Oysters Rockefeller Recipe and History


Established in 1840, Antoine’s is considered America’s oldest family-run restaurant and the original Oyster Rockefeller recipe is said to be one of the most sought-after recipes in the world.  Even the ex-employees of this restaurant will not talk about how Antoine’s Oysters Rockefeller are made.  The original recipe is a closely-guarded Antoine’s secret, though it has been imitated,adapted, and evolved in a host of ways.  The original oysters Rockefeller is said to have been made with watercress, not spinach.  Jules Alciatore exacted a  promise on his deathbed that the exact proportions be kept a secret forever.


This recipe below is the closes recipe to the original classic Oysters Rockefeller that was developed by Roy Alciatore, one of Antoine’s previous owners.  I have only slightly adapted the recipe to modern recipe writing standards.



Oysters Rockefeller

Photo from Costas Inn Restaurant.


Oysters Rockefeller History:


1850 – Antoine Alciatore, the original owner of Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, made a specialty dish of snails called Snails Bourgignon which was very popular.  The restaurant, located on Rue St. Louis in the New Orleans French Quarter, was opened in 1840, and Antoine’s is the country’s oldest family-run restaurant.

According to Antoine Restaurant’s web site:

In 1874, Antoine being in ill-heath, took leave of his family, with the management of the restaurant in his wife’s hands.  He felt he had not much longer to live and wished to die and be buried in his birthplace in France.  He told his wife he did not want her to watch him deteriorate and said as he left; “As I take boat for Marseilles, we will not meet again on earth.”  He died within the year.


1899 – When Jules Alciatore took over the business, the taste for snails had subsided, and also there was a shortage of French snails.  He wanted to use a local product in order to avoid any difficulty in  procuring it.  He choose oysters and adapted the snail recipe in 1899 to use the gulf oysters.

Jules Alciatore is known as a pioneer in the art of cooking oysters (as they were rarely cooked before this time).  According to legend, it is said that a customer exclaimed with delight after eating this dish, “Why, this is as rich as Rockefeller!”

The dish was given the name Rockefeller because the green was the color of greenbacks and the whole dish was so rich that he wanted a name that would signify the “richest in the world.”  The first name to come to his mind was John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), a name once connoted the absolute pinnacle of wealth and position.  No other American dish has received so much praise and attention as Oysters Rockefeller.


1980 – Roy F. Guste, Jr., the great-great grandson of Jules Antoine, writes in his book Antoine’s Restaurant Cookbook that “the sauce is basically a puree of a number of green vegetables other than spinach.”


Oysters Rockefeller Recipe:
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cajun
Keyword: Oysters Rockefeller Recipe
Servings: 6 servings or 36 appetizers
  • 36 fresh live oysters on the half shell*
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons fresh spinach leaves, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons onion, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, finely minced
  • 5 tablespoons bread crumbs, homemade
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Herbsaint or Pernod**
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Rock salt
  • Lemon wedges for garnish
  1. Using an oyster knife, pry open the oyster shells, then remove the oysters. Discard the top shells; scrub and dry the bottom shells.  Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor.

  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter; add spinach, onion, parsley, bread crumbs, Tabasco Sauce, Herbsaint, and salt.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Press the spinach mixture through a sieve or food mill; let cool.  Mixture may be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use.

  3. Preheat oven broiler.  Line an ovenproof plate or platter with a layer of rock salt about 1-inch deep (moisten the salt very slightly).  Set oysters in the rock salt, making sure they are level.

  4. Place a little of the reserved oyster liquor on each oyster.  Spoon an equal amount of the prepared spinach mixture over each oyster and spread to the rim of the shell.

  5. Broil approximately 5 minutes or until the edges of the oysters have curled and the topping is bubbling.  Watch carefully.

  6. Garnish the plates or platter with the parsley sprigs and the lemon wedges.  Serve immediately.

  7. Makes 6 servings or 36 appetizers.

Recipe Notes

* It is best to use small oyster for this recipe.  The oysters themselves (not the shells) should be no more than 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Any variety of oysters will work; just make sure the oysters you choose are as fresh as possible, still alive, and tightly closed.  Learn how to Shuck Oysters.

** Herbsaint and Pernod are an aniseed flavored spirit, available where liquor is sold.



Recipe from The Picture Cookbook by Life Magazine.

Glory On The Half-Shell, by Kevin Keating, magazine article in Hemispheres Magazine, January 1997.

Oyster Cookery, by Sharon Montoya-Welsh and Marjorie Speare-Yerxa, published by Shoalwater Kitchen, 1984.

The New Orleans Restaurant Cookbook, by Deirdre Stanforth, published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967.


Comments and Reviews

9 Responses to “Oysters Rockefeller Recipe and History”

  1. Mrs. Dottie K.H. Alt

    Thanks! I really like Oysters Rockefeller and we were wondering how the dish got invented.

  2. Mrs. Ellison

    Delish… I used chicken stock and lemon juice as a binder with garlic herb cheese an my husband is threatening to open up a restaurant ????… I will definitely add this to my party app arsenal.


    Very nice recipe!!

  4. Sherri

    Where is the cheese in recipe?

    • Nancy

      This recipe doesn’t have cheese in it. Some people add cheese it is an optional ingredient, you can search through the internet and find several options of Oyster’s Rockefeller, some with cheese some without. I hope you enjoy it either way!

  5. Stephen A. McCrary

    Using an oyster knife, pry open the oyster shells, then remove the oysters. Discard the top shells; scrub and dry the bottom shells. Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor.

    Do you cook the oysters first or not?

  6. Olen

    You folks who are wondering where is this or that ingredient, that you are used to them in Oysters Rockefeller, should try this recipe. And, in fact, try leaving out the butter and the bread crumbs. Instead, replace the onion with some finely chopped scallions tops, and wilt them & the greens in a dry pan, or the microwave. And, adding the Pernod to the mixture may yield an excess licorice taste. Instead, just press the wilted greens mixture onto the oysters-on-the-half-shell and put exactly two drops of the liquor, and 1 drop of Tabasco, on top of each oyster, then broil as directed. Even if you are not into spicy food, don’t leave out the Tabasco. 1 drop will enhance the flavor, but not make it objectionably “hot”. And, while you are deleting ingredients…leave out the salt. Oyster flesh is adequately salty such that no additional is needed. My rule is that simple is better for shellfish. Don’t ruin a great product by overworking the recipe!

  7. Matt

    Fail. There is no spinach in the original recipe nor is there the traditional onion. As the above poster Olen stated, scallions (green parts only) are but one of several plant ingredients which include herbs. Parsley is one of them as referenced here (parsley is also an herb ingredient in classic French escargot and that is not by accident pertaining to this dish).


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