Cream of Crab Soup, a Chesapeake Bay staple, is a rich and delicious dish made with succulent crab meat and seasoned with the iconic flavors of Old Bay. Creamy and indulgent, it’s a winner whether you’re a seasoned seafood lover or trying Maryland crab for the first time.
Cream of Crab Soup has become one of my absolute favorite soup recipes. I had never even heard of it until my family moved to Maryland, and now, I’m downright obsessed! There’s a certain magic to the way this soup marries the sweetness of crab with its rich creaminess. If you’ve ever been to coastal South Carolina, it’s reminiscent of their local staple, she crab soup (more on that below).
Cream of Crab is not just a soup; it’s a culinary staple in the Chesapeake region, making appearances on the menus of many dining establishments across the area. The chowder-like texture, thick and velvety, is what makes it a winter must-have. My mom and I both adore this recipe and whenever she visits, I make a batch.
If you’re on the lookout for a taste of coastal delight, consider making this decadent recipe! It’s my go-to for creamy, comforting soup, and I guarantee it’ll become a favorite in your house too!
She Crab Soup vs. Cream of Crab Soup
She Crab Soup is a cream-based soup made with she-crabs (female crabs) and their eggs (roe). Roe is bright orange and adds a salty flavor and thick texture which makes it unique from traditional crab soup. Many famed Black chefs, like Charlotte Jenkins and Edna Lewis, make their renditions of this delicious dish.
Cookbook author Toni Tipton Martin includes a recipe for She Crab soup in her book, Jubilee, and also tells the story of William Deas, a Black chef and butler with a “skilled hand” who made She Crab Soup famous in Charleston. Deas worked and cooked for South Carolina First Lady Blanche Rhett in the early 1900s. In his unpublished works, an “outline for a Negro cookbook”, his version of She Crab Soup was the first to include the addition of crab roe in the recipe.
Our version of Cream of Crab Soup is made with many of the same ingredients but uses male lump blue crab, which is what is sold at most grocery stores, instead of she crabs and roe. Because we are in Maryland, we also season generously with Old Bay.
- All purpose flour
- Old Bay seasoning
- Kosher salt
- Half-and-Half (or both Milk and Half-and-Half)
- Sherry cooking wine
- Lemon juice
- Lump crab meat
- Chives, for garnish
Recipe Tip: Substitute sherry cooking wine with dry white wine, chicken broth, or vegetable broth.
DIY Old Bay Seasoning
Tools you’ll need
How to make cream of crab soup
- Melt some butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Toss in flour, Old Bay, and salt, and give it a good whisk for about a minute.
- Now, add the half-and-half (and milk, if using). Slowly pour in a cup at a time while whisking. Keep whisking and let it simmer until it gets nice and thick, which should take about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Bring it to a boil, then quickly dial it down to low. Watch out for that milk – if it’s getting too hot too fast, scoot the pan away from the heat.
- Stir in crab meat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes.
- Add sherry cooking wine and a splash of lemon juice; cook for 1 minute more. Give it a taste, and if it needs a little extra love in the seasoning department, go ahead and sprinkle some more Old Bay.
- Now, serve it up! Ladle the soup into bowls and jazz it up with a sprinkle of Old Bay and some snipped chives.
Recipe Tips & Tricks
- Fresh Crab Meat: Use fresh, high-quality crab meat for the best flavor. Lump crab meat is often preferred for its large, succulent pieces.
- Controlled Simmer: Once the cream is added, maintain a gentle simmer rather than a rolling boil to prevent curdling and ensure a smooth texture..
- Garnish Creatively: Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning, a drizzle of sherry, or additional lump crab meat for an extra touch of elegance.
- Low and Slow: Patience is key. Allow the soup to simmer low and slow, allowing the flavors to meld without rushing the process.
What to serve with cream of crab soup
- Crusty Bread or Breadsticks: Slices of crusty bread or warm breadsticks are perfect. Choose a baguette or a rustic loaf for added texture.
- Oyster Crackers or Saltines: Classic oyster crackers or saltines add a satisfying crunch and are a traditional accompaniment to seafood soups.
- Garlic Bread or Garlic Knots: The savory goodness of garlic bread or knots complements the richness of the soup. It’s a great option for those who love a garlic flavor boost.
- Side Salad: A light side salad with fresh greens, cherry tomatoes, and a tangy vinaigrette provides a refreshing contrast to the creamy soup.
Most well-stocked grocery stores, especially those with a dedicated seafood section, should offer fresh crab meat. You can also go to your local seafood markets or fishmongers.
Lump crab meat is the best choice for Cream of Crab Soup due to its premium quality. Claw crab meat is a suitable alternative. For a budget-friendly option, try special crab meat, just keep in mind it won’t have the same large pieces as lump crab.
Slowly incorporate the half-and-half, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to low or simmer once that’s added, and avoid boiling, as high heat increases the likelihood of curdling.
It has a thick, chowder-like texture.
Cream of Crab is a beloved Chesapeake Bay classic that holds a special place in my heart and has become a cherished kitchen tradition shared with my mom. Whether you’re a seafood enthusiast or seeking a creamy and delicious soup recipe, this dish is a true delight!Print
Cream of Crab Soup, a classic from the Chesapeake Bay, is a rich and delicious dish made with succulent crab meat and seasoned with the iconic flavors of Old Bay. Creamy and indulgent, it’s a winner whether you’re a seasoned seafood lover or trying Maryland crab for the first time.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning, plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups half-and-half (or 2 cups half-and-half, and 2 cups milk)
- 2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 16 ounces lump crab meat
- finely chopped chives, for garnish
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add flour, Old Bay, and salt to the melted butter. Whisk until fully incorporated, approximately 1 minute.
- Gradually pour in half-and-half (and milk, if using), one cup at a time, while whisking vigorously.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low.
- Stir in crab meat and simmer for 15 minutes; stir occasionally.
- Add sherry cooking wine and lemon juice; cook for 1 minute more.
- Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
- Ladle soup into bowls and top with a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning and chopped chives for garnish.
Keywords: crab, cream of crab, lump crab, maryland crab, blue crab, crab