Cioppino Recipe

Cioppino soup is a hearty mixture of at least four different types of fish and seafood, cooked in an aromatic fennel tomato broth. This cioppino recipe, developed by food blogger & photographer Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table, makes for a classy and classic dinner that comes together with minimal effort.

Cioppino is another one of those dishes that may sound and taste wholly Italian, but is in actuality a born-and-raised American dish. Cioppino was developed by the Italian fishermen of San Francisco in the 1800s, using whatever variety of fish and seafood they had left unsold at the end of the day, according to San Francisco Travel. Fresh seafood was traditionally combined with tomatoes, onion, and garlic, then finished off with wine, olive oil and herbs. This was originally meant to provide an affordable, easy way to fill up a working man's stomach with very few additional ingredients beyond what the sea provided.

Today, when most of us go to the supermarket and not the wharf for our seafood, cioppino has become an elegant dish whose ease of preparation can be surprising. This cioppino is made with white fish, mussels, clams and shrimp. The tomato flavor is elevated with the addition of aromatic fennel and a light white wine. And there's plenty of room here for customization, as well!

Gather the ingredients for cioppino

As cioppino was initially invented by a bunch of hungry Italian-American fishermen, there's little here except good seafood and plenty of flavor. For this version, we use equal amounts of clams, mussels, shrimp, and cod. However, you can also use crab or even scallops if that's what you have or prefer. In place of cod, any white firm-fleshed fish, like haddock or halibut, will do. Even salmon without the skin would work here! 

It's also important that the seafood you use, whatever its variety, is raw, scrubbed and cleaned. The mussels should be debearded, which means any errant "hairs" or "beards" coming out of the shell opening should be pulled out. The shrimp for cioppino need to be raw, peeled, and deveined. Cooked or canned seafood will have less flavor and won't help give taste to the broth, so skip it if you don't have any fresh.

Other than fish and seafood, cioppino requires fresh fennel, onion, garlic, fresh parsley, and tomatoes. We recommend using a can of diced tomatoes for ease of use and availability — plus, they might help boost your iron. White wine, olive oil, chicken or seafood stock, chili, and a dried bay leaf complete the flavoring for this soup. Choose a semi-dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

Dice the vegetables and prep the seafood

Before we get started with cooking the cioppino, let's prep all of our veggies and seafood. This step of creating a mise en place will make life much easier later on! Considering how easy this soup is to make, that's very easy indeed.

If you chose your seafood well, you won't have to do much here. Simply wash and give a quick scrub to the mussels, clams and shrimp. Make sure there's no grit or sand in the shells. Then, cut the cod, or whatever fish you're using, into 2-inch chunks.

Slice the fennel into thin slices. Dice the onion, though you can also leave it in half moons, if you prefer. Mince the garlic and parsley. If you got diced canned tomatoes, then there's no more work you need to do here! If your tomatoes are fresh or just whole, then dice them to about 1-inch cubes.

Saute fennel and onion for cioppino

With all of our veggies cut, it's finally time to get cooking! It's important that you pick a large pot for cioppino. Trust us on this – the first time we made the soup, it almost overflowed once we added all that yummy seafood, so learn from our mistakes and choose the largest pot you have. A Dutch oven or extra large stock pot would be perfect here.

To a large pot set to medium heat, add olive oil. Add diced onions, sliced fennel and 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook until the onion changes color and becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Add diced garlic and chili flakes, stir and cook for 1 minute. Watch the pot while doing so, as garlic has a tendency to burn very quickly.

Cook the tomato broth base for cioppino

The base of flavor in a cioppino comes from the tomato broth, so let's pour all of our love into making this part! Add the can of diced tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups of white wine, 5 cups of stock, and a dried bay leaf. Traditionally, cioppino is made with seafood stock, but you really can use chicken stock or even water if that's all you have. Just avoid using beef stock here, as its strong flavor will overwhelm the delicious seafood.

Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Once it's simmering, lower heat to medium-low and let cook, covered, for 30 minutes. This softens the vegetables and allows the tomato broth to develop a deep, rich flavor before we add in the seafood.

Add mussels and clams to the cioppino pot

After 30 minutes, your tomato broth base has had plenty of time to cook and develop some beautiful, complex flavor. Now, remove the pot's lid and add the cleaned clams and mussels. If any mussels are broken, discard them.

By the way, this is a good time to say that if you think a mussel or clam has gone bad just because it's slightly open before you add it to the pot, think again! Sometimes, clams and mussels open up when taken out of the fridge or water in search of more, well, water. To test if a clam or mussel is alive, tap its cover lightly a few times and wait. If the mussel or clam retracts and closes again, then it's perfectly alive and can go straight into the pot

Cover and let cook for 5 minutes, until the clams and mussels have begun to open further.

Finish your cioppino with shrimp and fish

After five minutes of cooking, we're going to add the remaining seafood to the cioppino. Add shrimp and fish to the pot and cover. Let all the ingredients cook for another 5 minutes. Mussels, clams, shrimp and white fish all cook fairly quickly, so there's no need to cook them any longer – they'll be perfect in the time specified! Overcooking could mean that seafood like shrimp could become rubbery and unpalatable, so don't overdo it here.

At this point, inspect your cioppino and discard any mussels or clams that didn't completely open. At this point, those mollusks are definitely dead and we don't want to eat a bad bite of seafood!

Serve the cioppino with a generous sprinkle of parsley

Taste the cioppino and season it with more salt and chili flakes, to taste. As the soup sits, its flavors will deepen even further, so there's no rush to serve it immediately. You may even choose to add flavorings the next day if you think the cioppino could use an extra boost.

When you're ready to eat, serve a steaming bowl of cioppino topped with diced fresh Italian parsley and a piece of crusty bread to mop up all the leftover deliciousness. Your plate will be streaked with red marks from the leftover soup — at least, until you get at it with some bread — and the whole house will smell like a warm and comforting visit to San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.

Cioppino Recipe
5 from 39 ratings
Today, when most of us go to the supermarket and not the wharf for our seafood, cioppino has become an elegant but easy dish that's packed full of flavor
Prep Time
Cook Time
three bowls of soup
Total time: 1 hour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed chili flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 5 cups fish or chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ pound clams, scrubbed
  • ½ pound mussels, cleaned
  • ½ pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound white firm-fleshed fish, like cod or halibut, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 handful Italian parsley, chopped
  1. Prep all the vegetables. Clean the mussels, clams and shrimp. Cut the fish into 2-inch chunks.
  2. To a large pot set to medium heat, add olive oil. Add onions, fennel and salt, and cook until onion changes color and becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes, stir and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add diced tomatoes, white wine, stock, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, lower heat to medium-low and let cook, covered, for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove cover and add cleaned clams and mussels. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes, until clams and mussels begin to open.
  5. Add shrimp and fish and cover, cooking for another 5 minutes. Discard any mussels and clams that didn't completely open. Taste and season with more salt and chili flakes, to taste.
  6. Serve cioppino topped with diced fresh Italian parsley and a piece of crusty bread. The cioppino will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 5 days.
Calories per Serving 273
Total Fat 7.1 g
Saturated Fat 1.3 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 81.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 17.3 g
Dietary Fiber 3.4 g
Total Sugars 7.5 g
Sodium 980.6 mg
Protein 26.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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