Bouillabaisse is a classic French fish soup with seafood that comes from the city of Marseille. Packed with delicate flavors of fennel, tomato, saffron, orange and with fresh fish and seafood, this dish is sure to delight the taste buds. Serve with a classic rouille and lots of French stick for mopping up the beautifully fragrant broth. Our bouillabaisse recipe does have a big list of ingredients there's no hiding that's what builds the layers of flavour. But the ingredients are fairly common and we keep the method simple. This dish is perfect for making ahead and a delicious way to feed a crowd. So if you love fish and seafood (like we do!), then this is a dish for you, let us walk you through it!
What is Bouillabaisse?
This traditional French fish stew with seafood was originally a rustic poor mans dinner. Using leftover fish that wasn't suitable for the market. The fisherman would take it home instead and cook up this delicious stew. With an abundance of fennel, oranges and tomatoes in the region, it was a go to lunch or dinner using the freshest of ingredients. Often eaten in two courses with the seafood being the start to the meal, finished by the amazingly flavored soup with some crusty bread. The addition of the spice trades arriving through Europe only enhanced the traditional dish with saffron, star anise, fennel seed and chilli being added.
For the soup base:
- Olive oil
- 10 whole prawns - peeled/ cleaned. Keep the heads and shells
- Bay leave
- Parsley - fresh leaves and stalks separated.
- Dried thyme
- Red chilli
- Orange peel
- Star anise
- Tomato puree
- White wine
- Chicken stock
For our bouillabaisse, we like to blend the base into a soup and then sieve it. Some people like to strain the vegetables out and use the broth for the base. We blend all the ingredients to give more body, flavour, nutrition and a more decadent feel. Chefs all over the world have been refining the traditional bouillabaisse to find that perfect balance of taste, body and elegance.
Fish and Seafood:
Traditionally Bouillabaisse uses three different types of fish, either whole small fish or chopped into chunks. We like to add a variety of seafood depending on what's available from our amazing local fish and seafood supplier.
For this recipe we have added:
- Fresh fish fillets
- Prawn tails (leftover from base ingredients)
You can also use other seafood like octopus, crabs, squid, cuttlefish or different shellfish like razor clams, diamond clams, tua tua. Other varieties of fish like john dory, red mullet, red snapper, hake, grouper, halibut and haddock work well. This French fish stew recipe is flexible and really depends on what's available and sustainable in your region. So get to know your local fish monger or supplier and chat with them about what's available to you.
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How to choose fresh fish and seafood
What ever seafood you choice to use, most importantly it needs to be fresh.
Tips on choosing fresh seafood:
- Mussels or shellfish - heavy in weight, clean, smelling of the sea, unopened or when tapped they close.
- Fish - dark red gills, clear eyes, doesn't have a strong fish smell, firm flesh.
- Prawns - smell fresh, make sure the heads are not black.
When choosing fish and seafood trust your instinct and if it smells a bit too fishy don't use it.
How to prepare fish and seafood
If you are using whole small fish, make sure they are gutted, remove the scales, trim off any fins and rinse under cold water. You can also ask your local fishmonger to prepare this for you. If using larger fish or fillets cut into good size chunks.
To prepare the prawns, twist off the heads, peel off the remaining shell. Then remove the poop tube, using a sharp knife, run it down the back of the prawn and scrape out the dark vein.
For the mussels give them a good scrub with steel wool and pull of the beard. If any shells are broken or cracked don't use them.
When preparing the clams make sure you purged them in cold fresh water, so they spit out the sand. Your fishmonger may have already done this for you, if not soak them over night, in lightly salted water.
How to make a bouillabaisse
3 simple steps:
- Prep your ingredients and create the soup base. Cook off all those ingredients. Bring to the boil then simmering in the wine and stock to develop that incredible base flavour.
- Cool slightly, blend the base then sieve. Like we mentioned before, to create a rich and decedent base. Full of flavour and nutritional ingredients! If you are making ahead you can store the base sealed in the fridge, until ready to cook the fish and seafood.
- Heat your blended soup base and add the fish and seafood, cooking them to perfection. It really is that simple!
How to make a rouille
Optional but amazing! Rouille is a classic sauce to serve with bouillabaisse (or any fish soup) and creates another layer of flavour.
Our garlic saffron rouille uses egg, egg yolk, dijon mustard, garlic, saffron, chilli, olive oil, lemon juice and salt (season to taste).
