Irish Scallop Bisque

Luxurious flavors abound in this creamy Irish Scallop Bisque! With a creamy seafood broth and a seared scallop or two, it’s perfect as an elegant starter course, or a light main course with bread and a salad… If gluten sensitivity is an issue, this lovely bisque is gluten free. If dairy is a problem, make the bisque with coconut creamer rather than half n half. You’ll want to give this one a try!

2 bowls of Irish scallop bisque, orange cloth, spoons, and lemon wedges.
Barely visible seared scallops in bowls of luxuriously creamy Irish scallop bisque!

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

~~ Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wild, A.K.A. Oscar Wilde – 19th century author.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Irish Scallop Bisque Inspiration

With St. Patrick’s Day only a week away, Irish Scallop Bisque jumped off the page when recently I perused Oana Iancu’s website – Adore Foods.  I have the privilege of participating in a “Blog Hop” with over 60 talented food bloggers, and I get to feature a recipe of Oana’s on my blog.

While her Irish Scallop Bisque can only be described as luxurious, it really is very simple to prepare. Of course the “star” of this recipe is a perfectly seared scallop, but the bisque itself is full of creamy, savory flavor.

🍲 What is a “Bisque?”

In the strictest sense of the word, a bisque is a French-style soup made with crustaceans – the shells are used for the stock, and the meat is incorporated into the finished soup.

The main characteristic of a bisque – the one that distinguishes it from a chowder – is its creamy, velvety texture. Over the centuries, the method used to achieve that creamy texture has gone from using a fine powder made from the shells, to thickening with cooked rice, cream, cornstarch, or roux.

A rich stock is important, and I often make my own by saving shrimp shells and fish bits, produce scraps, etc. However, you can achieve a lovely result with a good commercially prepared stock like Kitchen Basics Seafood Stock (I use it!). See The Meaning of Bisque to learn more…

So, what makes Irish Scallop Bisque “Irish?” The potato of course! The potato and cream (or creamer) add body to this gluten free soup. Additionally, I have used both half n’ half and coconut non-dairy creamer in this recipe, and while I prefer the half n’ half, the coconut creamer tastes great (not like coconut!) and it works for dairy sensitive foodies.

♨️ How to Make a Perfectly Seared Scallop

A “perfectly seared scallop” may be a challenge for many home cooks. The key to getting a good sear lies in starting with a dry scallop. Unfortunately, most U.S. markets sell “wet” scallops that have been treated with phosphates to preserve shelf life. The phosphates cause the scallops to absorb water, and may give them a bit of an off-taste. 

If you’ve purchased “wet” scallops, it helps to soak in a mixture of 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes. If you’ve purchased “dry” scallops, skip the brine.

Rinse and drain the scallops, and place atop several layers of paper towels or a clean, dry towel. Top with several more layers of paper towels. Gently press to remove moisture.

Salt and pepper the scallops on both sides, and they’re ready for your smoking hot pan πŸ™‚ I find my cast iron skillet gives great results; stainless steel is another good option. Use a very thin layer of oil!

📋 Ingredients

Ingredients for Irish scallop bisque: Scallops, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, broth, herbs, tomato paste, wine.
  • sea scallops – If this is a starter course, I serve one large sea scallop per serving. If it’s a main course, I serve 3 to 4 large sea scallops per person. A good crusty bread alongside is perfect for a light dinner!
  • oil – I use canola or refined coconut oil. Properly searing scallops requires a very hot pan, and oil with a high smoke point.
  • seafood broth/stock – The quality of your broth or stock is important in this bisque recipe, whether you choose homemade seafood stock or purchase seafood stock.
  • celery – Do as I say, not as I do! Don’t chop the celery! I’ve made this bisque recipe so many times. On photo day, I had it chopped and in the pot before I realized it is supposed to be large pieces so they’re easy to fish out.
  • carrots
  • potato – I like a large russet in this recipe. If your potatoes are small, add 2.
  • onion
  • butter
  • tomato paste
  • dry white wine – Choose a dry white wine like a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. Avoid oaky chardonnays. Sometimes I substitute 1/2 cup of dry sherry for the cup of white wine.
  • bay leaves – I love using fresh bay. Whether fresh or dried, remember to fish them out before blending the bisque!
  • thyme leaves – My preference is to use a few fresh thyme sprigs, and just fish them out before blending the bisque. Dried thyme leaves are fine.
  • half and half – As I mentioned elsewhere in the post, if you are dairy sensitive, coconut creamer is a great substitution. It does not bring any coconut flavor to the bisque, and has a similar creamy consistency.

