An Authentic French Bouillabaisse: the Quintessential Fisherman’s Stew

This recipe comes from Marseilles, where the bragging rights for the best bouillabaisse are tightly contested.

The Best Bouillabaisse French Seafood Stew |

This hearty fisherman’s stew is fragrant and sumptuous, with the rich, garlicky overtones of its Mediterranean roots – an ideal combination of root vegetables, fish, and shellfish including oysters, mussels, and shrimp, as well as lobster.

The key is in using the freshest seafood available in your region – and if you can’t find the exact seafood listed, improvise! It’s very adaptable.

Check out Foodal’s shellfish guide for more tips on how to cook all different types.

I like to prepare my bouillabaisse in in a large enameled Dutch oven, but a sturdy tri-ply stock pot would work as well.

Best Recipe for French Bouillabaisse

This recipe includes saffron. If you’re having trouble sourcing it, check out Foodal’s Saffron Guide for some places to purchase it.

Best Recipe for Authentic Bouillabaisse - The French Fisherman's Stew |

Serve with a Caesar salad and a crusty baguette, and pair with either a strong golden ale or a rosé wine.

Not in the seafood mood? Try this classic savory one-pot beef stew recipe instead. For more on French cooking, explore our article on the subject here.

Best Bouillabaisse Recipe |
Authentic Bouillabaisse
Votes: 8
Rating: 4
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 - 8 people 40 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 - 8 people 40 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Best Bouillabaisse Recipe |
Authentic Bouillabaisse
Votes: 8
Rating: 4
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 - 8 people 40 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 - 8 people 40 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
The Base
  • 1 baguette French bread sliced into ½” pieces
  • 3 large tomatoes peeled, seeds squeezed out and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion chopped
  • 2 leeks whites only, finely julienned
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound potatoes cut into bite sized chunks
  • 4 medium carrots sliced diagonally into 1/2” pieces
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fennel finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 cups hot fish stock
  • 2 pounds white fish fillets* bones removed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound small hard-shelled clams such as Littleneck, scrubbed
  • 1/2 pound mussels scrubbed and any beards removed
  • 1/2 pound prawns in shells
  • 1/2 pound lobster meat cut into 1” pieces
The Rouille
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette crust removed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Servings: people
  1. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees F. Prepare the baguette croutons by removing the crusts, brush lightly with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes then rub on one side with fresh garlic. Set aside until the stew is ready.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, cook the tomatoes, onion, leeks and garlic in oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and transparent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Peel the potatoes and cut into bite sized cubes. Stir the potatoes and carrots into the tomato mix and add the tomato paste, fennel, bay leaf, saffron, parsley, sea salt, and pepper.
  4. Add the hot fish stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Add any thicker pieces of fish, scallops and clams and simmer covered for 2 minutes. Stir in the mussels, shrimp, lobster, and remaining fish then simmer, covered another 5 minutes and the mussels have opened wide.
  6. Stir approximately 3 tablespoons of broth from the stew into the roux until smooth and well blended.
  7. Arrange a layer of croutons in wide, shallow bowls. With a slotted spoon, transfer the seafood onto the croutons then ladle some hot broth and vegetables around the edges of the croutons. Add a dollop of rouille over the top and serve immediately.
  8. In a small mixing bowl, pour the water over bread crumbs. Mash garlic with the flat edge of a chef’s knife and mix into a paste with the sea salt and cayenne. Add to the moistened bread crumbs with the Dijon mustard, mixing all into a garlic paste.
  9. Slowly add the oil in a thin stream, vigorously mixing with a fork until well combined.
  10. Add a dollop of the Rouille over top of the bouillabaisse just before serving, and serve the rest on the side with crusty French bread.
Recipe Notes

*Such as red snapper, halibut, cod or scallops – or any combination.

Best Bouillabaisse Recipe |


Get more ideas on how to cook fish now.

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Sides German Oktoberfest Soups & Stews One Pot/Pan Meals Poultry Chinese Chicken Ethnic Sauces and Spreads Appetizers Dips Comfort Food St Patricks Day Pasta Italian Fish and Seafood Gluten Free Mexican & Latin America Vegetarian
Sort by

About Lorna Kring

Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.

18 thoughts on “An Authentic French Bouillabaisse: the Quintessential Fisherman’s Stew”

  1. This sounds so good. I love seafood, and have never made bouillabaisse, so will have to save this recipe for a special occasion. Is there a way to buy fish stock, or does that have to be made from scratch? I don’t recall seeing it in the stores, although maybe there’s a way to make it from fish sauce?

