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The Best French-Style Fish Soup Recipe

Kymberly loves to cook, bake, and preserve. She'd love more time to experiment in the kitchen and come up with delicious (healthy) recipes!

French-inspired fish soup, served with extra parsley

French-inspired fish soup, served with extra parsley

This is a fantastic soup, although I'd call it almost a stew, packed with vegetables, flavors, spices, herbs and vitamins.

My version was inspired by the French bouillabaisse and cioppino, a San Franciscan-Italian-American dish that was developed by Portuguese and Italian fishermen.

Great for Those Picky Seafood Eaters

This is a great recipe for picky eaters! I don't particularly like the taste of fish, so for me, fishiness needs to be hidden behind complex, strong flavors, and it also needs to be paired with a lot of other tasty vegetables or fruit.

Budget-Friendly and Healthy

As a budget-friendly and very healthy soup, it makes regular appearances in my household. It's even better heated up the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to blend.

The soup freezes well—perfect for when I am too busy or can't be bothered cooking.

Health Information

The vitamins and fish oils in this soup are natural anti-depressants, making this a good meal when you're feeling down or upset.

The spices and herbs have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, which can help in times of illness.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

1 hour

1 hour 30 min

8 servings

Ingredients for the fish soup before chopping. Less than half of the herbs/spices are shown.

Ingredients for the fish soup before chopping. Less than half of the herbs/spices are shown.


  • 4-5 fish fillets, de-boned and diced
  • 800ml / 2 cans tomatoe puree, (or crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cm / 1 in ginger root, minced or finely grated
  • 1 cucumber, de-seeded and diced
  • 2 red / orange bell peppers (capsicum), diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely diced
  • 250 g / 4-5 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 lemon or lime, zest and juice
  • 1 Tablespoon each of sesame seeds, mustard seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 3 Tablespoons parsley
  • 1 teaspoon each of dill, basil, organo, majoram, thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoons each of tumeric, nutmeg, black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and/or crushed chilli pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Ingredient Notes

  • The ingredients list may look intimidating and long, but most are herbs/spices.
  • The quantities of herbs and spices are given as a rough guideline only. If you want a less herby-spicy soup, reduce the quantities.
  • You can add other herbs and spices, and different vegetables - this is a very flexible soup!

Instructional Overview (Details Below)

  1. Prepare all ingredients - chop fish and vegetables, mince garlic and ginger, zest and juice the lemon.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan, add sesame and mustard seeds and toast for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add onions, garlic and ginger, saute until translucent.
  4. Add fish, cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add chopped vegetables.
  6. Add remaining herbs and spices to taste, stir and heat through.
  7. Add tomato puree or crushed tomatoes.
  8. Simmer, covered, for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.
  9. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Recipe Tips

  • You can use any type of fish or seafood in this soup, and even combine different types for an interesting mixture of flavors.
  • Fresh or frozen fish work equally well.
  • This soup is great for using up left-over veggies before the next shopping trip!
  • You can use any fresh or dried herbs. Replace any in the recipe that you don't like with ones that you do.
  • Change the quantities of the herbs and spices to suit your taste!

Detailed Instructional Guide

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

  1. Chop 4-5 fillets of fish, any variety, into small, bite-sized pieces.
  2. Finely dice the onions and mince the garlic. Use a fine grater or mince the ginger.
  3. Dice the cucumbers and fresh tomatoes. De-seed the cucumbers (discard the seeds), then dice. Finely dice the fennel bulb.
  4. Zest the lemon or lime, then juice.

Tip: I find that the fine microplane graters to be the best at keeping the flavor of the zest.

Step 2: Toast the Seeds

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat, then toast the sesame and mustard seeds for 1-2 minutes.

Tip: Cumin and fennel seeds add an interesting crunch and a bit of aniseed flavor - add them when toasting the other seeds if you want to use them.

Step 3: Add the Chopped Ingredients

  1. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and cook until golden and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the fish to the pan, toss and cook for 2-3 minutes until the fish is no longer raw, and the mixture is hot.
  3. I like to add the herbs at this stage, but they can wait until the spices are added.
  4. Add all of the vegetables and stir gently, taking care not to break apart the fish. Cook until the mixture is heated through.

Step 4: Add the Herbs and Spices

My favorite part! Add all of the herbs and spices and stir gently to combine.


  • If you don't like a herb or spice, don't use it or reduce the quantity. If you have other herbs and spices that you like to use, please add them!
  • Fresh herbs add a much brighter, spring-like taste, especially when home-grown and picked immediately before using. Plant a windowsill or balcony garden with fresh herbs—save money on dried herbs and have superior, home-grown ingredients at the tip of your scissors.
  • Use double the amount of fresh herbs than dried as the flavor of fresh herbs is weaker.

Step 5: Cook the Soup

  1. Add the pureed or crushed tomatoes, stir and bring the mixture to a good simmer.
  2. Simmer while covered, on a low-medium heat for an hour or so, until the flavors have blended together nicely. Stir every now and again, to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Add more herbs and spices when tasting the soup during the cooking, if you want.
  3. If the soup is too thick, feel free to add a little vegetable or fish stock. As the tomatoes and other vegetables cook they will release their water into the soup.

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy

  1. Serve hot, sprinkled with herbs and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Pair with a loaf of crusty fresh bread. Olive baguettes work especially well.
  3. For a gourmet meal or dinner party, toast slices of brie or camembert cheese on baguette slices.
  4. If you are reheating the soup, use the stovetop, and stir gently. The flavors are better than when they are heated in the microwave.

Vitamins and minerals in ONE serving of this fish soup

Vitamins% Daily intakeMinerals% Daily IntakeFatty acids

Vitamin A





Vitamin C




1,450 mg

Vitamin E





Vitamin K


















Vitamin B6








Vitamin B12




Where are these fish soups and fish stews from?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Bouillabaisse
    • America
    • France
    • Italy
    • Portugal
  2. Cioppino
    • America
    • France
    • Italy
    • Portugal
  3. Cacciucco
    • France
    • Italy
    • Portugal
    • Spain
  4. Suquet de peix
    • America
    • France
    • Portugal
    • Spain
  5. Kakavia
    • Italy
    • Greece
    • Portugal
    • Spain
  6. Caldeirada
    • Italy
    • Mexico
    • Portugal
    • Spain
  7. Aljotta
    • America
    • Malta
    • Russia
    • Spain
  8. Fanesca
    • Brazil
    • Ecuador
    • Guatemala
    • Venezuela
  9. Lan sikik
    • Korea
    • Malaysia
    • Thailand
    • Vietnam
  10. Dashi
    • China
    • Japan
    • Korea
    • Phillipines
  11. Lohikeitto
    • Denmark
    • Finland
    • Iceland
    • Norway
  12. Mohinga
    • Burma
    • India
    • Nepal
    • Pakistan
  13. Ukha
    • Belarus
    • Estonia
    • Russia
    • Ukraine
  14. Chepa pulus
    • Burma
    • India
    • Nepal
    • Pakistan
  15. Moqueca
    • Brazil
    • Chile
    • Ecuador
    • Venezuela
  16. Asam Pedas
    • Indonesia
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Phillipines
    • Samoa
  17. Cotriade
    • France
    • Italy
    • Malta
    • Portugal

Answer Key

  1. France
  2. America
  3. Italy
  4. Spain
  5. Greece
  6. Portugal
  7. Malta
  8. Ecuador
  9. Thailand
  10. Japan
  11. Finland
  12. Burma
  13. Russia
  14. India
  15. Brazil
  16. Indonesia
  17. France

What are your favorite herbs and spices to use in soups?

Let us know in the comments below!

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