🔪 Step by Step Instructions

If you’ve not made a bisque before, you are in for a treat with this one! A bisque is traditionally a cream and shellfish based soup of French origin. The mirepoix base in this soup really bumps up the flavor, and the use of prepared shellfish stock makes it quick and easy.

Step 1 - Aromatics and butter added to soup pot.
  • Sauté the vegetables – In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter and sauté over medium heat the onion, carrots, celery and potato. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 2 - Seafood stock, wine, tomato paste, and herbs added to the pot.
  • Add the liquids – Add dry white wine or sherry and continue to cook for another 5 minutes (alcohol will evaporate). Stir in the seafood stock, tomato paste, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.
Step 3 - The bisque is simmered until the vegetables are tender.
  • Prepare bisque for blending – Simmer gently until vegetables are tender. Remove celery, thyme stems (if appropriate), and bay leaves.
Step 4 - After celery and bay leaves are removed, and immersion blender is used to blend the bisque.
  • Blend the bisque – Using an immersion blender if possible, blend the bisque until smooth. If you don’t have one, use a blender, but be careful! THE SOUP IS HOT!
Step 5 - Once the bisque is smooth, half and half is added and heated through.
  • Finish the bisque – Once the soup base is smooth, add the half n’ half or creamer, and gently reheat. Stir frequently. DO NOT BOIL! Taste for seasoning.
  • Sear the scallops – (this only takes 5 minutes). Sear the scallops on a hot pan with a bit of vegetable or refined coconut oil.
  • Serve the bisque – Ladle the soup into bowls, top with desired number of scallops, and garnish with herbs.
A close up bird's eye view of the completed scallop bisque with scallops peaking through, rust napkin, lemon and herbs.

❓ FAQ

What about the celery?!?

Don’t chop the celery! You can then remove the pieces rather than straining the soup. On photo day a couple of years ago, it had been awhile since I’d made the bisque, and I had it chopped and in the soup before I realized it! 😭 In other words: Do as I say, not as I do. I re-shot the photos in 2021.

What kind of pan should I use to sear the scallops?

I ALWAYS use my cast iron skillet with just a thin coating of refined coconut oil.

What is the difference between a “bisque” and other soups?

The defining ingredient is the use of cream. I have a tomato bisque that does not include shellfish at all. Of course a French chef might take offense at my calling it a “bisque.”

💭 Tips

If you have shellfish stock in your freezer, by all means, use it instead. I save shrimp shells for making stock. See How to Make Shellfish Stock.

I strongly recommend using an immersion blender to purée the soup. Pouring hot soup into a blender is messy and can be dangerous.

If gluten is an issue, this delicious Irish scallop bisque is gluten free. A potato provides a tasty thickener.

I don’t handle dairy all that well, and I often use coconut non-dairy creamer in place of the half n’ half. It adds the same body without the dairy and fewer calories.

If you cook a lot of shrimp (and other seafood), save their shells in a zip bag in the freezer, and make stock with them when you have enough.

🍷 Pairing Suggestions

My husband and I enjoyed this Irish Scallop Bisque with a whole grain baguette and a bottle of French Pouilly Fuisse on our Friday night date night, and it was fabulous. Sauvignon blanc would be good as well!

If you are serving the bisque as a starter course, I would feel comfortable using 1 scallop per bowl. If you plan to serve it as a main course, I would suggest 3 large scallops per serving. Bon appétit!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

A bird's eye view of gluten free Irish Scallop Bisque in a blue ceramic bowl with an orange napkin, and copper spoons.

Irish Scallop Bisque

Luxurious flavors abound in this creamy bisque! It’s perfect as an elegant starter course, or a light main course with bread and a salad…
4.67 from 63 votes

Click to rate!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Soups and Stews
Cuisine Irish/French
Servings 4 servings
Calories 369 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 stalks celery - cut in large chunks (not chopped)
  • 2 medium carrots - diced
  • 1 large potato - diced, preferably Russet
  • 1 medium yellow onion - chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine - (see notes)
  • 1 qt pack seafood stock - approximately 1L (see notes)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves - or 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 8 large sea scallops
  • vegetable or refined coconut oil - high smoke point
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped chives

Instructions

  • Chop the onion, carrot, and potato fairly small (1/2" dice) to get them tender fairly quickly. Leave the celery in large pieces.
  • In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter and sauté over medium heat the onion, carrots, celery and potato. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add dry white wine or sherry and continue to cook for another 5 minutes (alcohol will evaporate).
  • Stir in tomato paste, then add seafood stock, bay leaves and thyme. Cover and gently simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.
  • Remove bay leaves, and celery pieces (if they're large). I prefer an immersion blender to pouring hot liquid into a blender. Blend until very smooth. If you added chopped celery as I accidentally did on photo day, you may want to pour through a strainer. Be careful!
  • Once the soup base is smooth, add the half n' half or creamer, and gently reheat. Stir frequently. DO NOT BOIL!
  • Sear the scallops on a hot pan with a bit of vegetable or refined coconut oil.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls, top with desired number of scallops, and garnish with herbs.

