Bouillabaisse (Classic French Fish Soup)

4.8 of 45 votes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
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Top view of a bouillabaisse a classic French fish soup

As a French girl, bouillabaisse is one of those dishes that remind me of seaside vacations! So if, like me, you want to enjoy the flavors of this classic French fish soup at home, you’ll love this recipe.

Although there are number of ways to prepare it, this is one of the closest to the traditional bouillabaisse recipe, while remaining relatively simple to make.

What I love about this fish soup is the combination of earthy saffron and delicate fish, all cooked in a flavorful broth with a touch of anis and orange peel.

This French bouillabaisse is perfect soup to serve at a dinner party or any special occasion

Zoom on a homemade bouillabaisse
More fish recipes

If you love trying new fish recipes, check out my Fresh Salmon and Leeks Quiche and this Amok or Cambodian Fish Curry.

What is Bouillabaisse ?

Bouillabaisse is a French seafood stew from France’s port city of Marseille.

It’s a traditional dish made with various Mediterranean fishshrimps, and mussels cooked in a flavorful tomato-based broth seasoned with saffron. The dish has a hint of fennel and orange, and it’s usually served with a garlic mayonnaise called rouille (see the recipe) and toasted bread.

Zoom on a small bowl of rouille to server with bouillabaisse

Once considered a poor man’s meal, it’s now a classic French dish that you can easily serve on special occasions.

List of Ingredients

Fish and seafood

Zoom on fish and seafood to add into a bouillabaisse
  • Fresh fish: I recommend a combination of fish, preferably white-fleshed. Ideally, choose rock fish such as scorpion fish, red mullet or st. pierre, which are the fish traditionally used for Marseilles bouillabaisse. If you can’t find any, cod, monkfish or sea bass will also do nicely!
  • Shrimps: Choose fresh shrimp, preferably with their shells on, to add flavor to the broth.
  • Mussels: Although mussels are not part of the authentic bouillabaisse recipe, I like to add them for flavor. Choose live mussels. Rinse them under cold running water and check that they are well closed. Remove any open or broken mussels. If in doubt, ask your fishmonger for advice when you buy them.

For the soup

List of ingredients to make the broth of a bouillabaisse
  • Yellow onion: Choose a medium-sized yellow onion for a balanced flavor base. 
  • Fennel bulb: Fennel adds a unique anise-like flavor to the bouillabaisse. The fronds (leafy tops) can be kept for garnishing.
  • Leek: Adds a mild onion-like flavor and a subtle sweetness. Wash them thoroughly, as they can sometimes trap dirt between their layers. 
  • Tomatoes: Ripe and juicy tomatoes are essential for the rich, flavorful base of the bouillabaisse. 
  • Tomato paste: To enhance the taste of tomatoes.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes make this dish hearty. Choose firm potatoes, which retain their shape better during cooking.
  • Fennel seeds: These complement the fennel bulb’s flavor and aroma.
  • Saffron threads: This luxurious spice imparts a rich golden color and a subtle earthy flavor to the bouillabaisse. 
  • Bay leaves: They contribute a mild herbal flavor and aroma to the broth. Fresh or dry bay leaves will do.
  • Orange zest: Add orange zest to give the broth a touch of citrus. I don’t suggest skipping this, as it adds a pop of zesty taste.
  • Fish broth: This forms the base of this fish soup and intensifies the seafood flavors. You can use store-bought fish broth or clam juice.
  • Dry white wine: This adds acidity and depth to the dish. 
  • Pastis (Pernod Ricard): Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur. Use it sparingly to avoid overpowering the dish.
  • Fresh parsley: Freshens up the rich flavors.

You will find the exact quantities in the recipe card.

Zoom on a bowl of bouillabaisse

How to Make a Bouillabaisse ?

