Crawfish Bisque

Who knew, but Nebraska does have crawfish in little pockets of the state. When the canals are drained in the fall, those looking to catch them can walk into the lowered water to scoop them out with nets. We went for the first time a few days ago and was able to bring home half a cooler of these "mudbugs." If you've never eaten crawfish before, they are like little morsels of lobster. They are tasty and fun to eat, perfect for a traditional Louisiana-style crawfish boil, to make bisque or whatever you want. We've only ever had crawfish out of the Gulf states in restaurants. To our delight, Nebraska crawfish are every bit as good! 

Depending on where you live, your method of catching crawfish will be different. The most well-known way to catch crawfish is by using traps. But make sure you check your traps every day, especially if they are fully submerged in the water. Dead crawfish are no good for eating. To keep them alive on the way home, we poured a little bit of water into the cooler and kept the lid open to allow the crawfish to breathe. Do not fully submerge crayfish in water-- they will drown. 

When you bring them home, simply rinse them in water to get any dirt, mud and sand off of them. We do not "purge" the crawfish in salted water. Studies show that this does not make a difference, and you will have to go back to devein the crawfish anyway. Not only that, the salt will kill the crawfish-- this is especially important if you do not plan to cook them right away. Because it was getting late, we only cooked about half of the crawfish by putting them in boiling water for 7 minutes (in batches). We peeled the tails and kept the shells to make stock for later recipes, like this one. We left the other half alive and divided them between two coolers to give them more room and to reduce their stress. There was a little bit of water in the coolers to keep them from drying out. We kept the lids open and left them outside on our patio-- the weather was in the 40s to 50s during the night. We woke up the next morning and every single one of them stayed alive! Whew. We were worried.

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
- 1 pound of cooked crawfish tail meat, peeled and deveined 
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
- 1 cup of carrot, chopped
- 1 cup of celery, chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 5 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 5 tablespoons of flour
- 6 cups of crawfish stock or seafood stock (see recipe below)
- 1/2 cup of cream sherry
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- kosher salt, to taste
- 3/4 cup of heavy cream
- chopped parsley or chives for garnish
- cracked pepper
Crawfish Stock
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 4 ribs of celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- half an onion, quartered
- 1 quart of crawfish shells (tails and claws)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 quarts of water
- 1 teaspoon of crushed juniper berries (or whole peppercorns)
- 4 fronds of fennel

1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, a pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes or until the onions are cooked and translucent. Add tomato paste and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to burn the paste.Then sprinkle the mixture with flour, stir and sauté for 1 minute.
2. Add the crawfish stock, cream sherry, paprika, thyme and cayenne. Cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from burning. 

3. After 30 minutes, or until veggies have softened, discard the thyme. Then transfer mixture into a blender and pulse until smooth. Do this in batches to avoid splatter.

Return blended soup into the pot and season with salt to taste. 

If you find that the soup is too thick, add more stock to thin out the soup. If you have no more crawfish stock, chicken stock is okay. 
4. Next, stir in heavy cream. Use our measurements or stir in as much as you would like. 

Check seasonings again.
5. Keep the crawfish tails whole or give them a rough chop. Ladle soup into bowls, then sprinkle the top with crawfish, parsley and cracked pepper.  

If desired, sauté the crawfish in melted butter to warm them up. 

How to Make Crawfish Stock

1. To make crawfish stock, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a stock pot. Add celery, carrot, onion, a pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes, or until onion turns translucent. Then add crawfish shells and sauté for another 2 minutes. 
2. Add water into the pot, as well as fennel, bay leaves and juniper berries. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Then take it off the heat and allow broth to steep for 10 minutes.

Finally, strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Cool and refrigerate stock if you don't plan to use it right away.

This recipe was made with:


  1. This looks amazing, especially that stock. Do you have to crack the claws beforehand, or are they small enough that the simmer gets all of the flavor out?

    What makes a good area for netting crawfish? I live in Lincoln, but I wouldn't even know where to start looking for a suitable canal.

    1. Hi Chris, we did not crack the claws but you most certainly can. Should only help. As far as where to look for crawfish, contact Daryl Bauer at Game and Parks, and check out Julie Geiser's story on catching crawfish in the October Nebraskaland Magazine. Daryl will be able to tell you where to look around Lincoln. Crawfish can live in all kinds of freshwater habitat, we wouldn't know what to tell you for your area. Also check out his blog post here: hope this helps.


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