Classic French Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provençal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille. Use several different fresh fish and seafood varieties. My favourites are a combination of fish and shellfish. If you don’t eat shellfish, you can use all different fish, mix them up. Don’t forget to serve a good chunk of crusty bread alongside!

This recipe may look daunting but it is quite easy and you can make most of it ahead or even freeze it.  The recipe is broken into two parts, the soup part and then the fish part.  You can make the soup part ahead and even freeze it.  When you are ready to use it, heat up the soup and then right before serving, you add the fish.

I love making this for guests during the holidays.  It is so warm and comforting and always invites a great conversation.  Start the evening off with an assortment of great appetizers.  Then about 10 minutes before you want to sit down, add the fish to the bubbling broth.  You can serve a side salad along with the bouillabaisse, a loaf of great crusty bread and you have a beautiful meal.  I can smell the cracking fireplace right now ;)!

Classic French Bouillabaisse

Servings 6 for dinner


For the Soup Base

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions chopped into small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 anchovies finely chopped or 1 tsp. (5 ml) anchovy paste
  • 3 medium carrots peeled and diced small
  • 1 yellow pepper diced small
  • 1 red pepper diced small
  • 1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped
  • 1 small zucchini diced small
  • 1 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 strips of orange peel use a veg peeler
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 14 ounce/398 mL can tomatoes chopped finely
  • 1 675-750 mL bottle of tomato puree or also called passata
  • 1⅓ cups/ 325 mL dry white wine
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 medium potatoes peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes or 12 baby potatoes, halved or quartered 

For the Fish

  • 2 lbs combination of skinless cod and salmon, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1-2 lbs of mixed seafood, mussels, clams, shrimp, scallop
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


For the Soup Base

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over med-low heat.  Add the onion, sauté until just beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute.  Add the anchovies, cook for 30 seconds or so.
  • Add the carrots, peppers and jalapeno pepper, cook for a few minutes.  Add the zucchini and mushrooms, cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the bay leaf, red pepper flakes, orange peel, fennel and thyme, stir.
  • Add both types of tomatoes, bring to a boil, turn the heat to low. 
  • Add 4 cups (1000 mL) water and the wine, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer UNCOVERED for another 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Remove the bay leaf and orange peel.  At this point the soup base can be frozen.  Defrost and bring back to a boil before continuing.
  • Add the potatoes, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the Fish and Seafood

  • Let the fish and seafood sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before adding to the hot soup.  Season the fish a seafood well with salt and pepper, add to the pot along with the parsley and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the fish pieces flake. Do not overcook or stir too roughly.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve with a good hunk or crusty bread.