Oyster Stew is the ultimate comfort food, featuring tender oysters simmered in a rich, buttery milk-based broth. This classic recipe spotlights the sweet saltiness of fresh oysters with just a few simple ingredients. Enjoy a warm bowl of this hearty stew all winter long or for special occasions like Christmas Eve.
This Oyster Stew recipe brings back so many memories for me! Our final stop on Christmas Eve was at my Grandpa and Grandma Martin’s house every year. That night we always had oyster stew, but they would wait for me to get there because my uncles always loved that they couldn’t scare me with a raw oyster! Every year we would slurp down raw oysters and I would get to help make the oyster soup. It was a Christmas Eve tradition that I have carried into my adult life.
This is a photo of me in 1985 in my grandparent’s kitchen eating my oyster. I remember that day so well!
Now when I make the stew, those who want to, partake in a photo with their raw oyster and I text the photo to my dad and my uncles.
Why do People Eat Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve?
Oysters were seen as a luxury food. Serving oyster stew on Christmas Eve made the meal feel special and indulgent. The tradition originated in Irish Catholic communities and then expanded into mainstream America. Catholic fasting restrictions then meant no meat could be eaten on Christmas Eve. Oyster stew provided a satisfying protein-rich dish when meat was off the menu and oysters were abundant and one of the few fresh foods available in winter.
The nostalgia and sentimental meaning make it a beloved tradition families continue for generations.
Classic Oyster Stew Recipe
Oyster stew is a timeless dish, beloved for its velvety texture and subtle oyster flavor. While stews often require long cooking times, this creamy oyster stew recipe is done in less than 30 minutes! The result is a creamy, soul-warming meal perfect for a cold winter day. My Mom always made oyster stew during Lent, it’s perfect for that as well.
Homemade Oyster Stew Ingredients
Find the full ingredients and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
To make this easy oyster stew, you’ll need:
- fresh raw oysters – and the liquid they came in. I always buy raw shucked oysters at the seafood counter at my local grocery store. I have instructions for using canned oysters later in the post if that is what you can get your hands on though. I know that it is hard to get fresh oysters sometimes.
- butter – I use lots of salted butter in my recipe
- for whole milk – you can use cream or half and half to make it richer. If you sub skim milk, know that it will change the taste a bit and the consistency a lot.
- Salt and black pepper – to taste
- Oyster crackers – be sure to have plenty of oyster crackers or saltine crackers for serving
Fresh-shucked oysters add essential flavor to the broth. Whole milk or heavy cream provides a rich texture.
How to Make the Best Oyster Stew
First, Add the oysters and oyster liquid to a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour in the water, just until the oysters are covered.
Place a lid on the pan and cook over medium heat. Check the oysters frequently, giving them a stir. When the edges of the oysters begin to curl, that is when they are done.
Note: Be careful not to overcook the oysters, as they will become tough. Letting them just briefly curl cooks them through without making them rubbery.
Add the butter
And the milk, reduce the heat to medium-low and when the butter melts, the stew is done. Taste it, then add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Note: Sometimes I add more butter it it after I taste it. not sure why, but some years it just needs a little bit more. Use your discretion.
Serve with crackers.
Leftover oyster stew keeps well refrigerated in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Reheat gently before serving again. The flavors meld even more on the second day. I don’t recommend freezing this soup.
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Oyster stew is a meal in itself, but can be paired with a side salad and crusty bread for a heartier larger meal. Bake a French baguette for dipping in the creamy broth.
Oyster Stew Tips, Substitutions & Additions
- Look for the freshest oysters possible, ideally from a local seafood market
- Add a dash of hot sauce or red pepper flakes to spice it up or lemon juice to brighten the briny flavor
- Substitute half and half or a mix of cream and milk if desired
- Garnish bowls with fresh herbs or green onions if desired
- Add some cooked chunks of potatoes or some Old Bay Seasoning
This versatile stew works for any occasion from casual family dinners to special holiday meals. Perfect on a chilly day!
Can Canned Oysters be Used in this Oyster Stew Recipe?
My Mom successfully made this oyster stew recipe with canned oysters. She told me she followed the same steps, only using jarred or canned oysters in their juices because they were more economical and readily available where we lived.
- What type of oyster works best? Any fresh raw oyster like Blue Point, Malpeque, or Kumamoto will work well. Larger oysters hold up best in stew.
- Is oyster stew supposed to be thick? No, it should be like a creamy broth. The oysters release starch to slightly thicken it.
- How do you store and reheat leftovers? Refrigerate leftover stew for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop or microwave.
More Seafood Recipes to Love
See ALL of my Seafood Recipes Here. These are a few of my favorites:
- Creamy Tomato Seafood Bisque (pictured above)
- Shrimp & Crab Pasta
- Instant Pot New England Clam Chowder
- Mom’s Tuna Tetrazzini
- How to Smoke Salmon
- Crab Rangoon Dip
I hope that this recipe for Oyster Stew starts a long and memory-filled tradition in your home.
- 1 (16 ounce) container of fresh raw oysters in liquid
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter
- 2 cups whole milk
- Add the oysters and their juice to a large saucepan or Dutch oven.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Add water until the oysters are just covered.
- Place the pan on the stove and cook until the oysters get curly around their edges. (this will take less than 15 minutes)
- Add in the stick of butter and the milk. Cook until the butter melts. Take care not to cook it too high, you don't want to scald the milk.
- When the butter melts, the stew is done. Taste and add more salt and pepper or butter if needed.
- Serve hot with oyster crackers or slices of crusty bread.
This recipe for oyster stew tastes great when eaten immediately, and also the next day. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days before discarding.
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(12 inch) Stainless Steel Soup Ladle
Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. Classic Red Enamel Dutch Oven (Island Spice Red)
AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Blue
Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Lid, 8-Quart
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Nonstick 1-Quart Saucepan with Lid
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 111Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 620mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 5g
Please note that nutrition is not guaranteed accurate.