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Bouillabaisse: A French Classic Fish Soup

Dive into the flavors of France with this authentic Bouillabaisse recipe. Learn how to prepare this classic French fish soup at home.

June 19, 2023
BouillabaissePhoto By Canva
Difficulty Medium
Servings 6 people
Preparation 60 mins
Cooking 60 mins
Total 120 mins


  • 1 finely sliced leek
  • 3 bay leaf
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 chopped onion
  • 1 fennel
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 large tomato
  • 1/4 teaspoon of saffron
  • 1/2 cup of potato
  • 2 pounds (900g) of assorted fish fillets (such as snapper, cod, halibut)
  • 1 pound (450g) of assorted shellfish (such as mussels, clams, shrimp)
  • 1 mild red chilli
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 cup fish stock
  • 2 tablespoon Pernod, optional


  1. Scrub the mussels and clams under cold water to remove any dirt or sand. Peel and devein the shrimp, if necessary. Cut the fish filets into large chunks. Keep the seafood chilled until ready to use.
  2. To make the croutons, heat the oven to 200 °C/180 °C fan/gas 6. Lay the slices of bread on a flat baking tray in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 15 minutes until golden and crisp. Set them aside. The croutons can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container.
  3. Use a layer of the green part of the leek to wrap around and make an herb bundle with the thyme, bay, parsley stalks, orange peel, and chili. Tie everything together with kitchen string and set it aside.
  4. In a large casserole dish or stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sliced leek, and fennel, and cook for about 10 minutes until they become soft. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Then, add the herb bundle, tomato purée, star anise, Pernod (if using), chopped tomatoes, and saffron. Simmer and stir for a minute or two, and then pour in the fish stock.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, bring it to a simmer, and add the piece of potato. Gently simmer everything for 30 minutes until you have a thin, tomatoey soup. Once the piece of potato is on the brink of collapse, remove it from the pot and set it aside to make the rouille.
  7. While the broth is simmering, make the rouille by crushing the garlic, chili, and saffron with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Mash in the cooked potato to make a sticky paste, then whisk in the egg yolk and gradually add the olive oil to make a mayonnaise-like sauce. Stir in the lemon juice and set the rouille aside.
  8. Once the chunky tomato broth has cooked, you have two options: for a rustic bouillabaisse, simply poach your fish in it along with the mussels if you're using them (just until they open) and serve.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Bouillabaisse
Serves 6
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33 g42.3%
Total Fat 33 g42.3%
Protein 38 g76%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.


  • Use fresh and high-quality ingredients. The type of fish you use can vary based on what's available. The recipe suggests a mix of red and gray mullet, monkfish, John Dory, and gurnard, but feel free to substitute other types of Mediterranean fish.
  • Enhance the flavor with fennel. Fennel is a key ingredient in Bouillabaisse and adds a distinctive anise-like flavor. Slice the fennel bulbs thinly and cook them with the other vegetables to infuse the stew with their aromatic notes.
  • For a more rustic Bouillabaisse, simply poach your fish in the broth along with the mussels (if you're using them) and serve. For a more refined version, remove the herb bundle and star anise, then blend the soup until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve into a large, clean pan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Don't overcook the seafood. Fish and shellfish can become tough and rubbery if overcooked. To avoid this, add the seafood to the Bouillabaisse towards the end of the cooking process and cook just until it is cooked through.
  • The rouille, a mayonnaise-like sauce made with garlic, chili, saffron, potato, egg yolk, olive oil, and lemon juice, is meant to be stirred into the broth to thicken it and give it a kick. Don't skip this step—it's what gives the Bouillabaisse its unique flavor!
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Bouillabaisse, a traditional French fish soup, is a culinary symbol of the city of Marseille. This hearty dish is a seafood lover's dream, featuring a variety of fish and shellfish in a flavorful broth. The recipe may seem challenging, but the result is a rich, aromatic soup that's perfect for a dinner party or a family meal.

What Is A Bouillabaisse?

Bouillabaisse is a traditional French fish stew that originated in the port city of Marseille, in the Provence region of France. It typically includes various types of fish and shellfish, along with vegetables such as leeks, onions, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes, all cooked in a broth flavored with garlic, orange peel, fennel, saffron, and various herbs.

