Virginia Oyster Stew Recipe

We don't know about you, but we're always looking for 30-minute meal ideas. Any recipe that takes longer to prepare is usually reserved for a weekend or holiday — we just don't have that kind of time on busy weeknights. 

In the colder months, dinner on Monday through Friday often looks a lot like easy soups and stews. But these hearty dishes don't have to be limited to fall and winter. On a cool summer night, a seafood stew really hits the spot! Enter: Virginia oyster stew.

Recipe developer Erin Johnson brings us the recipe for this coastal classic, which hails from Chesapeake Bay. "Oyster stew is very simple, but incredibly rich and delicious," she tells us about the creamy, oyster-filled delight. With only 15 minutes of your time and 10 ingredients, most of which you likely already have on hand, you can whip up this savory and flavorful meal any night of the week.

Gather your ingredients for Virginia oyster stew

Virginia oyster stew requires whole milk, heavy cream, butter, shallot, garlic, a pint of freshly shucked oysters, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and Worcestershire sauce.

If all you have at home is 1% milk and you're fresh out of cream, Johnson notes that "this is not the recipe to substitute lower fat dairy," as "you need the full fat to create the rich stew you're looking for." Since this recipe requires minimal ingredients, each one plays an important role.

Heat the milk and cream

Place a small saucepan on the stovetop and add in the milk and cream, setting the heat to low. You may be tempted to crank the heat up in order to warm the mixture quickly, but now is the time to exert patience so the liquid can heat "low and slow," Johnson advises. If you raise the heat too quickly and allow the milk to boil, you'll run the risk of making an oyster stew that's curdled and clumpy rather than silky and smooth.

Cook the aromatics, then add the oysters and seasonings

Meanwhile, grab a large skillet and place it on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the butter, allow it to melt, then add the shallot and garlic, cooking until they are fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. You'll know it's time to add the oysters when you smell that delicious, savory scent.

Before you cook your oysters, though, Johnson says to put them in a bowl with the liquid they came in and feel them with your hands. "You want to make sure there are no shell fragments mixed in," she explains. After you discard any bits of shell, pour the oysters and their liquid into the skillet with the shallot and garlic. 

Why shouldn't you drain the oysters before adding them to the stew? "When you buy a pint of oysters, they come in their own juice called liquor. This is very flavorful and necessary for the stew," says Johnson. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and Worcestershire sauce, then remove the pan from the heat. If you're worried your oysters may already be quite salty, Johnson says you can always wait until the end to taste the stew before salting it.

Strain the stew, combine it with the dairy, and serve

Next up comes an extra step that Johnson says is worth the effort: pouring the oyster mixture through a sieve to remove the shallots and garlic from the final stew. "Straining the shallot and garlic is not required, but I prefer a smooth stew, so I choose to," explains Johnson. "I use a fine mesh strainer and then just pluck the oysters back into the liquid." Once you've returned the oysters to the flavorful strained liquid, add the mixture to the heated milk and cream. All you have to do now is stir everything together, cook it for 2 more minutes so the flavors concentrate, and serve it up.

"This is best eaten right away, but it could be reheated the following day on the stove," Johnsons recommends. If you're looking for a crunchy topping when it's time to enjoy your Virginia oyster stew, there's no better fit than oyster crackers.

Virginia Oyster Stew Recipe
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Virginia oyster stew tastes like a comforting dish that simmered for hours, but it actually comes together in about 15 minutes with pre-shucked oysters.
Prep Time
Cook Time
single serving of oyster stew
Total time: 15 minutes
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pint freshly shucked oysters
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Optional Ingredients
  • Oyster crackers, for serving
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Allow to warm on medium low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet and add the shallot and garlic. Cook until fragrant.
  3. Add the oysters and their liquor. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the Worcestershire, and remove from heat.
  4. Strain the oyster mixture to remove the shallot and garlic. Add the oysters back into the strained liquid.
  5. Combine the oyster mixture and milk mixture in the saucepan. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, then ladle into bowls and serve.
Calories per Serving 331
Total Fat 25.5 g
Saturated Fat 14.7 g
Trans Fat 0.4 g
Cholesterol 133.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 13.1 g
Dietary Fiber 0.5 g
Total Sugars 6.7 g
Sodium 489.7 mg
Protein 13.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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