Oyster Crackers Are Oyster-Free, So Why Are They Called Oysters?

published Oct 10, 2016
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Brent Hofacker)

It’s true: oyster crackers are not made with oysters. It’s a common misconception, but we can say with certainty that these tiny crackers are officially bivalve-free.

Let’s investigate this curiously-named cracker, shall we?

What Are Oyster Crackers?

These cute dime-sized crackers are pervasive anywhere bisques, stews, chilis, and chowders are served, although you can also eat them with cocktail sauce or white horseradish and they’re divine on their own, too. You’ll find them in individual pouches at soup counters and delis; sometimes they appear in standalone bowls at seafood restaurants.

They have the same dry, crispy texture as Saltines, but they’re typically not as salty. Texturally, different companies produce different types of oyster cracker. Some brands’ oyster crackers are denser, firmer, and roughly the size of a walnut. Other brands produce crackers that are tiny and softer. Regardless of texture, they’re always round.

How Oyster Crackers Got Their Name

But why, oh why, are they called oyster crackers? There are two reasons.

The first is the company they keep: These small crackers were traditionally served alongside oyster stews and clam chowders in mid-19th century New England. It’s kind of like how we call Justin Bieber fans “Beliebers,” or Clay Aiken fans “Claymates.” Oyster crackers are basically seafood soup groupies.

The second reason is that they resemble oysters. Consider their round shape. Oyster-like, no? And some brands of oyster crackers even crack in half easily, like oyster shells.

Between these two factors, the name stuck.

So, there you have it: This is one delicious mystery you no longer have to wonder about.