There's nothing quite like a steaming bowl of creamy, briny oyster stew to bring people together around the table.
As a timeless classic, oyster stew is the ultimate comfort food that evokes nostalgic memories of holidays past.
We've rounded up the very best oyster stew recipes to add to your repertoire so you can master this delicious dish.
Keep reading for pro tips on how to make oyster stew, along with our top recipe picks.
What Makes a Great Oyster Stew?
A stellar oyster stew starts with two key components: ultra-fresh oysters and rich, velvety broth.
Importance of Fresh Oysters
Oysters are the star of the show in oyster stew, so you'll want to use the freshest oysters possible. Look for oysters that are tightly closed with clear, plump meat inside. Fresh-shucked oysters have the briny ocean flavor that makes this stew sing. If you can't find fresh oysters, use fresh-frozen or jarred oysters packed in water. Avoid pre-cooked or smoked oysters, which will overpower the delicate stew.
Choosing the Right Ingredients
The supporting ingredients in an oyster stew complement the star oysters. Use whole milk or half-and-half for a rich, silky texture. Butter also adds richness. Onions, celery, garlic, and fresh herbs like thyme and parsley provide a savory depth of flavor. Some small red potatoes can thicken and add an earthy note. Avoid overpowering ingredients like hot sauce or smoked meats. Let the clean, briny oyster and velvety broth flavors shine through. Choose high-quality ingredients that allow the fresh oysters to take center stage.
3 Top Oyster Stew Recipes for Your Next Gathering
1. Classic Creamy Oyster Stew
Beyond oysters, traditional creamy oyster stew calls for a simple combination of butter, onions, celery, half-and-half, and seasonings. Melt the butter and cook the aromatics to create a flavorful base. Use cream or half-and-half to make a rich, creamy broth. Season with salt, white or black pepper, and a dash of cayenne for warmth. Customize your stew with fresh herbs, a splash of wine, or a few potatoes.
2. Spicy Red Clay Oyster Stew
This spicy red clay oyster stew gets its name from the dash of red clay powder, which adds rich earthy notes to balance the brininess of the oysters. Sauté onions and peppers in olive oil before adding clam juice, fish stock, milk, and seasonings. Simmer until piping hot, then add one pint of shucked oysters. Let the oysters cook just until they curl before removing them from the heat. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with hot sauce on the side for those who like an extra kick.
3. Jarred Oyster Stew with Wandering Waders
For an easy oyster stew, look no further than jarred oysters. We recommend Wandering Waders oysters from White Stone Oysters, which come pre-shucked in jars that keep them plump and fresh. Simply sauté aromatics like shallots, garlic, and celery in butter before adding chicken or vegetable broth, milk, and seasonings. Once simmering, stir in one jar of Wandering Waders Oysters with their oyster liquor. Heat through and adjust seasonings as needed. The jarred oysters make this stew a breeze to prepare while still delivering that briny oyster flavor. Garnish with parsley and serve with oyster crackers.
How to Serve Your Oyster Stew
Once your oyster stew is cooked to creamy perfection, here are some tips for serving it up in style.
- Crusty bread - The crispy texture contrasts nicely with the stew.
- Oyster crackers - These petite crackers are a traditional oyster stew accompaniment.
- White wine - A crisp, dry white wine cuts through the richness.
- Beer - Go for a light lager or wheat beer.
- Salad - A simple green salad balances the hearty stew.
- Garnish with fresh parsley, green onions, or oyster crackers.
- Serve in wide, shallow bowls so the stew stays hot.
- Provide soup spoons for easier eating.
- Set out hot sauce or lemon wedges for those who want to customize.
- For parties, use mini crocks for individual portions.
FAQs About Oyster Stew
How do I choose the best oysters for stew?
Choose the freshest oysters possible for optimal flavor, like our White Stone Oysters. Look for tight shells with plump, clear meat inside. Use fresh oysters or jarred oysters in water, and avoid pre-cooked or smoked oysters.
Can I use jarred oysters for stew?
Absolutely! Jarred oysters make an easy weeknight stew with no shucking required. Look for oysters packed in water or liquor, not oil or sauces.
What are some alternatives to cream in oyster stew?
While heavy cream is traditional, lighter options can impart richness and creaminess to the broth. Whole milk provides richness without the fat. Half and half strikes a balance between milk and cream. For a vegan version, full-fat coconut milk adds a creamy body. Blended-soaked cashews make a dairy-free cashew cream. Boiled, puréed potatoes thicken the broth. Broth with lemon and butter also works. The key is using a flavorful liquid that complements the oysters. Taste and adjust creaminess and seasoning as you go.