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French Bouillabaisse Recipe: A Friendly Guide to Making A Classic Dish

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Bouillabaisse, a classic French seafood stew, has long been a favorite among seafood lovers. This dish might seem complicated, but the traditional recipe simplifies the process, making it accessible for home cooks.

To create an authentic bouillabaisse, you’ll need fresh fish, shellfish, and a variety of vegetables and herbs.

The combination of flavors from ingredients like garlic, fennel, and saffron brings out the best in the seafood. You’ll find that making bouillabaisse is not just cooking, but a delightful experience that brings the essence of French cuisine into your kitchen.

Stay with us as we guide you step-by-step through a simple yet delicious bouillabaisse recipe.

Exact Ingredients (+ Possible Substitutes)

Fish and Seafood:

  • White fish (such as cod or haddock)
  • Shellfish (like mussels, shrimp, and clams)
  • Substitute: Any firm white fish and preferred shellfish

Aromatics and Vegetables:

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, sliced
  • Substitute: Use celery if fennel isn’t available

Liquids and Broth:

  • 8 cups fish stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Substitute: Vegetable broth for fish stock


  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 large pinches saffron threads
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Substitute: Lemon zest if no orange available

Additional Ingredients:

  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 3 potatoes, boiled and cut in halves
  • Substitute: Skip potatoes if you prefer fewer carbs

For Rouille Sauce (Optional):

  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted and peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 slice white bread soaked in water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Olive oil
  • Substitute: Pre-made aioli

This list covers the essential ingredients, along with some substitutes to make things easier. Feel free to adjust based on availability or preferences. Enjoy making your Bouillabaisse!



Gather these ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • Parsley, bay leaf, thyme
  • 1 orange rind
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fish and shellfish


  1. Prepare the Saffron Water:

    • Boil 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons salt.
    • Add 2 tablespoons saffron and let it steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Cook the Potatoes:

    • Add 3 halved fingerling potatoes to the saffron water.
    • Cook for 30 minutes, then remove the potatoes.
  3. Cook the Aromatics:

    • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
    • Add chopped onion and leek, and cook until softened.
  4. Add Garlic and Tomatoes:

    • Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
    • Add the canned tomatoes and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Combine Broth Ingredients:

    • Add water, herbs, orange rind, saffron, salt, and pepper to the pot.
    • Stir to combine.
  6. Add Fish and Shellfish:

    • Add your choice of fish and shellfish to the broth.
    • Gently stir and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
  7. Serve:

    • Ladle into bowls and enjoy your bouillabaisse.

Tips, Tricks & Storing

Choose Fresh Ingredients: Fresh fish and shellfish make a big difference in flavor. Visit your local fish market for the best options.

Prep Ahead: Chop your vegetables and measure out spices before you start cooking. This makes the process smoother and faster.

Layer Flavors: Sauté onions, fennel, and garlic before adding liquids. This helps to build a deeper flavor base.

Cook Gently: Avoid boiling the fish. A gentle simmer keeps the fish tender and prevents it from falling apart.

Use Quality Saffron: Real saffron adds a unique and authentic taste. Steep it in hot water before adding it to the pot for better flavor release.

Storing Bouillabaisse

Refrigerate: Let the bouillabaisse cool to room temperature before storing. Place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Freezing: For longer storage, freeze portions in freezer-friendly containers. Consume within 2 months for the best taste.

Reheating: When reheating, do so gently on the stovetop over low heat to avoid overcooking the fish.

Handy Tips

  • Avoid Overcrowding: Don’t overcrowd the pot with too much fish or shellfish at once. Cook in batches if necessary.
  • Alternative Fish: If you can’t find traditional Mediterranean fish, use similar local varieties.
  • Serve with Rouille: A garlicky mayonnaise, rouille, pairs perfectly with bouillabaisse. Spread it on toasted slices of baguette and enjoy.

Recipe Variations & Serving Suggestions

Bouillabaisse is a versatile dish with many variations. You can mix and match different seafood based on what’s available.

Common Seafood Choices:

  • Fish: cod, sea bass, snapper
  • Shellfish: mussels, clams, shrimp
  • Others: squid, scallops

Broth Enhancements:

  • Saffron: Adds a unique flavor and vibrant color.
  • White Wine: Enhances the aroma.
  • Tomatoes: Adds a sweet, tangy note.

Serving Suggestions

Traditional Accompaniments:

  • Rouille: Spicy garlic mayonnaise, perfect for dipping.
  • Crusty Bread: Use to soak up the flavorful broth.


  • Fresh herbs like parsley or thyme.
  • A squeeze of lemon for a zesty finish.

Tips for Best Experience:

  1. Serve hot, straight from the pot.
  2. Offer extra bread to your guests.
  3. A light salad can complement the richness.

Feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit your taste and make this classic French stew your own!

Benjamin Happy Muncher

Hi, I'm Benjamin. I love cooking, long walks, and my girlfriend! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.