Seafood lovers, prepare to fall hard for this amazing Cioppino seafood stew filled with fresh fish and all your favorite shellfish, including crab, clams, mussels and shrimp. We enjoy it with a big loaf of crusty bread to soak up every drop of goodness.

Looking for more seafood recipes? Try my Fish and Chips, Shrimp Alfredo, or Easy Homemade Crab Cakes!

Cioppino served in a bowl, with lemon wedges and sourdough bread slices on the side.

I can’t control my excitement about this recipe and I have to tell you what sets this Cioppino apart from all the rest! First and most importantly, I took advantage of all of that great shell fish we’re using in the recipe to quickly make our own seafood stock! Good store-bought seafood stock can be hard to find if you don’t live near the coast, but it’s so easy to make yourself, and the flavor completely sets this recipe apart from any other! I also make it with extra broth, because I love the soupy leftovers to dip my bread.

I’ve had Cioppino in restaurants, and stores like Costco even sell it pre-made now, but nothing compares to homemade! It’s a fun and easy meal to impress dinner guests, or serve for holiday dinner like Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

What is Cioppino?

Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew that originated in the Italian communities in San Francisco. Traditionally, it was made using whatever the catch of the day was, and lots of shellfish, including crab, shrimp, clams, and mussels, in a simple tomato based broth. It was often served to workers around the harbors at nearby inns or taverns, and eaten with sourdough bread.

Tips for buying seafood:

A general rule when purchasing any kind of seafood is to smell it to make sure it’s fresh! It should smell like nothing, or just like the ocean, and should not have a strong fishy odor.

Frozen seafood is a great accessible option if you don’t live near the ocean. Costco sells a great mixed seafood bag in their freezer section with shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, and calamari. If using frozen seafood, be sure to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before using.

How to make Cioppino:

Make Seafood Stock: Remove crab leg meat and place cracked shells into a stock pot. Remove shells and tails from shrimp and add in. Add enough water to the pot to cover the shells by about an inch. Add a pinch of salt and cook over medium high heat until water reaches a bare simmer. Add clams and mussels on top (don’t stir). (*Be sure to remove “beards” from mussels, if needed). Cook for 2-3 minutes until shells open up. Uncover and remove from heat.

Two process photos for making seafood stock in a pot using shrimp and crab shells, mussels and clams.

Sauté Veggies: Add oil to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion, fennel and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.

Chopped fennel, onion, shallots and garlic sautéing in olive oil in a large pot.

Add Remaining Soup Ingredients: Add tomato paste and stir well. Add wine and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and oregano.

Crushed tomatoes, spices and bay leaf added to a soup pot with sauteed veggies, to make broth for cioppino.

Add Seafood Stock: Strain seafood stock through a fine mesh strainer with a cheesecloth over it (if you don’t have a cheesecloth, that’s fine! Just don’t add the bottom tablespoons of liquid, that may have sand in it) into measuring cup. Add 4 cups seafood stock to the pot. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer for 30 minutes. (Set clams and mussels aside to add later.)

Prepare Fish: Cut the fish into 1 inch pieces and drizzle the fish and shrimp with a little oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Add Seafood: Just before you’re ready to serve the stew, bring the soup to a boil, stirring. Add the fish, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more seasoning, if needed. Stir in shrimp and crab and simmer about 2-3 minutes, just until shrimp are pink. Stir in steamed clams and mussels. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

A large pot of homemade authentic Cioppino soup with crab, clams, mussels, shrimp and fish.

Serve Cioppino with lemon wedges, crusty bread, extra bowls for placing shells in, and lots of napkins!

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: The stock can be made ahead of time and kept in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to make the seafood Cioppino.

To Freeze: I recommend only freezing the stew broth without seafood, so you don’t overcook the seafood when reheating. The seafood stock can be frozen in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 2 months. Strain it before freezing.

