterstew #authenticoysterstew #creamsoups #seafoodsoup #seafoodchowder #chowder #shellfish #rappahannockriveroysters #chesapeakebayoysters

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  1. 5 stars
    This came out great. Just like I remember when I was a kid. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Don Gibson says:


    Thanks for the recipe ideas. I used your amazing recipe and made changes thereto so that it more resembled my Family’s historic “Poppy Al’s Xmas Oyster Stew”. They are very close.

    My Family has generally made oyster stew every Xmas Morning. Our extended Family, and other Friends, would stop by at various times on Xmas Day to “say Merry Christmas” and share some Holiday Cheer. It was always a very long day, but always a great time.

    My Grandmother (apparently) “invented” Our Family’s version of this Stew. It was always a “hit” and a great time to share with long-lost friends. I truly miss those times.

    Going forward, I will always give you credit for helping me recapture my Family’s long-celebrated tradition. . . .

    Regards, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

  3. Linda K Hirte says:

    5 stars
    Taking an oyster class this week cuz the “dead guy” isn’t doing any more shucking for me. This will be the first thing after the class. I’ve been wanting to make this for weeks.

    1. How fun! An oyster class – where do they offer those?

  4. I made this for Christmas Eve and it was fantastic! And, my husband loved it! He even asked me to print out the recipe!

    1. I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed it! Definitely one of our favorites

  5. 5 stars
    You’re right, I’m a 100% oyster lover and this recipe seriously couldn’t be more up my street if it tried! Cannot wait to give it a go 🙂

  6. I’m from the Maritimes in Canada so I grew up with chowder and this one looks gorgeous. I love the addition of celery leaves – such an underrated ingredient.

    1. It’s sort of like that, but in the Chesapeake Bay area, it’s not a copycat dish, but rather a standard soup from that region.

  7. Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine says:

    5 stars
    How did you make oyster stew so beautiful?! What a great classic dish for the holidays.

    1. Thank you — I think the garnishes help the look — but you’re right, on it’s own, it can look quite drab.