Using a bench top blender, simple add all the ingredients except the olive oil. Slowly blend and drizzle in the olive oil, through the hole in your blender lid. The rouille will start to slowly thicken, continue until you have a mayonnaise consistency. Place in a seal jar in the fridge, until ready to serve.
Of course the amazing rouille we just walked you through how to make! You can either add this directly to your finished bouillabaisse or serve on the side along side fresh crusty bread. Try dipping the bread from the rouille into the soup base... heaven!!!
Ready to cook up this amazing French fish soup with seafood? We have made ourselves hungry again, just explaining this dish to you! We would love to you what fish and seafood you use!
Love this dish? Please leave us a review below. And come join us on social, tag us in your delicious photos Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Hungry for more deliciousness? Subscribe to our newsletter, to receive our latest e-recipe book and never miss another ATK recipe!
Our goal is to share simple, tasty dishes created by Chef Shane and partner, Sara. Using Shane's understanding of flavours and knowledge of food, to teach and inspire you to create delicious food everyday and gain a new level of confidence in the kitchen. Sara understands what it's like preparing weekly dinners for a busy family of five and likes to create dishes that are easy, full of flavour and that the whole family will enjoy.
First published 2nd July 2020, updated on 9th March 2022.
Bouillabaisse Soup Base
- 50 ml Olive oil
- 10 ea Whole prawns peeled, deveined, keep the heads and shells
- 1 medium Onion fine sliced
- 1 Fennel bulb fine sliced, keep the fronds
- 1 Leek white part only, fine sliced
- 6 cloves Garlic chopped
- 2 ea Bay leaves
- 1 bunch Parsley rough chopped leaves, stalks kept whole
- ½ teaspoon Dried thyme
- 1 ea Red chilli Seeds removed, chopped
- 2 strips Orange peel
- 2 ea Star anise
- 1 pinch Saffron
- 2 tablespoon Tomato puree
- 2 ea Ripe tomatoes
- 100 ml White wine
- 2 ltr Chicken stock
Fish and seafood (see note 1)
- 300 g Fresh fish fillets cut into chunks
- 15 ea Fresh mussels cleaned, debearded
- 10 ea Prawn tails From soup base recipe
- 24 ea Clams purged in fresh water
Garlic Saffron Rouille (Optional)
- 1 Egg
- 1 Egg yolk
- 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1 pinch Saffron
- 1 Red chilli
- 150 ml Olive oil
- salt to taste
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 French stick or any fresh crusty bread
Preparing the soup base:
- Prep the base ingredients.
- Grab a large pot and put on a medium heat. Add the oil allow to warm a little then add the prawn shells. Cook the shells until well browned then add the sliced onion, fennel, leek and garlic, cook until softened but not brown.
- Add the bay leaves, thyme, red chilli, orange peel, star anise, saffron, parsley stalks, continue to cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and fry in with the vegetable base for a couple of minutes and add the white wine.
- Allow the wine to reduce away then add the chicken stock.
- Bring your soup base up to a boil then reduce to a simmer, for 35 minutes until all the vegetables are nice and soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Preparing your Rouille
- While your soup is simmering away its a good time to make your rouille. Grab your bench top blended, add the egg, egg yolk, mustard, chilli, garlic, saffron, pinch of salt and lemon juice, place on the lid and turn on to start blending. Slowly add the olive oil at a drizzle speed through the hole in the lid, your rouille should start to thicken as you add the oil. You want to create a mayonnaise consistency. Place in a sealed jar in the fridge, until ready to serve.
Blend the soup base and cook the fish and seafood:
- Using a good bench top blender ladle your base a bit at a time and give it a good blend until smooth, repeat the process until all the soup is blended. (See note 2)
- Pour the soup through a sieve and place into a large clean pot.
- Heat the blended soup base and add the seafood, start with your fish and prawns then add your shell fish on top of this, simmer for around 5 minutes until the shells have popped open and the fish and prawns are cooked.
- Taste and season if needed. Add the chopped parsley and serve with the rouille and crusty bread.Enjoy!
This was everything a gourmet meal should be, and then some! Easily a new favorite recipe; loved the balance of flavors!
So many wonderful, refreshing flavors packed into this soup! I especially love all the tips you provided to help make the Bouillabaisse perfect. Yum!
This was delicious! I live on the west coast with access to fantastic seafood so this recipe was perfect. Thanks!