    • Despite its appearance, it’s a very straightforward dish to make for and ideal for a special evening. You don’t have to make fish stock from scratch, there are some very nice ones available commercially. Look in the broth section of the soup aisle, the fish market or in the Asian section for fish stocks. In a pinch, use miso soup base although fish stock is better.

    • Diane, I ALSO had trouble finding fish stock, and I did look in the soup aisle. I ended up using chicken stock, which was delicious. However, the broth of the soup was even better when I added the liquid that the mussels were frozen in.

      I live in the Midwest, where fish is not as popular as red meat, and the fish selection is both limited and expensive. However, some stores do sell small bottles of “clam juice”. I have never bought it and I have no idea if there is anything in it other than clams, but I think that I saw it next to the canned tuna.

      At any rate, the soup was VERY good, and my son picked up his bowl to drink the last few drops of the soup. I will correct his manners another day: I was just glad he liked the soup!

  2. This looks delicious although i never had it. i love seafood so I am sure this taste great too. It looks like its close to jambalaya. I decided I do not really like lobster but I like everything else. I am sure I can add craw fish instead of something like that.

    • If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll love bouillabaisse lachris15… and if you don’t enjoy lobster, try crayfish or omit altogether. It’s a very flexible recipe.

    • You may be able to find fish paste in your local Asian market or on the WEB. You can also save and freeze uncooked shrimp shells and fish trimmings (skin, heads, bones, tails, etc) in the freezer until you have enough to make a quart or two of fish broth. You may also be able to go to your local fish monger and ask him to save you some scraps. Either way takes a little effort, but it will add a great richness to you Fishermans Stew

  3. This looks great. We love seafood and could probably be vegetarians if not for loving seafood so much. Just can’t give it up. Since we don’t live on the coast right now, unfortunately, but we will get there, seafood can be expensive. This looks worth it though. I like that there’s saffron in it. I have never gotten to taste it but it always sounds so good, even though it is pricy as well. Now that I have a few recipes with saffron in the ingredients, I’ll have to buy us some to try.

  4. Seafood is my favorite and I have heard of this dish before..many many years ago. It reminds me of a seafood boil or a “low country boil” ……which is what we call this dish in South Carolina. Trying to see the difference in ingredients…saffron is most definitely in this dish. We also add a couple ears of corn to the mixture. And by the way saffron is very expensive but worth the money. It gives a taste like no other to recipes.

    • A seafood stew is delicious no matter what it’s called sheebah! And the saffron really does add a unique flavor to seafood, despite its cost.

  5. I really want to like bouillabaisse but I am just too fussy about seafood. I would only enjoy this if it were made from prawns, lobster and scallops, and I’m not sure it would then be a bouillabaisse any more!

  6. Well, it’s all about satisfying our own tastes ukfoodiegirl. And your selection sounds pretty tasty, whether it would be called bouillabaisse or not!

  7. Well I happen to live about as far away from the ocean as is humanly possible, so I cannot consider myself a fisherman by any stretch of the imagination, even though I do love to fish, but I can certainly get behind a fisherman’s stew. You do not have to live by the sea to enjoy this one, and on the whole I love seafood, and a stew like consistency is perfect for me too. It might be a little costly, especially around here, but I would say it is something that might be worth it once or twice out of the year. Thanks for sharing.

    • Oh, I love trivia tidbits – next time it’s on the tube, I’ll have to watch it!

      I imagine French settlers on any coast would bring a variation of this… perhaps this would be the origin of gumbo? Must find out…

  8. It certainly works for special occasions rz, like a small dinner party. For fish lovers, of course! Hope you give it a try, it sounds right up your alley.

  9. Did anyone know that bouillabaisse was mentioned in one of the Harry Potter books? It’s in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and it is served to celebrate the arrival of the Beauxbatons students. This would be a great dish to serve at a Harry Potter themed dinner party. I’m not a seafood lover myself, but I can appreciate the cultural significance of this dish. I can imagine that this was probably a popular dish (or at least a variation on it) in Creole New Orleans.

    • Oh, I love trivia tidbits, next time it’s on the tube, I’ll have to watch it!

      I imagine French settlers on any coast would bring a variation of this – perhaps this was the origin of gumbo? Must find out…

      • Maybe before the French settlers left for Louisiana, they ordered this stew while sitting on the banks of Lago di Garda in northern Italy like my wife and I did a few years ago. I can never forget it. Your recipe looks very similar and I can’t wait to give it a try.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.