This stew typically includes a combination of fish such as snapper, cod, halibut, or sea bass, along with shellfish like mussels, clams, shrimp, and sometimes crab or lobster. The fish and shellfish are cooked in a fragrant broth made with onions, leeks, fennel, garlic, tomatoes, herbs (such as thyme, bay leaves, and parsley), and spices. The broth is often flavored with saffron, which gives it a distinct yellow color and adds a subtle floral aroma.

Bouillabaisse is traditionally served with slices of crusty bread, which can be used to soak up the flavorful broth. It is also commonly accompanied by a spicy garlic mayonnaise called rouille, which is spread on the bread or added to the stew for extra flavor.

What Is Bouillabaisse Sauce Made Of?

Bouillabaisse sauce, also known as rouille, is a spicy, garlicky sauce that is typically served with bouillabaisse. It's made from garlic, saffron, chili peppers, and breadcrumbs, all blended together with fish broth and olive oil.

What Are The Common Components Of Bouillabaisse?

The common components of bouillabaisse include at least three types of fish, shellfish like mussels or crab, vegetables such as leeks, onions, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes, and a broth made with garlic, orange peel, fennel, saffron, and various herbs. It's also typically served with a side of rouille, a spicy garlic sauce, and crusty bread.

Does Bouillabaisse Taste Fishy?

Bouillabaisse has a distinct seafood flavor due to the variety of fish and shellfish used, but it should not taste overly "fishy." The broth is rich and aromatic, with the flavors of the garlic, saffron, and other herbs balancing out the taste of the seafood. If your bouillabaisse tastes too fishy, it could be a sign that the seafood wasn't fresh.

What To Serve with Bouillabaisse?

When serving Bouillabaisse, there are a few delightful accompaniments that can elevate your dining experience. Bouillabaisse is traditionally served with slices of crusty bread, such as a baguette or country-style loaf. The bread can be used to soak up the flavorful broth and add a textural contrast to the seafood. Serve it with a rouille, a spicy garlic mayonnaise, which adds a tangy and aromatic element when spread on the bread or stirred into the stew. Fresh green salad with a light vinaigrette provides a refreshing contrast to the richness of the seafood stew. Additionally, a glass of chilled white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp Rosé, pairs wonderfully with Bouillabaisse. It enhances the flavors and brings a touch of elegance to the meal.

Here are our delicious recipes that you can serve with Bouillabaisse:

History of Bouillabaisse

A Taste of the Mediterranean

Bouillabaisse is more than just a fish stew; it's a culinary symbol of the Mediterranean city of Marseille where it originated. The dish is deeply rooted in the city's history, reflecting its rich maritime culture and diverse local seafood. Traditionally, it was made by the local fishermen using bony rockfish and shellfish that they couldn't sell to markets or restaurants. They would simmer these with local Mediterranean vegetables like tomatoes, garlic, and fennel, creating a hearty and flavorful stew.

The Evolution of Bouillabaisse

Over time, as Marseille grew into a bustling port city attracting people from different parts of the world, the humble fisherman's stew evolved into a more elaborate dish. The modern version of Bouillabaisse often includes more expensive types of fish and shellfish, like monkfish, John Dory, and even lobster. The essence of the dish, however, remains the same - a celebration of the sea, brought to life with the vibrant flavors of Provence.

Bouillabaisse Today

Today, Bouillabaisse is considered a classic of French cuisine, served in restaurants and homes not just in Marseille, but all over the world. It's a dish that requires time and care to prepare, making it a popular choice for festive occasions. Despite its global popularity, the heart of Bouillabaisse remains in Marseille. In fact, in 1980, a group of restaurateurs in Marseille even created the "Bouillabaisse Charter", a set of rules specifying the types of fish and methods of preparation required for a Bouillabaisse to be considered authentic. Whether you're enjoying it in a high-end restaurant or making it at home with your local catch of the day, Bouillabaisse is a dish that truly brings a taste of the Mediterranean to your table.

Recipe byPetite Gourmets

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