Notes

If serving this bisque as a starter course, 1 large scallop per person is plenty.
I frequently have seafood stock in my freezer, and I would use it if so. However, commercially prepared seafood stock is now widely available, and quite delicious.
NOTE: If you’re pressed for time, don’t add chopped celery (as I did on photo day) in with the vegetables. Put the celery into the pot in large pieces. You can then remove them rather than straining the soup at the end. On photo day I diced the celery and had to work harder at getting the creamy texture I was after. I ended up pouring my soup base through a fine mesh sieve.
Don’t use a white wine you wouldn’t drink, but don’t use something expensive. I substituted 1/2 cup sherry (and I actually prefer it) because all I had in the wine rack was an expensive French Pouilly Fuisse.
I don’t always handle dairy well, and I have on occasion substituted So Delicious Coconut Creamer (no it doesn’t taste like coconut).
This recipe was adapted from Saveur Magazine, Issue #5.

Nutrition

Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 19g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com
Scallop bisque in a white and yellow bowl with a print napkin.
My original photo from 2015.

Share this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

81 Comments

  1. Absolutely delicious. I used double the scallops and cut them into bite sized pieces and cooked them in the bisque. I found 1 tsp of tomato paste to only give the bisque a subtle pink, unappetizing look. I probably added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and color was better but not great. I also replaced the half and half with heavy cream. This is going in our recipe database!

  2. I am ready to try this, but have a question about “coconut creamer”. Are you talking about the stuff that is bought for coffee? Or a can of coconut milk or coconut cream? I keep both on hand for the family members who are allergic to dairy.

    1. Hi Jane! I am talking about the coconut non-dairy creamer that you’ll find in the Dairy section by alternate milks (yes, for coffee). I’m not allergic to dairy, but I do try to reduce how much I consume. I have used both half and half and coconut creamer in the bisque. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Today is Saint Patrick’s Day in Lent 2021, and hubby aren’t eating meat on Fridays OR Wednesdays, so I looked for an Irish themed fish dish and found yours. How absolutely delicious! Thank you for posting. Made it just as you said. We had it as a main course, but it would indeed be delightful and impressive as an appetizer, even without the scallops if one wants to keep the budget low.

    For folks who don’t read online recipes carefully before making them, but go right to the reviews like me, the REASON you have big pieces of celery is because you will be fishing them out before the recipe is finished. Glad I trusted the chef and obeyed orders on that score, although next time I’ll make the chunks even larger.

    Thank you! And Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

    1. Yay! The pleasure is mine. This makes my day. Thank you for taking time to provide feedback Janice, and good for you for reading the post! I do try to provide additional information to achieve success. BTW, my husband and I are Episcopalians, and Lent is important to us as well… Take care!

    1. You definitely want to stick with a dry, white wine. Unoaked chardonnay and pinot grigio or gris are good choices. As I mentioned in the post, I reduce the quantity by half, but love dry sherry as well!

    1. Hi Mikayla! This recipe is pretty similar to what I make. If my husband has gone fishing recently and we have the heads and skeletons, I will use those. I also save shrimp shells. The results are pretty similar. I fill the pot with shells/bones, add the aromatics, and cover with water. I then bring it almost to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes to an hour. If time allows, I roast everything first. Good luck! https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_shellfish_stock/

        1. Hi Mary Anne! I have not tried that, but I think the best approach would be to do everything through the blender step, then add the cream or half n’ half just before serving. It’s possible that reheating the entire prepared bisque might work too. Let me know how it goes? It might help someone down the road!

  4. I’m trying this out for Christmas. Just curious if you removed the celery from the soup in the third step?

    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Jennifer! Indeed you do… See step #3 in the instructions. The bisque needs to be super silky, and those fibers would interfere. I hope you love it as much as we do… we’re having it Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas!

  5. Made this tonight as a trial run for a Christmas Dinner Party that we are hosting next month and it was absolutely fabulous…..so this is definitely going to be our starter course.

