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Classic Homemade Cioppino



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Cioppino, a seafood lover’s delight that captures the essence of the ocean in every spoonful is widely-known as the signature dish of San Francisco. This Seafood Stew is a combination of fresh fish and seafood poached in a tasty tomato broth and served up with tons of crusty bread for dipping. Amazingly, this Classic Homemade Cioppino is easy-to-make, and incredibly versatile. Easily adjust the type of fish and seafood, according to your preferences. The aroma in your kitchen as the seafood broth is simmering, will blow you away!

In addition, Cioppino is great dish for entertaining and to serve for your holiday gatherings. Definitely, add this seafood recipe to your Feast of the Seven Fishes celebration on Christmas Eve.

a big red pot of cioppino


Cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco in the late 1800s. This fisherman’s stew was traditionally made from the catch of the day. The combination would typically include, crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish; all of which were sourced directly from the Pacific Ocean.

The fresh fish and seafood is simmered in a flavorful broth made with tomatoes, wine, garlic, and aromatic herbs.


Given that most of us will not have the “catch of the day” readily available when preparing this fabulous seafood stew, any firm white fish will work. Here’s a list of fresh fish to use in any Classic Homemade Cioppino recipe:

  • haddock
  • cod
  • red snapper
  • sea bass
  • halibut
  • hogfish (very expensive, but worth every dollar)
  • salmon


  • littleneck or middleneck clams
  • scallops
  • mussels
  • shrimp
  • Dungeness crab or snow crab legs
  • squid
  • lobster
  • octopus


  • Butter and Olive Oil: Use salted butter and a quality olive oil.
  • Vegetables: Sautéed onions, fennel and garlic infuse the broth with rich aromatics.
  • Fresh Herbs: Opt for fresh herbs; parsley, basil and thyme, if possible.
  • Wine: Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc work well in this cioppino recipe. Easily replace the wine with additional clam or seafood stock.
  • Tomatoes: Canned, crushed tomatoes are great for convenience. However, for added freshness, blanch, peel and crush fresh tomatoes. Believe me, it’s worth the extra effort.
  • Clam Juice: Easily substitute with seafood stock, or chicken stock.
  • Fish and Seafood: Use my combination, or choose your favorite fish and seafood.


Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to create your very own Seafood Feast:

  1. Prepare the Broth:
    • Heat olive oil and melt butter in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
    • Add minced onions and fennel. Sauté for about 8 minutes until softened, without browning.
    • Stir in minced garlic, fresh thyme, and crushed red pepper. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
    • Pour in white wine, crushed tomatoes, clam juice, fresh basil, bay leaves, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to just under a boil.
    • Reduce heat, cover, and let it simmer for 25-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.
  2. Prepare the Seafood:
    • While the broth simmers, prepare the seafood.
    • Soak clams in water for at least 10 minutes to remove debris. Rinse and reserve in the fridge.
    • Scrub mussels and debeard, if necessary. Rinse and reserve in the fridge.
    • Cut fish into chunks, scallops into quarters, and peel and devein the shrimp.
    • If using crab legs, partially crack the shells.
  3. Cook the Cioppino:
    • After simmering the broth, remove bay leaves. Increase the heat.
    • Add clams. Cover. Allow the clams to steam open for 5-8 minutes. Discard any unopened clams.
    • As the clams open, remove and reserve in a bowl .
    • Add mussels to the pot and steam open for 1-2 minutes. Remove opened mussels and place with clams.
    • Reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Add fish chunks and scallops. Simmer for a few minutes.
    • Add shrimp and crab legs. Simmer until shrimp turns pink and opaque.
    • Return clams and mussels to the pot. Toss in fresh basil and parsley.
    • Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.
  4. Serve:
    • Ladle the Cioppino into large bowls.
    • Garnish each bowl with a sprinkle of fresh basil and parsley.
    • Serve hot with lemon wedges and crusty sourdough bread, or a baguette.


  • Choose only the freshest fish and seafood.
  • Any combination of fish and seafood will work in this cioppino recipe. Prepare to your liking and preferences.
  • For added freshness, blanch and peel fresh tomatoes as opposed to using canned, crushed tomatoes.
  • Fennel can be replaced with celery.
  • Adjust the heat level to your liking.
  • Allow the seafood broth to simmer to develop flavor.
  • Remove and reserve the clams and mussels as they open to ensure tenderness. Overcooking can cause the clams and mussels to become rubbery.
  • Taste for salt throughout the cooking process.
  • Try not to overcook the fish/seafood.
  • Serve immediately.


  1. Crusty Bread: Place slices of crusty sourdough bread or a baguette on a separate plate or in a basket. The bread is essential for soaking up the flavorful broth. For added texture, toast the bread.
  2. Utensils: Provide both a soup spoon and a fork. The spoon is perfect for sipping the rich broth, while the fork can be used to enjoy the seafood.
  3. Napkins: Cioppino can be a messy dish, especially when cracking crab legs or digging into clams and mussels. Make sure to provide plenty of napkins and bowls for the empty shells.

