Exploring the World of Oyster Soups: Traditional Recipes and Modern Twists

One of the most delicious soups that you can enjoy throughout the winter is oyster soup. Whether you want to go traditional with that creamy base that is rich and full of flavor, or you want a more broth-based version, there is an oyster soup that is right for you and your diners.

Oyster soup has a long history in this country, and it has become one of the most sought after delicacies throughout this country. Below are different variations of the soup and some of the more modern twists you will find when you are visiting restaurants or looking up recipes to try for yourself.

Where Did Oyster Soup Begin?

Archeological excavations show that blending oysters in different soups goes back hundreds of years. Native Americans on the coast lines used this as one of their main sources of food, cooking down in large pots to enjoy.

However, the oyster soup that we have grown to accept comes from immigrants from the United Kingdom opting to have a meatless meal on Christmas Eve. Oysters and other types of seafood are not considered meat in the Catholic religion, so cooking down these oysters in a rich, creamy base with herbs became a staple.e

This soup is similar to the Irish Seafood Chowder enjoyed in the home country. Those who immigrated found the consistency of the fish to be different, but the oysters to be exactly what they needed. Because of this, oyster soup or chowder was manifested and has been a staple in the country ever since.

Types of Oyster Soup

Two types of oyster soup are pretty popular, and they are the creamy oyster soup, or oyster chowder, and brothy oyster soup or oyster stew.

Creamy Oyster Soup

Traditionally, oyster soup is thick and creamy and a perfect delicacy for those who want something warm in the winter. This soup is often served as its own meal, and is made with hearty vegetables to keep you full. Some of the ingredients include the following:

  • Raw oysters
  • Potatoes
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Carrots (in some recipes)
  • Garlic
  • Parsley

Brothy Oyster Soup

Also known as oyster stew, this broth-based oyster soup is usually found in the Southern region, up to the mid-Atlantic area. This soup is often used as an appetizer or even served over rice. The ingredients are less hearty, which is why it is usually paired with something else to complete the meal or served with some French bread for dipping if you are in Cajun country. Some of the common ingredients include:

  • Raw oysters
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Shallots
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Cilantro or parsley
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes (optional)

Modern Changes to Oyster Soup

Since the first introduction of the oyster soup by Irish immigrants, some changes have been made, and you can expect variations of this soup depending on where you are tasting the soup and maybe even when your personal preferences may be.

Differences Based on Location

What you may find in oyster soup in the Northeast may look a lot different that variations you find in the Midwest or even in the South. You will find more greens and roots vegetables like potatoes in the Northeast.

Down in Georgia, Louisiana and the Carolinas, you are more likely to find other types of veggies, such as bell peppers, jalapenos, and celery for texture. Some soups will add canned tomatoes as one of the ingredients to build on that broth base.

Spice Level

Not all oyster soups have a certain heat about them, but those coming out of Louisiana and the deep South will have your lips puckered. Some of the other chowders from the Northeast are usually just seasoned with salt, pepper,and garlic, but not to the point of being to spicy.

Dietary Needs

Those with certain dietary restrictions, like allergies to dairy or gluten, have found ways to adjust this soup so that it does not have these ingredients. Both-based oyster soups with little butter and no milk and flour are the best options for those who want to enjoy oyster soup without sacrificing their dietary needs.

Fresh or Canned Oysters

Because oyster soup is popular across the country, those more inland need ways to get the oysters for their oyster soup. Today, one of the quickest ways to make oyster soup is to add canned oysters if you don’t have fresh ones. Shucking fresh oysters takes time, and personally, it is one of the things that I am happy to pay a little extra for so I don’t have to do it.

It is important to rinse them first because they come with a lot of salt, which can cut the intake in half. I rarely have to use canned oysters, but when visiting some family out West, this was my only oyster option, and I wanted to restore them as best I could before cooking.

Pair With Pork

Another modern twist on the oyster soup is adding bacon bits, prosciutto, or other slices of pork to the soup. Fatback pieces are pretty common in the South, and they give the soup an additional layer of salt if you are using fresh oysters.

Since oyster meat is so lean, you must have a fatty protein to help balance that out and carry some other ingredients, especially for the creamier soups. I do prefer fatback in mine and use low-sodium chicken broth to give it that balance.

Dumplings are Fun

For some, elevating this soup or even attempting to fuse it with the infamous chicken and dumpling soup is gaining traction in some areas around the mid-Atlantic and Midwest. Instead of adding potatoes in the traditional creamy soup, the addition of dumplings are popping up and it actually makes a really good dish.

I actually used the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit mix to make dumplings in my oyster soup recently and it gave it a really rich and creamy flavor.

Always Enjoy Crackers

The one thing that all these soups have in common, no matter what part of the country you are in, you can expect to have some cracker served with the soup. Saltine crackers or small oyster crackers provide enough crunchy texture and salt to balance out the soup and give it exactly what it needs to be complete.

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