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The History of She Crab Soup (and Classic Recipe)

Photo by Sarah Ross on Flickr.

She crab soup is a beloved dish in Lowcountry cuisine, particularly in our hometown of Charleston, SC, where it has become a signature dish. This creamy soup is made with blue crab meat and roe from female crabs, which gives it a unique and delicious flavor.

Charleston is renowned for its she crab soup, and many restaurants in the city offer this delicacy on their menus. Some of the most popular places to enjoy this soup include Hank’s Seafood Restaurant (*editor’s pick*), 82 Queen, and The Charleston Crab House.

History of She Crab Soup

She crab soup has a long and storied history in Charleston, South Carolina, dating back to the late 19th century. The dish was originally created by African American cooks who were often employed in the homes of wealthy families in Charleston. They would use the leftover crab meat and roe from the family’s crab dinners to create a soup that was rich, creamy, and packed with flavor.

Over time, she crab soup became a favorite among Charleston’s elite society and was eventually included on the menus of high-end restaurants. Today, it’s considered one of the city’s signature dishes and a must-try for anyone visiting Charleston.

Influence of Gullah Geechee Culture

The Gullah Geechee people have played a significant role in shaping Lowcountry cuisine. Descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the coastal regions of the southeastern United States, the Gullah Geechee community has maintained its unique culture, language, and culinary traditions. Their influence can be seen in many Lowcountry dishes, including she crab soup.

Gullah Geechee cooks were known for their resourcefulness and ability to create delicious meals using local ingredients and traditional African cooking techniques. This culinary heritage has been passed down through generations, and the influence of Gullah Geechee cuisine can still be seen in the flavors and ingredients of many Lowcountry dishes today.

Staple of Lowcountry Cuisine

The Lowcountry region of South Carolina is known for its unique blend of Southern and coastal cuisine, which is heavily influenced by the region’s geography and history.

Lowcountry cuisine typically features fresh seafood, locally sourced produce, and a mix of European, African, and Native American flavors. She crab soup perfectly captures this fusion of flavors, with its delicate and creamy broth, blue crab meat, and roe, which give it a unique and delicious taste.

In fact, many of the key ingredients in she crab soup, including blue crabs, shrimp, oysters, and rice, can be found in abundance in the Lowcountry region. This makes it the perfect representation of the region’s culinary traditions and an essential dish for anyone looking to explore the local cuisine.

Regulations and Sustainability

While she crab soup is a beloved dish, it’s important to be aware of the regulations surrounding the use of female crabs. In some states, including South Carolina, it is illegal to harvest or sell female crabs that have already spawned, also known as “sponge crabs”. This regulation is in place to protect the crab populations and ensure the sustainability of the seafood industry.

Enjoying She Crab Soup

Whether you enjoy it at a local restaurant or make it at home, she crab soup is a dish that will tantalize your taste buds. Its rich and creamy texture, combined with the delicate flavors of blue crab meat and roe, make it a true Southern classic.

How to Make She Crab Soup

If you want to try making she crab soup at home, we’ve got a simple, classic recipe for delicious she crab soup below.


  • 1 pound blue crab meat
  • 1/2 cup crab roe
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup of dry sherry or brandy
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Paprika, for garnish


  1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture turns golden brown.
  2. Add the onion, celery, green onions, and garlic to the pot and cook for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream. Add the bay leaves and thyme leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add the crab meat, crab roe, and sherry or brandy to the pot. Stir to combine and bring back to a simmer.
  5. Add cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper to taste. Simmer the soup for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika.

This classic she crab soup recipe serves 4-6 people and can be easily doubled for larger groups. Enjoy!