Charleston She Crab Soup

Rich creamy Charleston She Crab Soup can be made at home, you don’t need to leave home to enjoy the soul-satisfying flavors of this much-loved seafood soup.

overhead view of a bowl of she crab soup, a napkin, and spoon

Rich and exceedingly creamy with just a touch of tanginess, She Crab Soup is a much-loved Southern coastal dish. A trip to Charleston is not complete without sampling a bowl or two of this iconic crab soup at some of the city’s best restaurants. Although luxurious in taste, Charleston She Crab Soup is still very much approachable for a typical home cook. If you love crab, you owe it to yourself to try making the recipe below. She Crab Soup is both sophisticated enough to impress your guests, yet it isn’t too complex to dissuade you from making it regularly.

Why Call It ‘She Crab’?

There is a good chance that if one of today’s celebrity chefs created this dish, you would be reading a recipe for ‘Cream of Crab Soup Infused with Fresh Roe.’ But back in the early 1900s, when this soup was first introduced, people were less formal. To put it simply, She Crab Soup is crab soup with the addition of crab roe. These crab eggs are an essential ingredient, bringing the soup its unique color and an earthy, briny flavor profile. Without the crab roe, this dish would be just another crab soup.

If you do not have access to live female crabs containing roe, you do have other options. Those who live in areas of the country where this soup is popular may be able to find crab roe available at their local seafood stores, but the internet is the best place to look for the rest of us. Several specialty websites sell fresh crab roe seasonally, or frozen crab roe throughout the year. Although crab roe can be quite pricey, it is well worth the expense if you plan on making this recipe.

How to Choose Female Crabs and Collect Their Roe

For the best tasting Charleston She Crab Soup, you should always use fresh blue crabs, but not just any blue crabs; you want those containing roe. An experienced fishmonger can point you in the right direction, but you need to know what to look for if you are buying blue crabs without any help.

Start by finding a mature female crab since they are the only crabs that can contain roe. Your best chance for finding roe is to look for mature female blue crabs, sometimes called a ‘sook.’ Sooks are easy to identify by their red-tipped claws and abdomen, or apron, that looks a bit like the capital building. The abdomen of sooks that have roe are bright orange.

After cooking, separate the top shell from the bottom shell. If the crab contains roe, you will find the eggs in the middle of the body. Carefully scrape away the roe. There may be additional roe clinging to the inside of the top shell.

Serving Charleston She Crab Soup

  • Pair with a glass of sherry. A bit of brandy and sherry is almost as important as the crab roe in this recipe, and many people enjoy sipping a nice glass of fino sherry alongside the soup to elevate the flavors even more.
  • Serve with crusty French bread. A large bowl of soup with French bread makes a delicious light spring lunch.

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Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make the soup:

  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Butter
  • All-purpose flour
  • Fish stock
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • White pepper
  • Tomato paste, optional
  • Cream
  • Dry sherry
  • Brandy
  • White crabmeat, female if possible
  • Crab roe

she crab soup ingredients

How to Make She Crab Soup

  1. Sauté onion & celery in butter until tender.
    cooked onions and celery in a pan
  2. Add flour, fish stock, mace, salt, and pepper. Add tomato paste for color if desired.
  3. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add cream, sherry, brandy & simmer for 2 minutes.
    she crab soup in a pan
  5. Add crabmeat & roe.

Recipe Tips

For extra creaminess and color, serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of crab roe on top.

If you’re unable to find crab roe in the store (it seems to be a regional thing), you can substitute finely chopped or crumbled hard-cooked egg.

I was also told an equal amount of chicken stock plus a can of clam juice can be substituted for the fish stock.

I haven’t tried these, so who knows?

she crab soup in a black bowl, spoon, and orange napkin

Love homemade soup? Try these

Top Crab Recipes

There’s more! Check out more of my homemade soup recipes and the best seafood recipes.

Thanks to Manzanita for sharing this recipe.

overhead view of a bowl of she crab soup, a napkin, and spoon

Charleston She Crab Soup

Enjoy a southern flavor with this rich and creamy seafood soup.
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Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: she crab soup
Servings: 10
Calories: 341kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 8 tablespoons flour
  • 6 cups fish stock
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
  • 10 ounces white crabmeat
  • 1 teaspoon crab roe

Instructions

  • Sauté onion & celery in butter until tender. Add flour, fish stock, mace, salt & pepper. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add cream, sherry, brandy & simmer for 2 minutes. Add crabmeat & roe. 
  • Optional: add tomato paste for color. Serve in preheated soup cups & a dollop of whipped cream with an additional sprinkle of crab roe on top.

Recipe Tips for the Cook

I've heard that if you're unable to find crab roe in the store (it seems to be a regional thing) you can substitute finely chopped or crumbled hard-cooked egg.
I was also told an equal amount of chicken stock plus a can of clam juice can be substituted for the fish stock.
I haven't tried these, so who knows?

Nutrition

Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 1062mg | Potassium: 256mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 0g | Vitamin A: 1095IU | Vitamin C: 3.1mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 0.8mg
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About Stephanie

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home, and CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. P. J. Keenum

    You mention mace as an ingredient in the instructions but I do not see it in the list of ingredients. What is this & is it needed?
    Thank you.

  2. Tom O'Shields

    5 stars
    I’m a chef who grew up on the South Carolina coast. You CANNOT make she crab soup without the crab roe. It’s just some other kind of crab soup.

  3. John B. Rogers

    give Sodium;Calories;
    fat;Cholesterol. I would thinks this is a once in a while soup due to the high numbers that are not for a steady healthy diet.

  4. James

    Add the flour by itself to the butter and veg. Let cook to almost brown over low heat. This is called roux. Add stock after roux is cooked. Color can better be obtained with paprika.

    Otherwise looks good.

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