This bouillabaisse is French seafood stew with fresh fish, shrimp, clams and mussels, all simmered together in a flavorful broth. An easy and elegant meal that’s super impressive and always gets rave reviews.
Every time I see bouillabaisse on a restaurant menu, I have to order it. I absolutely adore the combination of assorted fresh seafood in broth. I decided it was time to learn how to make this dish at home, and it’s actually simpler than it seems!
What is bouillabaisse?
Bouillabaisse is French seafood dish that originated in port towns including Marseille. It was invented as a way for fishermen to use up the less desirable varieties of seafood that they could not sell to restaurants. This stew typically contains multiple types of white fish, along with a variety of shellfish. It is typically served with toasted bread with rouille on top, which is a creamy, spicy spread.
How do you make bouillabaisse?
This recipe starts with homemade fish stock, which is a combination of fish bones, shrimp shells, and any other seafood trimmings you can get your hands on. Simmer these items with a bottle of clam juice, vegetables and spices to make the base for the stew. Strain the stock, then saute onion, fennel and leeks in the same pot. Add garlic and tomatoes to the mix. Return the stock to the pot, along with the clams and mussels. Let the shellfish simmer for a few minutes, then add the fish and shrimp. Discard the fresh herb sprigs, then add a sprinkle of parsley and serve with toasted bread and rouille.
How to make rouille
The rouille sauce can be made while the seafood is simmering in the broth. Place bread crumbs, cayenne pepper, garlic and a little bit of seafood stock in a blender or food processor along with mayonnaise. Blend to combine, then you’ll have a smooth and creamy sauce.
Tips for the perfect dish
- Ask your fish counter if they can sell you fish trimmings to make the stock, and choose shell on shrimp.
- If you can’t find the fish trimmings to make your own stock, you can use 8 cups of prepared seafood stock, as well as the bottle of clam juice.
- This dish is really best when served immediately. Any leftovers will stay fresh for up to 2 days in the fridge. Warm any leftovers over low heat on the stove.
- Be sure to discard any clams or mussels that do not open after they’ve been cooked, as they are not good to eat.
- Choose at least 2 different types of fish for your stew. I often go with cod, snapper, halibut, monkfish or sole.
What is the difference between bouillabaisse and cioppino?
Bouillabaisse is a French seafood stew, and cioppino is a seafood stew of Italian original. Cioppino typically includes crab and has more tomatoes. Bouillabaisse contains saffron as a flavoring agent, and is served with rouille sauce.
This dish is great as written, but you can customize the flavors to your tastes.
- Seafood: It’s important to include white fish, but you can use other types of shellfish such as lobster, crab or scallops. Calamari or octopus are also common in this dish.
- Vegetables: You can bulk up the stew by adding small potatoes, or other vegetables such as carrot and celery.
- Flavorings: Feel free to add additional flavorings. Although these are not traditional choices, olives or capers would be great with the seafood.
It is both fun and delicious to bring a little taste of France into your home kitchen, and this seafood stew does not disappoint!
More seafood recipes to try
For the seafood stock
- 2 pounds shrimp shells, fish heads, fish bones, seafood trimmings, etc.
- 1/2 onion cut into wedges
- 1 carrot peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 stalk celery cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 strip orange zest 2-3 inches
- 8 cups water
- 8 ounces clam juice
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley
- 1 bay leaf
For the bouillabaisse
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup yellow onion finely diced
- 3/4 cup leeks light green and white parts, sliced
- 1/2 cup fennel bulb diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes preferably San Marzano brand
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound mussels scrubbed and debearded
- 1 pound clams scrubbed
- 2 pounds white fish at least two varieties such as halibut, cod, snapper, sole or monkfish
- 1 pound shrimp medium to large size
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
- parsley sprigs and lemon wedges for serving optional
- bread for serving toasted if desired
For the rouille
- 1 tablespoon seafood stock recipe above
- 1 teaspoon garlic chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup soft white breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup roasted red pepper jarred is fine
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
For the seafood stock
- Place all of the stock ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 30-45 minutes. Strain and reserve for later use. You will need 8 cups of the stew and 1 tablespoon for the rouille.
For the bouillabaisse
- Wipe out the pot with a paper towel. Heat the olive oil in the pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion, leeks and fennel and cook for 4-5 minutes or until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, reserved 8 cups of seafood stock, salt and pepper to the pot, then bring to a simmer.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the mussels and clams to the pot and cook for 4 minutes.
- Add the fish and shrimp, then cook for another 4 minutes or until seafood is opaque and cooked through, and mussels and clams have opened.
- Discard any mussels and clams that do not open during the cooking process.
- Sprinkle with parsley, then serve with toasted bread and rouille. Garnish with parsley and lemon if desired.
For the rouille
- Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until a smooth sauce forms.