During the Nineteenth Century the wealthy of North Carolinian built their summer homes on the Outer Banks. Come warm weather, they ferried their family, servants, and supplies across the bay to enjoy the coast’s cooler winds.

It was in the kitchens of these stately seaside homes that skilled African American cooks created a thousand variations of Carolina’s beloved Muddle Stew.

Most recipes for Muddle rely on a combination of shellfish and fish, all of which were fresh available among the nearby shores.

Carolina Shellfish Muddle


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 6 cups fish stock or bottled clam juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 Taylor Clams, scrubbed
  • 1 pound fish (cod, flounder or snapper), cut into 2-inch piece
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 12 Taylor Mussels, rinsed and beards removed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Cooked rice


  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions, carrots and celery.
  3. Cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
  5. Stir in tomatoes and potatoes.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  7. Cover and cook until potatoes are slightly softened, about 10 minutes.
  8. Pour in fish stock and increase heat to high.
  9. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Simmer until potatoes are completely cooked, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
  11. Add clams and cook until they start to open, about 5 minutes.
  12. Add fish, shrimp and mussels.
  13. Cook about 10 minutes til fish is opaque, shrimp are pink, and clams and mussels are fully opened.
  14. Discard any clams or mussels that remain unopened.
  15. Season with salt and pepper.
  16. Serve hot over cooked rice.
  17. Sprinkle with parsley.