Karl’s Crab and Barley Bisque

It is crab season here in California and Jan really likes crab. Many seafood soups include potatoes and—with my diabetes—Jan is encouraging me to use starchy foods that are lower on the Glycemic index. Barley is only 25 on the GI—Russet potatoes are 111.

Karl’s Crab and Barley Bisque

Karl’s Crab and Barley Bisque

When I was researching crab cakes, many of the recipes called for Old Bay Seasoning. One of the local food trucks sells Old Bay Fries and I thought they were pretty good. I decided to get some and try it in this recipe. If you want to make it yourself, there are several deconstructed recipes for this seasoning blend online and this seems the most accurate.

Many bisques use a lot of cream to achieve their signature silkiness. I wanted this soup to have plenty of vegetables, but I did not want it to be a vegetable soup. By blending the vegetables, I could have both a healthy and creamy bisque.

After Dinner Note: Both Jan and Eilene loved this soup. Both went back for seconds, even though it was very filling.

Karl’s Crab and Barley Bisque


1-2 Dungeness crab (about 2-4 lbs. with the shells)

2 Tbs. butter
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup leek (white part only), chopped
1 cup yellow carrot
½ cup celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced

32 oz. fish stock
2 tsp.+ Old Bay Seasoning
¾ cup pearled barley

½ cup cream (or half and half)
splash Marsala wine
1 tsp. chives, snipped


1. Remove the meat from the crab and reserve, covered, in the refrigerator. Break the shell into small-ish pieces.

Tip: Do your best to keep the crab in as large of pieces as possible. For three people one crab was plenty, but you may want more.

2. Put the shells in a medium pot and add 3 cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes.

3. Strain and reserve the crab stock.

4. Melt the butter in a soup pot and sauté the onions and salt, until they are just starting to brown.

5. Add the leek, carrot and celery and continue sautéing for 5 minutes, until soft.

6. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot and add the garlic to the hole in the center. Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds, until fragrant.

7. Add the crab stock to the pot and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

8. Let the soup cool slightly. Place it in a standing blender and puree.

9. Return the soup to the pot and add the fish stock, Old Bay Seasoning, and barley.

Tip: Start with 2 teaspoons of the Old Bay Seasoning. Find the seasoning level that is right for you. You may always add more later, but you cannot take any out.

10. Simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to an hour, until the barley is tender.

Tip: When the barley is done, decide if the soup is as thick as you would like it. If it is not, take a scoop of barley and soup out and put it in the blender. Process until smooth and return it to the pot.

11. Stir in the cream, a splash of Marsala wine, and reserved crab and serve.

Tip: Be gentle with stirring in the crab. Try not to mash it into bits.

12. Garnish the individual bowls with another splash of cream and a touch of snipped chives. Serve with oyster crackers or fresh crackers.


Filed under Main Dishes, Seafood, Soups

2 responses to “Karl’s Crab and Barley Bisque

  1. Ema Jones

    Anything that combines wine as an ingredient has got to be the ace.

  2. Pingback: Karl’s Crab and Lobster Bisque | Jabberwocky Stew

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