Oyster chowder (aka oyster stew) is very similar to classic clam chowder. It is a creamy, thick type of soup that is hearty and delicious. There is a wide range of variations to this dish, depending on the city you visit; Manhattan has a red version, in Rhode Island, it is often clear, but this recipe is a New England-inspired white chowder.
With this recipe, you’ll use canned oysters so they have already been cooked. This means they only need a few minutes of cooking time to warm them up. Overcooking this seafood will turn them into rubbery, unpleasant chunks so watch your dish carefully towards the end of the cook.
Simple Oyster Chowder
- 3 rashers bacon
- ½ cup leek
- 2 chilies
- 2 stalks celery
- ¼ cup onion
- 2 peeled potatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp flour
- ½ cup fish stock broth
- 1 can shucked oysters juice set aside
- ¼ cup corn
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- fresh parsley to garnish
- Add a splash of oil to a pan and cook the bacon on medium-high heat until browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Use a sharp knife and a chopping board to finely slice the leek, chilies, and celery, then finely dice the onion. Finally, chop the potatoes into small cubes.
- Pour oil into a pan and heat on medium-high. Add potatoes, leek, and onion and cook until they begin to soften.
- Add flour and stir until the vegetables are coated. Stir in the bacon, stock, and oyster juice then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow the liquid to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add oysters, corn, salt, pepper and milk, and cream. Bring to boil and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Add oysters and cook for three minutes, allowing just enough time to heat the oysters.
- Serve in soup bowls, topped with a sprinkle of fresh parsley. Oyster crackers and slices of buttered bread can be served on the side.
3 tips to improve the chowder
1. Work on the texture
To make a thicker chowder add a half cup of broken crackers when the oyster juice is added. You can also add a knob of butter just before serving and stir it through to increase the richness of the dish.
2. Check the salt
If using canned oysters then perform a taste test and if necessary season with salt.
Worcestershire sauce is an excellent addition to the recipe. Add a splash or two and mix into the soup before adding the oysters.
3. Consider the fresh option
Consider using fresh oysters in this recipe if you prefer. You’ll need to include one quart of bottled clam broth as well as the oyster liquor which is found inside the fresh shellfish. You can also toss in fish, scallops, mussels, and clams to add more flavor and to create a more visually appealing dish.
- In the South States of the U.S. oyster chowder is commonly prepared for a special Christmas Eve dinner. In New England, the dish is more commonly served for Thanksgiving.
- Thanks to the seafood content, chowder is high in zinc, magnesium, protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin A; however, it is also high in sodium and saturated fat so it should be eaten in moderation. Source.
- Oysters have been eaten for thousands of years, dating back to before the Roman Empire. Their flavor changes drastically depending on their habitat, and the food sources that surround them.
- Runoff, invasive species, and overfishing are all contributing to a heavily declining oyster population around the world.
- An oyster can live for up to 20 years in captivity.
Frequently asked questions
What goes with oyster stew?
Some excellent foods to pair with oyster stew are scalloped potatoes and garden salad with a vinaigrette to bring some freshness, crunchy texture, and acidity to the meal. The bitterness of rocket leaves is a good option because their bitterness provides some relief from a heavy, rich chowder. If you decide to serve wine, then a nice bottle of Riesling will work well. Prefer red? Choose a Cabernet Sauvignon for the perfect meal.
How long does oyster stew last?
Oyster stew will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator, stored in an airtight container. It is also suitable for freezing for up to two months. When it’s time to reheat the stew, allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight, then slowly heat it in a pot, without letting it boil. Microwaves are too severe and may result in an unpleasant split liquid.
What are oyster crackers?
Oyster crackers are round-shaped crackers that are usually quite small and are delicious served with oyster stew. These snacks do not contain oysters; but some believe the name comes from its shape, which is reminiscent of an oyster shell. Others say they got their name from commonly being served with oyster stew.
How can I make this dish look fancier?
The secret to making authentic oyster chowder look “up-market” is to top each bowl with a garnish of mini toast that has been dolloped with sour cream, then scattered with caviar and fresh parsley. If you’d like to learn how caviar and roe differ, check out our in-depth article.
Oyster chowder is a homely, inviting meal that is hard to resist on a cold night. The creaminess combines deliciously with the potato, bacon, and oysters. The best part about this recipe is that the seafood comes from a can, so there’s no need for seafood preparation - a chore that many dislike.
What is your favorite type of chowder? Please let us know in the comments below.