Leftover Seafood Stew

Cioppino tastes even better the next day. Store the seafood stew in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When reheating, do so gently over low heat to avoid overcooking the seafood.

You can enjoy it as is or get creative. Cioppino makes a fantastic pasta sauce, or you can transform it into a seafood risotto.


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A big red pot filled with classic homemade cioppino.

Classic Homemade Cioppino

  • Author: Melissa Latin
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


This Seafood Stew is a combination of fresh fish and seafood poached in a tasty tomato broth and served up with tons of crusty bread for dipping. Cioppino is an incredibly versatile dish. Easily adjust the type of fish and seafood used, according to your preferences. 


  • 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 4 large scallops (cut into three pieces), or a 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 1/2 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 1/2 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned
  • 3/4 pound flaky, white fish (cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thin
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 3 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bottles clam juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped 
  • 5 fresh torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a deep, heavy-bottom pot.
  2. Add the minced onions and fennel. Sauté for 8 minutes to soften. Do not brown or burn.
  3. Add in the garlic, fresh thyme and crushed red pepper. Sauté for another minute, or two.
  4. Add in the white wine, clam juice, crushed tomatoes, bay leaves and fresh parsley. Turn up the heat to just under a boil. 
  5. Lower heat. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
  6. While the broth is simmering, prepare the seafood (soak the clams and mussels to remove any dirt or debris, peel and devein the shrimp, cut the fish into chunks, quarter the scallops).
  7. Once the broth has simmered taste for salt. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
  8. Turn up the heat. Add the clams. Cover and allow to steam open. This may take 5-8 minutes. 
  9. As the clams steam open, remove and reserve in a bowl. Discard any clams that do not open.
  10. Add the mussels to the broth and allow to steam open (this will only take about a minute).
  11. As the mussels steam open, reserve in the bowl with the clams. Discard any that do not open.
  12. Reduce the heat to medium.
  13. Gently, add the fish and scallops to the seafood broth. Cook for two minutes.
  14. Add the shrimp (if adding crab legs, do so now).
  15. Cook until the shrimp are no longer translucent (this should only take about two minutes).
  16. Gently add the reserved clams and mussels back to the pot. Toss gently. Allow to heat through for a minute, or two.
  17. Top with fresh basil and parsley.
  18. Ladle into big bowls. Garnish with additional fresh parsley and basil.
  19. Serve with crusty bread and lemon wedges.
  20. ENJOY!


  • Cioppino can be made with any combination of seafood (choose what is fresh that day, or what you enjoy).
  • Any firm, white fish, or even salmon can be used in replacement of cod.
  • Celery can be used in replacement of fennel.
  • Easily adjust the heat level to your liking.
  • Bay scallops can be substituted for dry-packed scallops.
  • Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc are great choices for the white wine. 
  • Easily replace the wine with additional clam juice or seafood stock.
  • While the broth is simmering, prep the seafood (cut the fish into chunks, cut the scallops into pieces, peel and devein the shrimp, soak and rinse the clams and mussels).
  • If adding Dungeness or crab legs, do so when you add the shrimp.
  • Blanched and peeled Campari tomatoes are a great substitute for canned, crushed tomatoes.
  • Taste for salt throughout the cooking process.
  • Serve garnished with fresh herbs and crusty bread.
  • Turn leftovers into a seafood risotto or seafood chowder.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes


  • Serving Size: 1 serving

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A photo of me in a black floral dress cooking at the stovetop at Williams-Sonoma

WELCOME! My name is Melissa Latin aka. Charlotte Fashion Plate. Happy to meet you! I am more than just recipes. I love fashion and style too! Most importantly, I love my Family (my Hubby and my Fur Babies). My Husband (aka my “Kitchen Bitch”) means the world to me. He’s pretty damn cool too. Not only is he one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, he also has had a lengthy career in professional hockey. Not only winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early ’90’s, but most recently winning the Calder Cup with the Charlotte Checkers, amongst many other accolades. If you live in Charlotte and play hockey, or have a family member who plays, be sure to contact him!

Our life has changed dramatically in the past few years with the passing of our two goldendoodles, Vegas and Viva. We were lucky enough to have Vegas for five years (totally wish it was longer). Most recently, losing our Viva to a brain tumor in July of 2020. We welcomed our mini goldendoodle 7, almost seven years ago. We just added the amazing Hazel! Of course, I am always posting tons and tons of photos! Be sure to check out my recipe for Pet Bone Broth! This broth is super rich in nutrients and will provide your pet with a multitude of health benefits!

Let’s Get Social!

Be sure to follow me on social media! I’m always talking food, fashion, and family! I also love sharing some of my favorite Amazon Finds too. Click here to check out my Amazon page! FacebookInstagramTikTokTwitter and Pinterest! THANK YOU!!

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  1. […] If you are local to Charlotte, head on over to The Carolina Meat & Fish Co. and grab the fresh marinara and loads of PEI mussels! I love using this local marinara sauce from Cannizzaro. I also use their fabulous sauce in my recipe for Seafood Stew – Cioppino. […]

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