Recipe Variations:

  • Seafood: You could replace the crab with scallops (add them at the same time as the fish). Calamari would also be a great addition, and can be added near the end. I don’t recommend using oysters or salmon as their flavor may overpower the dish.
  • Crab: You can add the crab, in its shell, to the broth, if you want to serve it in the shell, but I think the shells help add rich flavor to the seafood stock.
  • Wine: don’t use “cooking wine”, but instead choose an inexpensive dry white wine, like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. I don’t drink alcohol, but I do use wine in cooking because it adds a depth of flavor you can’t get otherwise (and don’t worry, most of the alcohol cooks out). If you’re against cooking with wine, you can omit it, or add a little splash of white wine vinegar.

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Recipe

Cioppino collage image for Pinterest.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr

Ingredients
 
 

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel , chopped
  • 1 onion , chopped
  • 3 shallots , diced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes , or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 2 (28-oz) cans San Marzano plum tomatoes , crushed by hand , or crushed tomatoes
  • Lemon wedges , for serving
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Sourdough or crusty artisan bread , for serving

Seafood:

  • 1-2 lbs dungeness or king crab
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp , with shells and tails
  • 1 pound fresh white fish , like halibut, cod, sea bass, cut into 1-in pieces
  • 1 pound fresh mussels , debearded
  • 1 pound fresh clams , rinsed

Instructions
 

  • Make Seafood Stock*: Use kitchen shears to cut open the crab legs and remove the meat, and place the cracked shells into a stock pot. Remove shells and tails from shrimp and add to the stockpot. Add enough water to the pot to cover the shells by about an inch. Add a pinch of salt. Cook over medium high heat until water reaches a bare simmer. Add clams and mussles on top (don’t stir) and cover pot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until shells open up. Uncover, remove from heat and set aside.
  • Sauté Veggies: Add oil to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion, fennel and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add Remaining Soup Ingredients: Add tomato paste and stir well. Add wine and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and oregano.
  • Add Seafood Stock: Strain seafood stock through a fine mesh strainer with a cheesecloth over it (if you don’t have a cheesecloth, that’s fine! Just don’t add the bottom tablespoons of liquid, that may have sand in it) into measuring cup. Add 4 cups seafood stock to the pot. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer for 30 minutes. (Set clams and mussels aside to add later.)
  • Prepare Fish: cut the fish into 1 inch pieces and drizzle the fish and shrimp with a little oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add Seafood: Just before you’re ready to serve the stew, bring the soup to a boil, stirring. Add the fish, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more seasoning, if needed. Stir in shrimp and crab and simmer about 2-3 minutes, just until shrimp are pink. Stir in steamed clams and mussels. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.
  • Serve: with lemon wedges, crusty bread, extra bowls for placing shells in, and lots of napkins!

Notes

Make Ahead Instructions: The stock can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and kept in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to make the seafood Cioppino.
Freezing Instructions: I recommend only freezing the stew broth without seafood, so you don’t overcook the seafood when reheating. The seafood stock can be frozen in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 2 months. Strain it before freezing.
Seafood variations: You could replace the crab with scallops (add them at the same time as the fish). Calamari would also be a great addition, and can be added near the end. I don’t recommend using oysters or salmon as their flavor may overpower the dish.
Crab: You can add the crab, in its shell, to the broth, if you want to serve it in the shell, but I think the shells help add rich flavor to the seafood stock.
Wine: don’t use “cooking wine”, but instead choose an inexpensive dry white wine, like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. I don’t drink alcohol, but I do use wine in cooking because it adds a depth of flavor you can’t get otherwise (and don’t worry, most of the alcohol cooks out). If you’re against cooking with wine, you can omit it, or add a little splash of white wine vinegar.
Seafood Stock: You could substitute 4 cups store-bought seafood stock, and add the clams and mussels at the same time as the shrimp and crab.

Nutrition

Calories: 381kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 45gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 191mgSodium: 1666mgPotassium: 1164mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 936IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 143mgIron: 3mg

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious! We did Dungeness crab, scallops, cod, clams, and mussels – such a treat. Loved having the video to follow along while making the dish. Next time I’ll likely half the recipe as there’s only two of us and this is a lot of $$$ ingredients. It’s worth it though

  2. 5 stars
    I’m in love with this recipe! I was a bit intimidated at first, but was so glad for all the tips in the post. It was easy to follow and was absolutely delicious!! Plus, I love how I was able to adapt based on what I already had on hand.