Christmas, Soups

11th Day of Christmas: Oyster Stew

On the eleventh day of Christmas, there were oysters swimming in butter and cream. “Oh, that sounds good,” you say? You bet your Hatchimal it’s good. Good enough for Christmas Eve (or even the first course that is the marathon Christmas Day meal).

The recipe is ridiculously simple and even more delicious. The ingredients are butter, seafood or chicken stock, shucked oysters and their “liquor”, and heavy cream. Although oyster stew is a popular holiday dish here on the Gulf Coast, this particular recipe is inspired by the infamous art collector from Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardener. It is said she served this dish to her guests on Christmas Eve.

Small oysters are best for this recipe, or else you may need to cut them into pieces. As always, use the freshest shellfish you can find, but don’t feel like you need oysters in the shell. A pint of shucked oysters, local and fresh, will do just fine. Half and half can be substituted for cream, if you like (I don’t, and I’m pretty sure Isabella Stewart Gardner wouldn’t either). After sautéing in butter for a few minutes, the oysters curl up when they’re fully cooked, exposing their frilly edges. That’s when you know to add the stock. 

For the garnish, I deviated from the original recipe. It calls for a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg on each serving, and I happen to be fresh out of nutmeg. I garnished with a little chopped parsley, but feel free to stay faithful to the original.

Oyster Stew

A popular dish on both the Gulf Coast and in the Northeast for the holidays, Oyster Stew is as simple (and delicious) as it gets.

Course Soup
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Author Amanda



  • 1 pint 16 oz shucked oysters
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 cups seafood or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 handful Italian parsley chopped (or a garnish of freshly grated nutmeg but not both)
  • salt and pepper to taste



  1. In a large soup pot, heat butter until melted. Add oysters, stirring until edges curl.
  2. Add stock and bring to rolling simmer.
  3. Turn off heat and add cream.
  4. Stir thoroughly and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Ladle into bowls (Isabella Stewart Gardener used china teacups) and garnish with nutmeg or parsley.

This soup is sumptuously rich, and perfect for a light holiday main meal, paired with a lovely salad. Or do as we do, and wow your guests with this as the first of many courses.


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