Classic Oyster Stew With Fennel Recipe

Given its simplicity, oyster stew is one of the most comforting winter soups. Photograph and video: Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • The anise flavor of fennel infuses the whole-milk base and works wonderfully with the oysters.
  • Whole milk and butter make an oyster stew that's just rich enough without being heavy.

A simple, quick, and easy soup, this classic oyster stew is flecked with droplets of golden butter and flavored with aromatic vegetables, whole milk, and plenty of briny, fat oysters.


Recipe Facts

Active: 20 mins
Total: 20 mins
Serves: 4 servings

Rate & Comment


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (42 grams)
  • 2 medium shallots, finely diced (about 50 grams)
  • 1/2 medium head fennel, finely diced (about 50 grams) (see note)
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely diced (about 50 grams)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 10 grams)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 quart (950 milliliters) whole milk
  • 2 dozen oysters, shucked, liquor reserved (about 1 1/2 cups; 350 grams) (see note)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Minced parsley, chives, tarragon, and/or fennel fronds, for garnish


  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots, fennel, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add thyme or bay leaf.

  2. Add milk and bring to a bare simmer. Add oysters and their liquor and return to a bare simmer; adjust heat as necessary to prevent boiling. Simmer until oysters are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Discard thyme or bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, garnish with herbs, and serve.

Special equipment

Large saucepan


If you don't have fennel, you can substitute 3 tablespoons of Pernod, added just before the milk. If you don't want to shuck your own oysters, feel free to use pre-shucked fresh ones (along with their liquor) from your fishmonger.

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