Bouillabaisse Recipe – How to Prepare the Famous French Fish Soup?

Written by Kremena Ruseva

The French are real masters when it comes to cooking and today we will give you the recipe for a real classic dish – Bouillabaisse. If you love seafood, Bouillabaisse recipe is something that you must try at home!

French Fish Soup Bouillabaisse Recipe


In the past, bouillabaisse was just a soup made by fishermen from Marseille. They only used fish and shellfish, which they could not sell during the day. Vegetables, herbs and spices were added to seafood – fishermen usually chose those that were at hand. The classic Marseille bouillabaisse may contain from 9 to 19 local fish species. Tomatoes became an integral part of this dish in the 17th century. It was in the 19th century that restaurants began to prepare and serve bouillabaisse. Since then, the recipe for this fish soup has become more and more sophisticated. Nowadays there are many variations of the recipe and each housewife prepares it following old family recipes, and each restaurant offers its own unique recipe. Even in Marseille itself, there is no single recipe for bouillabaisse. Modern expensive versions of bouillabaisse include lobsters, langoustines, mussels, small crabs and shrimps. However, one thing should be remembered – bouillabaisse was an ordinary food for fishermen.

What are the Key Ingredients for Bouillabaisse Marseillaise?

What are the Key Ingredients for Bouillabaisse Marseillaise


Bouillabaisse looks like a complicated dish but the truth is that anyone with the most basic cooking skills can prepare it at home. This French fish soup is versatile and can be prepared in many ways. Yes, it has some key ingredients that you need to include, so read on!

Fish – obviously, you cannot prepare bouillabaisse without fish. Ideally, you need five different kinds of fresh fish. Traditional bouillabaisse includes firm-fleshed fish, flaky fish, and shellfish like scorpionfish, sea bass, whiting, monkfish, octopus, crab, angler fish, etc. Here are some suggestions, suitable for this recipe:

  • Chilean Sea Bass
  • Grouper
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • John Dory
  • Monkfish
  • Tilapia
  • red snapper
  • mussels
  • sea scallops
  • shrimp

French fish soup Bouillabaisse recipe tricks

Crustaceans add flavor to the dish. Traditionally, small crabs, and crayfish are used, but you can add even lobster, if you prefer a more luxurious dish.

Olive oil is a traditional ingredient in the Mediterranean cuisine. It creates the creamy texture of the soup.

Onion or leeks are the base for the broth that adds flavor. You can use either onion or leek or a combination of both.

Garlic is another essential ingredient not only to Provencal cooking, but to Mediterranean cuisine.

Tomatoes or tomato paste

Saffron gives bouillabaisse its distinctive orange color.

Parsley is used as a garnish.

How to serve bouillabaisse?

how to prepare french fish soup bouillabaisse at home

Bouillabaisse is served with croutons, rouille sauce and dry white wine – its sour taste is ideally combined with the sharpness of bouillabaisse.

How to make Rouille Sauce?

How to make Rouille Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 2 to 3 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

Heat the water, vinegar, and saffron. Mix well until you have a very yellow liquid.

Cut the white bread into chunks, place in a large bowl, and pour the saffron mixture over. Mix well.

Put the bread mixture in a food processor, add the garlic, egg yolks, and chili powder. Blend for about 30 seconds; scrape down the sides.

Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, blend on low power just until mixed.

Season with salt.

Spoon the sauce into a bowl and serve immediately. You can also refrigerate until ready to serve.

Classic French Bouillabaisse Recipe

Classic French Bouillabaisse Recipe

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup leek, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 or 3 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped or 2 cups canned
  • 2 ½ quarts (2.5 l) water
  • Fresh herb sprigs: thyme, parsley, fennel fronds and basil
  • ½ teaspoon saffron
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 3 – 4 pounds (2 kg) fish heads, bones, trimmings, shrimp shells
  • 1 pound (450 g) peeled shrimp
  • 1 pound (450 g) cod, halibut or other flaky white fish, cut into large chunks
  • 1 pound (450 g) mussels or clams, scrubbed and mussels debearded
  • Crusty bread, sliced, for serving

Directions:

Heat the oil in a tall pot over medium heat.

Add the onion and leek and cook gently until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, water, herbs, saffron, salt and fish bones and shrimp shells. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Strain the broth into a large bowl or another pot and discard the solids.

Pour the broth back into the stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, a minute or two. Add the rest of the fish and shellfish, cover and simmer until the mussels or clams open.

Taste the soup and add more salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.

Serve with Rouille sauce.

