Contessa Conch in Brown Butter Sauce


The sea is our most valuable resource here on the island. We are literally haunted by its crashing surf and demanding call. There are few places on the island where the evidence of the sea is not in some way visible. It fuses itself into our every understanding, whether we see it on a long drive home in the distance, or witness the ravage of salt rusted fixtures and appliances because it moves so easily with the trade winds across the island.  By definition, all island people are bound to the sea.  It gives us a place to celebrate on its shores; offers us ways to rejuvenate our sick or weary bodies—there are few ailments that aren’t cured by a good “sea soak”; and most importantly it nourishes us from its bountiful depths.  One of my favorite gifts from the sea is the conch. When prepared correctly, the conch transforms itself from a mere bottom-dwelling , sea snail into tender, flavorful, oceanic ambrosia! (Yes, it warrants all those adjectives because it is just THAT good!)


Local fishermen harvest the conchs and sell them along the roadside or at the market. They are so flavorful, that our government has wisely placed restrictions on its quantity and availability. I encourage everyone on the island to only purchase conch during the regulated seasons. They are a necessary part of our delicate ecosystem.  In order to maintain that balance, we should use our plates as a form of respect and only eat in ways that maintain the beauty of our island.

The picture above is what conchs look like when you take them out of the bag. How could something that lives in such a beautiful and revered shell, with its kingly spire, not be mouth-wateringly  tasty! But the conch is  a resilient food, and cooking it can be a long process to finally help it yield to its softest self. It is not uncommon to see folks beat the conch (and themselves) into submission, only to plop it into an unpersuasive pressure cooker, and pray that if it hasn’t surrendered to the hammer, that it would to the pot.

My then neighbor, and soon to be husband, gave me my first experience with conchs. He is an avid diver and brought me one in the shell with the sand still clinging to it. I will spare the details of my hilarious, epic, battle with this sea snail, and simply say that my husband must have REALLY been smitten with me to marry me after that experience!

After much time, I have found an easier way to cook conch. One that involves no pounding, exhaustion, or praying to create. It can almost be described as an island conch scampi! I hope you enjoy this recipe! Get in the kitchen and try it out, and let me know how it came out for you!



5 Conch Steaks (cleaned)

1 Stick of butter

1 Medium Onion

1 Tomato

½-1 Teaspoon Thyme

Salt and Pepper to Taste

2 Stalks Culantro/Cilantro

1-2 Sweet Seasoning Peppers

6 Cloves of Garlic

1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1/4 Teaspoon Curry Powder

2 Cups of Reserved Conch Water

Enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a pan


Clean the conch properly. This is a long process that can involve scrubbing the conch down with cornmeal, limes, vinegar to cut the slimy coat that naturally covers it. Once this is done,  take off the small dark parts that dangle off the conch, and thoroughly clean out the interior of the conch. You will see a line running just under the surface of the conch, cut along this line and rinse out the inside.

After the conch has been properly cleaned place it in a slow cooker and cover with water and allow to boil for about two hours. Throw off that first water, and continue to boil the conch once more. I do this a total of about three times at three hour intervals. (I said it was easy, I didn’t say it wasn’t long.) I also urge you to use fresh BOILING water whenever you change the water. DO NOT use cold water on it. I fear this could toughen the conch and take the conch longer to tenderize.

The final time leave the conch for about another three hours and do not throw off the water that it is boiled in as this contains the essence of the conch flavor. I let the slow cooker do all the tenderizing. No beating or pressure cooking necessary.

Then take a stick of butter and place it in a pot and let it melt slowly, let is simmer until the butter begins to foam on the top. After about three minutes the foam will start to fall to the bottom of the pan, after another three or so minutes the solids at the bottom will start to brown. Take it off the heat and pour it in a heatproof container. Refrigerate after it comes to room temperature. This is how to make a good brown butter. While I prefer the flavor of the brown butter, you can simply use butter in the recipe and it will taste just perfect!


After the conch is tender, you slice it into bite size pieces and put aside.

Then in a heated pot, add olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and all the other ingredients except the butter and cook until the onions are completely translucent and cooked down.

Add the conch and stir briefly.


Then add the butter and  half cup intervals of the reserved conch water to the sauce. Let it cook together on a low heat until the flavors are fully developed. I have left the conch to cook for over an hour on a low, gentle flame in order to make sure that the conch absorbs all the spices.

This is a basic conch in butter sauce recipe, but and is fairly mild. You can jazz it up with the addition of some spicy hot peppers, chipotle powder, a squeeze of lime, or even a sprig of Big Leaf Thyme! Conch is the sea’s somewhat blank canvass and it absorbs most flavors extremely well and compliments it. Be adventurous!

Pair this dish with a nice coconut jasmine or basmati rice, a few slices of fried plantains and enjoy the sea’s gift to your plate! Enjoy!!



43 thoughts on “Contessa Conch in Brown Butter Sauce

      1. Would love to have a source for fresh conch.
        Our friends from the Bahamas sent us the fresh conch .
        Caught on Monday, in freezer by evening and in
        our hands Tues. afternoon. So fresh!!

