Benne-Oyster Soup

Sarah Rutledge, writing in The Carolina Housewife (1847), offered several recipes, including one with peanuts and one with benne (sesame seeds). Here is a modern adaptation of the benne-oyster combination.


  • 1 tablespoon benne (sesame seeds)
  • 1 cup oyster liquor, drained from the oysters
  • 1 cup cream
  • 12 large oysters, shucked
  • cayenne pepper and freshly ground black pepper to taste


On a baking sheet in a preheated 350° oven or in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, cook the benne until evenly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove to a mortar and grind with a pestle until a paste forms, adding a few drops of oyster liquor or cream if necessary. Heat the cream and oyster liquor together in a saucepan, gradually stir in the benne paste, then add the oysters and continue to heat until the oysters are just curled. It takes only a minute. Season with cayenne and black pepper.

Typically, oyster soups contain oysters, butter, and cream. Some people add celery; others add Worcestershire sauce. I prefer Sarah Rutledge’s.