Fennel and Bay Leaf Bouillabaisse Recipe

french fish soup with fennel recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb (450g) ripe tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • ½ tsp chili flakes
  • ½ tsp saffron strands
  • 8 small bay leaves
  • 1 large fresh thyme sprig, leaves picked
  • 4 cups fresh fish stock
  • 1 lb (450g) small potatoes
  • 9 oz/250g monkfish fillet
  • 9 oz/250g red mullet or gurnard fillet
  • 8-12 cooked Mediterranean prawns
  • 21 oz/600g mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 2 tbsp pastis, such as Pernod
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh fennel herb

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, leek, fennel and garlic, then cook gently for 5-6 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, chili flakes, saffron, bay leaves and thyme, then cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the fish stock and sliced potatoes, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, slice the monkfish and red mullet/gurnard into thick slices, drop them into the stew and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cooked prawns and the mussels, then cover and simmer until the mussels have opened.

Stir in the pastis and most of the fennel herb, then season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the rest of the fennel herb and serve in large warmed soup plates with rouille and crusty baguette slices.

 Pea and Pearl Couscous Bouillabaisse Recipe

 Pea and Pearl Couscous Bouillabaisse Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 fillets halibut
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ground pepper
  • Shrimp
  • 15 shrimp or prawns
  • salt
  • ground pepper

Fish Stock:

  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • ½ white onion diced
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 red snapper bones and heads
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 2 tsp salt

Bouquet Garni (2 Sets):

  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 handfuls flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 12 sprigs thyme
  • 10 peppercorns

Bouillabaisse:

  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ fennel bulb, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup pearl couscous, cooked in 1 ¼ cup cold water
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp saffron threads
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup chives
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • salt
  • ground pepper

Directions:

Prepare Bouquet Garni. For two sets of bouquet garni, cut the cheesecloth into large squares. Tie up the cheesecloth into a bouquet and fasten it with a strand of twine or string. Set aside.

Clean and Debone Fish. Take two whole red snapper fish. Clean and remove the scales. Chop off the heads of each fish. Cut out meaty parts such as cheeks and filets.

Prepare the Fish Stock. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot. Add carrots, white onion, and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add red snapper bones and heads, sliced lemons, salt, ground pepper, and bouquet garni. Cover with cold water. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside.

Cook the Bouillabaisse. Place a large pot on the stovetop at medium heat. Pour olive oil into the pot and allow it to heat. Add carrot, celery, white onion, and fennel. Sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt and ground pepper. Add chopped tomatoes and white wine into the pot. Raise the heat on the stovetop to medium-high. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes or until the wine reduces by half the amount. Add saffron threads, bouquet garni, and fish stock. Stir. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and use a hand blender to blend well until smooth and velvety. Lower heat on the stovetop to low heat. Stir in cold unsalted butter.

Prepare the Couscous. Place a small pot on the stovetop at medium-high heat. Add grapeseed oil and allow it to heat. Add pearl couscous and toast lightly for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add cold water and salt. Bring couscous to boil, cover, and reduce the heat on the stovetop to low heat. Cook for 8-10 minutes.

Sear the Halibut. Season halibut with salt and pepper. Place a non-stick pan on the stovetop at medium-high heat. Add grapeseed oil. When the oil is hot, add the halibut filets. Cook for 3-4 minutes on one side.

Cook the Shrimp. Season shrimp or prawns with salt and ground pepper. Add them to the bouillabaisse. Cook for 2 minutes.

Finish the Bouillabaisse. Add cooked pearl couscous and frozen peas to the pot of bouillabaisse. Raise the heat on the stovetop to medium heat. Cook for 1 minute or until the peas and shrimp are cooked. Stir in chives and flatleaf parsley. Remove from heat.

Serve. Spoon bouillabaisse into bowls. Top with halibut fillets or chunks of the halibut fillets, squeeze lemon over the fish and serve with toasted slices of bread.

Bouillabaisse Recipe with Lobster Tails

Bouillabaisse with lobster tails recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • ¾ cup diced celery
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup diced red potatoes
  • 2½ cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 4 cups fish stock
  • 1¼ pound /570g chopped boneless fish – cod, halibut, red snapper, or sea bass, cut into 2-inch/5cm pieces
  • 2-3 small lobster tails
  • 15 shrimps
  • ¾ pound/340g clams
  • ½ pound/225g mussels
  • 6 sea scallops

Directions:

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion, celery, carrot, potato, fennel for 8 minutes.

Add garlic, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, saffron, cook, and keep stirring for 8 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil until the broth is thickened a bit and until the potatoes are almost tender.

Add fish then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add shellfish, simmer gently, uncovered, for about 5 minutes or longer until they are fully cooked. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper if needed.

 

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