    1. Yay! I’m so happy you love the recipe, and plan to use it for your dinner party! And I do appreciate you taking time to leave a comment as well… Have a blessed and joyous holiday season Cheryl!

  6. Wow – this looks and sounds amazing! I love bisque, but have never made my own and I’ve never had it with scallops – scallops are one of my favorites!

  7. I am so happy you have enjoyed it! I guess I was lucky to get “dry” scallops πŸ™‚ Had no idea you can get wet ones. I absolutely loved your post. Made me fall in love again with this bisque πŸ™‚

  8. Hi, going to try this soup but I can’t understand what you mean by, half and half? Please let me know, looks delicious.
    Thank you

  9. Wow – this looks and sounds amazing! I love bisque, but have never made my own and I’ve never had it with scallops – scallops are one of my favorites!

  10. I am so happy you have enjoyed it! I guess I was lucky to get “dry” scallops πŸ™‚ Had no idea you can get wet ones. I absolutely loved your post. Made me fall in love again with this bisque πŸ™‚

  11. I am so happy you have enjoyed it! I guess I was lucky to get “dry” scallops πŸ™‚ Had no idea you can get wet ones. I absolutely loved your post. Made me fall in love again with this bisque πŸ™‚

  12. Hi, going to try this soup but I can’t understand what you mean by, half and half? Please let me know, looks delicious.
    Thank you

  13. Wow – this looks and sounds amazing! I love bisque, but have never made my own and I’ve never had it with scallops – scallops are one of my favorites!

  14. I am so happy you have enjoyed it! I guess I was lucky to get “dry” scallops πŸ™‚ Had no idea you can get wet ones. I absolutely loved your post. Made me fall in love again with this bisque πŸ™‚

  15. Hi Christine! Half and half is in the dairy section (in the U.S.) – half milk and half cream. You can substitute heavy cream, or even milk, but I find the half and half is about the right amount of richness for the bisque. I’m guessing half and half is a U.S. convention, so I learned something today… Good luck, and let me know how it goes? Thanks for stopping by!

  16. Please tell me how do you remove dried thyme leaves from the bisque before immersion? Other then that the recipe sounds very straight forward and delicious.

    1. Hi Chris,

      I cook with dried thyme leaves regularly, and have never felt a need to remove them. Unlike bay leaves, they soften, and don’t present a problem. The bay leaves (whether dried or fresh) definitely ought to be removed… It is so good! I hope that you will give it a try. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Quite a few people were surprised to know about dry versus wet scallops! It makes my day when my blog provides useful kitchen tips… Thanks Vicky!

  17. I’ve never had scallops before.. are they quite filling? They look so tiny I feel like I would need about 5 in my bowl lol! Never tried a bisque too – definitely need to broaden my horizons. Thanks for the recipe! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Whitney! Well, when I serve this as a first course, I do one scallop, and if I serve it as a main course, I do three. Three sea scallops will weigh between 4 and 6 ounces which is an appropriate portion for a main course. Bay scallops are much smaller, and wouldn’t work well in this dish… I do hope you’ll try scallops; they’re favorites in our family! Thanks for your question!

    1. If you don’t like scallops – or have trouble cooking them – try it with crab or shrimp πŸ™‚ The flavor of the bisque is just lovely! Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Scallops are a favorite here too! If you’ve not made bisque, you should try this one. It really is easy to make πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by Kathleen!

    1. Hi Thalia! If you’ve not made a bisque before, this one is a great one to start with. Using commercially prepared seafood stock cuts out a lot of time and trouble. It is so good. I hope you’ll give it a try πŸ™‚

  18. Well this looks delicious! I was searching for a recipe for flounder but came across this and now I’m wishing I had scallops instead haha.

    1. Haha! I know how that goes πŸ™‚ You really ought to come back to it when you can as it really is fabulous. I had fun with the blog hop, and Oana’s recipe will be filed away and made again for sure! Thanks for stopping by Kristen!

  19. I am so happy you have enjoyed it! I guess I was lucky to get “dry” scallops πŸ™‚ Had no idea you can get wet ones. I absolutely loved your post. Made me fall in love again with this bisque πŸ™‚

    1. Yay! We loved the recipe, and will make it again! I have to admit being a bit intimidated by your gorgeous photos, and was concerned mine wouldn’t do the recipe justice. I think I did okay πŸ˜‰

      We live in New Mexico, so seafood is not reliable. I learned how to deal with it a long time ago. I think a lot of people have trouble with “wet” scallops not knowing why they can’t sear them. I’m hoping that will encourage people to try again. Take care Oana!