  1. Sauté the vegetables. Thinly slice onion, fennel, and leek. Cut tomatoes and potatoes into cubes.
    In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, fennel, and leeks. Sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.
    Add the fennel seeds, saffron threads, tomatoes, tomato paste and orange zest. Stir and cook for a few minutes to release the flavours.
  2. Add the liquids. Deglaze with pastis and white wine. Remove the orange zest, then pour in the fish stock.
    Option: blend the soup and pass it through a sieve to remove any lumps. Set aside in the saucepan.
    Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and orange zest and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the seafood.Rinse the mussels well and remove any open or broken ones. Cut the fish into cubes. Pour over the fish, shrimp, and mussels.
  4. Simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes on low heat, or until the fish is cooked, the shrimp are pink, and the mussels have opened.
    Discard any mussels that have not opened during cooking.
    Remove the pot from the heat and pour the bouillabaisse into serving bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
  5. Make the rouille. Prepare rouille before or during soup cooking (see my French rouille sauce for more tips or in the recipe card)

FAQ: Bouillabaisse

Can I make Bouillabaisse with frozen fish and seafood?

Yes, you can make Bouillabaisse with frozen fish and seafood if fresh options are not readily available. While using fresh seafood is ideal for the best flavor and texture, frozen alternatives can still yield a delicious dish. 

What is the best way to serve and enjoy Bouillabaisse?

Bouillabaisse is traditionally served in a large, shallow bowl to show off the variety of seafood and broth. It’s usually served with slices of toast and a saffron-garlic sauce rouille.

Can Bouillabaisse be made without alcohol?

Yes, replace the Pernod with star anise and leave out the wine. The result will be different but still delicious.

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Recipe card

Print Recipe

Bouillabaisse (Classic French Fish Soup)

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4.8 of 45 votes
Although there are many ways to prepare this classic French fish soup, this is one of the closest to the traditional bouillabaisse recipes, while remaining relatively simple to make.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Main course
Cuisine French
Servings 4
Calories 540 kcal

Ingredients
  

The bouillabaisse

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 1 leek
  • 4-5 tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 10 saffron threads
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lb fresh fish 500 g
  • 2 cups shrimps 200 g
  • 1 lb mussels 500 g
  • 1 liter fish broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp pastis Pernod Ricard
  • Salt
  • Fresh parsley

For the rouille

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 slices of bread , baguette
  • 6 saffron threads
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp Piment d’espelette or cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • A few drops of lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup of olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Thinly slice onion, fennel and leek. Cut tomatoes and potatoes into cubes.
  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, fennel and leek. Sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the fennel seeds, saffron threads, tomatoes and orange zest. Stir and cook for a few minutes to release the flavours.
  • Deglaze with pastis and white wine. Remove the orange zest, then pour in the fish stock.
  • Option: blend the soup and pass through a sieve to remove any lumps. Set aside in the saucepan.
  • Add the potatoes, bay leaf and orange zest and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
  • Rinse the mussels well and remove any open or broken ones. Cut the fish into cubes. Pour over the fish, shrimps and mussels.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through, the shrimps are pink and the mussels have opened.
  • Discard any mussels that have not opened during cooking.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and pour the bouillabaisse into serving bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

For the rouille sauce (prepare it before or while the soup is simmering)

  • Infuse saffron with lemon juice. Using a food processor or a hand blender, blend egg yolks, garlic, Dijon mustard, soaked bread, saffron mix, salt, paprika, and piment d'espelette.
  • Gradually drizzle in olive oil while blending until creamy. Adjust seasoning, chill for 30 minutes, and serve with fish stew or as a dip for bread and veggies.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 540kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 65gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 263mgSodium: 1306mgPotassium: 2401mgFiber: 9gSugar: 16gVitamin A: 1783IUVitamin C: 77mgCalcium: 301mgIron: 7mg
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4 Comments

  1. Hi! I bought fresh mussels but they are not so clean as yours. Other sea-creatures living on them. 🙂 Do you and how you remove them? They are so strongly on the shells and it is difficult to remove them by hand one after the other.

  2. 5 stars
    Geraldine, mon amour! I love your bouillabaisse recipe immensely. I experimented with it the other day with some guests and it was a total success. I am still receiving compliments and I felt like a master chef in that moment thanks to you!