Helping busy families cook and eat more seafood at home.

By Mollie Sanders

It’s a Christmas Eve tradition in Portsmouth, N.H. for many locals to make the pilgrimage to my family’s lobster pound to pick up their holiday seafood and get a free cup of Sanders Lobster Stew.  Seeing as it’s the busiest day of the year for the family business, our customers are very used to waiting in line in the unheated (better for the lobster tanks) shop.  So the stew really keeps them warm and happy.  

My grandmother (who’s 84!) still makes the stew over her wood stove, using all freshly-picked lobster meat and fresh milk.  The men who work at the pound, ferry the steaming stew from the stove, across the street to the pound, where it’s kept warm over a propane burner.  It’s wonderfully heart-warming to see the familiar faces waiting patiently for their turn to taste the rustic treat.
It was years ago that my grandfather taught me this recipe.  The secret is to combine the simple –ingredients – milk, butter, and lobster meat — in just the right way to bring out the sweet richness of the lobster.
The one potentially unfamiliar ingredient potentially in the mix is the lobster coral, traditionally added for color. Lobster “coral” is the roe, or eggs, of the female lobster.  When lobsters are cooked, the coral turns a bright orange color. It is indeed edible but really has no distinctive flavor except a mild oceany taste.  Using it is totally optional but it does give the stew a more intense color.

Sanders Family Lobster Stew

Serves 8

Everything it its place

  • 1 pound freshly picked lobster meat (you will need 4-5,
  •  1 pound lobsters if you want to cook your own), chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 ounces (1 stick) salted butter
  • Lobster coral if desired for color
  • 2 quarts whole milk


  • Melt butter in large heavy-bottomed saucepot (add mashed coral if using) then add lobster meat.  Simmer over low, stirring occasionally until the butter turns a nice salmon pink color, about 15 minutes.
  • Slowly add milk, stirring constantly, thoroughly heating it without bringing to a bubble. 
  • Remove from heat and let cool.  Refrigerate overnight to let flavors really develop.  
  • Before serving, reheat slowly over very low heat. 
  • Serve hot with oyster crackers or saltines.