        1. I see you are living on St. Croix…That’s where i first enjoyed good Conch and butter sauce…as well as the good lobster fresh from the sea…

      1. As soon as I get some more I will:-) The conch here (Trinidad) is river conch and it tastes different from the variety you have pictured here. I’ll have to wait until my Aunts send some for me from up the islands.

    1. Hello, Nikki! The only way to make sure the conch is tender enough is to let it boil for a considerable amount of time as I indicated in the recipe. You can also try it in the last couple hours in the slow cooker. Some folks short cut the time for cooking by using a pressure cooker. It really is a matter of trial and error and time. But a good conch plate is WORTH it! 🙂

    1. Thank You! As my good Friend Chris said “Simply Outstanding” for this recipe. I will try it. I have made Conch Ceviche and stew conch but have not tried this one since leaving home on St. Thomas/St John where I grew up..

      Keep Up the Good Work, Crucian Contessa..

      Regards to ALL..

      Caribman Rob

  1. Good Day Crucian Contessa!

    First let me start off by saying that I LOVE Conch in butter sauce. Every year I come home (St. Thomas) for Carnival I have to have a plate of conch cooked by my grandmother! 🙂 I’ve always wanted to try to make my own conch in butter sauce but shyed away from it since I do not own a pressure cooker. Thanks to my Mom for referring me to your FB Page and your recipe on how you cook conch without a pressure cooker, I’m now ready, I hope, to give this a try. I have a crockpot that I need to put to good use. My question to you; however, if I wanted to make Conch Chowder (I had a delicious bowl of conch chowder in St. Kitts in December 2012 and fell in love with it. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to make it.) instead of Conch in Butter Sauce, would I employ the exact same steps that you’ve explained above? I guess what I need to know is, would I have to be sure my conch is tender first before creating my base for a chowder and then adding the tenderized conch to the chowder as it’s cooking??

    1. Hello, Keva!

      I LOVE a good conch chowder too! I make one that is just beyond sinful! 🙂 You might not have to cook your conch for the full time I recommend. But Usually an overnight/at least 8 hours in the slow cooker works. Just make sure it’s softened to your liking. And YES, you definitely have to tenderize the conch meat before you put it in chowder. I save some of the final conch water the conch was boiled in to add to my chowder to give it even more conch flavor. Let me know how yours turns out! And feel free to pass on and share the blog! 🙂

      1. YAY!!! Thanks so much for responding!! I will do as you recommended and let you know how it turns out. And of course I will pass along your blog for others to check out. 🙂

  2. This would be my first time cooking conch myself and I admire your skills greatly. I have a crockpot do I have to change the water as u recommend? Or can I just let it tenderize and that would be fine? What veggies you think would pair well? I usually just go straight for the conch and rice and avoid anything

    1. Kila, that is an AWESOME question! I don’t have a phobia of many things in the kitchen, but I have always shied away from pressure cookers. I don’t have a snappy answer for you, but my suggestion would be to consult the manual of the one you own, and experiment with the cooking times and desired tenderness. Let me know how it came out! 🙂

  3. Oh my word. I followed your recipe by slow cooking conch for almost 12 hrs. Doing
    The water change after 3 hrs. 3 times, and did
    The brown butter (an absolute must for the wonderful
    Flavor). I did add red pepper, banana pepper,
    red pepper flakes, extra garlic, a squeeze of a
    Fresh key lime, and sea salt along with the spices
    you recommended. Served it over coconut jasmine
    Rice. It was heavenly!!! Thank you. I lived in
    St. Croix for 13 years during 70’s and 80’s and
    Just love West Indian food. Do you have a Roti
    recipe available!! Was so divine!!

      1. Now for clarification…is it boil first time 2hrs then change water, 3 times every 3 hours? Or was there a typo with the 2 hours?

        1. I usually boil it for about six hours in my slow cooker. I change the water about three times. Saving the final water for my stew or chowder or butter sauce. I hope your recipe came out well for you!

  4. Good Day,

    Thank you so much for the recipe… I have question by chance have you made this recipe with conch you have used in a pressure cooker? If so can you please tell me what I would do as I do have a pressure cooker and don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen… lol Thank you so much!

    1. LOL. Jerome, I have a confession to make. PRESSURE COOKERS TERRIFY ME!! lol. I don’t know why, but I have never had good kitchen luck with them and avoid them like the plague! If you do try it, let me know how it turned out for you and what tips YOU have! 🙂

  5. Hello Contessa: I grew up in St. Croix and my mom a Native of St Croix made conch on a regular basis. Thank you for this recipe. I followed it exactly and it was awesome. My husband who is from Jamaica loved it. My mom cooked it as conch in lemon and butter sauce and it is also great. I love your recipe and I will cook it again. My husband can’t stop talking about it

  6. I had been thinking about slow cooking conch which is how I came across your tips.

    So it was successful in the aspect of tenderizing the conch.

    For me personally, it lacked the flavor of true authentic conch with the way I made it ( tomato based stew). I will have to see about not changing the water n keeping that water for my broth to see if it is satisfactory next time…

    Thx for sharing.

    1. You are welcome, V! Remember there is a difference in flavor with stew conch (which is tomato based) and a basic butter sauce. But that’s what the kitchen does. It gives us chances to experiment and see what we enjoy! Please feel free to share your finished recipes on my FB page!

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