Authentic San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew - House of Nash Eats (2024)

Considered by many to be the signature dish of San Francisco, Cioppino is a wonderful Italian seafood stew that is perfect for entertaining and holidays. Serve this with crusty sourdough bread to sop up all the delicious broth for a truly Californian dining experience!

Authentic San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew - House of Nash Eats (1)
Table of Contents
  1. What is Cioppino?
  2. Why We Love This Recipe
  3. What You'll Need
  4. How to Make San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew
  5. Recipe FAQ's
  6. Tips for Success
  7. Substitutions and Variations
  8. More Hearty Soup Recipes
  9. Authentic San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew Recipe
  10. More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series

One of the highlights of a trip to San Francisco for lots of people is to enjoy fresh seafood at one of the many great restaurants in the city.

We live in the Bay Area and I try to get into the city often for date night with my husband who works in San Francisco or to take our girls to meet up with him for lunch sometimes when they aren't in school.

So imagine my chagrin when I was researching iconic foods that came out ofCaliforniafor theAmerican EatsseriesI have been doing and realized that, despite all the fantastic restaurants I've eaten at in the city, I had never tried cioppino! I decided to remedy that double quick.

As it turns out, cioppino is easy to make and so delicious! It can be made with almost any combination of seafood in a large soup pot, but whole Dungeness crabs in the shell, clams, shrimp, bay scallops, and mussels are classic options. It's a great special occasion recipe for the holidays or dinner parties.

For more comforting cold-weather soups, be sure to check out our Maryland Crab Soup, Better-Than-Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup, and Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage.

Authentic San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew - House of Nash Eats (2)

What is Cioppino?

Almost every seafood restaurant of note in San Francisco has cioppino on its menu. It was created here in the late 1800s by Italian immigrant fishermen from the Genoa region of Italy who lived and worked in the North Beach section of San Francisco by the Bay.

The story goes that when fishermen would return from an unsuccessful day of fishing out on the water, they would go around the docks and other fishermen would chip in a little something from the day's catch to the pot—a crab, some mussels, or a fish. There was an understanding that they too would have days in the future when they would come home empty-handed and need to rely on their fellow fishermen as well. It was a community effort.

Cioppino is traditionally made with the freshest seafood possible in a thin broth made from tomatoes, herbs, and white wine. The catch of the day from the San Francisco Bay is usually a combination of Dungeness crab,clams, bay scallops, shrimp, squid, mussels, and fish.

Bowls of cioppino are served with plenty of fresh San Francisco sourdough bread that is dipped into the sauce to sop up the rich, flavorful broth.

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Why We Love This Recipe

  • Use your favorite seafood and seasonings, but this recipe has what you need for the most authentic flavors.
  • Made with the freshest fish is the best way to go for the best flavors.
  • Serve this delicious cioppino recipe with glasses of dry white wine for a special dinner party!

What You'll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • Granulated Sugar - This thickens the fruit into a sauce and makes it deliciously sweet.
  • Butter - Use salted butter to bring out the flavors when sautéeing the veg. You can use olive oil if you prefer, but I like the buttery flavor.
  • Vegetables - We'll use sautéed onion and a fennel bulb to give us a great savory taste.
  • Seasoning - Use fresh garlic that you mince yourself, along with fresh parsley, dried basil, kosher salt, dried thyme, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves for a dish that is bursting with flavor!
  • Wine - Use white wine for an added bitter-sweet taste to the hearty stew. This can be replaced with additional fish or chicken stock.
  • Tomatoes - Use crushed tomatoes as well as diced tomatoes for the cioppino base.
  • Stock - Fishorseafood stock will bring the seafood flavors together well. You can use a mixture of chicken stock and clam juice instead if you need.
  • Seafood - Use a mixture of fresh fish: small clams, mussels, a Dungeness crab**, large shrimp, bay scallops, and a cod fillet for this recipe.
  • Garnish - Use fresh basilandfresh parsley to garnish.
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How to Make San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew

  1. Prepare the broth. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large dutch oven, then add the onion, fennel, garlic, and parsley, sautéing until the onions are soft. This will take about 10 minutes.
  2. Add seasoning. Add the garlic, basil, salt, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
  3. Add wet ingredients and bay leaves. Add the white wine, crushed and diced tomatoes, fish stock, and bay leaves, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low.
  4. Cook. Simmer for 30 minutes so the flavors can blend.While the broth simmers, prepare the crab by removing the crab legs from the body (if not already done for you) and using a nutcracker to crack the shells (leave the meat in the shell) so that the meat can be easily removed once the cioppino is served.
  5. Add seafod. Increase the heat to medium and add the clams and mussels to the broth and cook for 5 minutes until they start to open.Then add the crab legs and cook for another minute, followed by the shrimp and scallops.Finally, lay the chunks of cod on top of the broth and cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes until the mussels and clams are open, the shrimp curl, and the scallops are just firm.
  6. Serve. Ladle the cioppino into large bowls and garnish with chopped fresh parsley and basil.Serve with warm, crusty sourdough bread!Have plenty of napkins, extra bowls for shells, nutcrackers, and tiny forks on hand for the crab.
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Recipe FAQ's

What does cioppino mean?

Some say that the name "cioppino" actually comes from the idea of "chipping in," although the more likely answer is that it is derived from the name of a Genoese fish stew called cioppin, which is very similar to the cioppino that is so popular in San Francisco today.

How do you eat cioppino?

Serve cioppino stew in a large bowl with a side of crusty bread like my Garlic and Rosemary Artisan Bread or Garlic Bread, in Homemade Bread Bowls for a fancy presentation, or with Homemade Croutons for an added bready crunch. Alternatively, you can serve it over another kind of carb like pasta or White Rice to make it a fuller meal. Make an extra bowl available for people to discard the inedible shells in.

How do I store Cioppino stew?

I would recommend making fish stews fresh every time, rather than making them and storing them for the next day.

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Tips for Success

  • Buy fresh. Buy the freshest seafood available to you for making San Francisco cioppino. Whole Foods is one of my go-to sources for good seafood, but Asian markets can also be a good, economical source of fresh seafood as well. Depending on where you live, there might also be a good fish market or fishmonger at your local farmer's market that you could go to for the freshest seafood possible.
  • It's messy. Fair warning that authentic cioppino is typically served with the crab and other shellfish still in their shells, which means you're in for some hands-on, messy eating. But I think that's part of the fun for an informal gathering with friends who appreciate good seafood. Just be sure to have lots of napkins on hand!
  • Stock. If you can't find fish or seafood stock, you could use chicken stock with a small can of clam juice instead.
  • Wine. Replace the white wine with more stock, if you aren't comfortable cooking with wine.

If you are planning a trip to San Francisco in the future, be sure to check out this 3-Day San Francisco itinerary for all the best places to see!

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Substitutions and Variations

  • Stock. Replace all or part of the fish or seafood stock with the same amount of chicken stock along with a small bottle of clam juice instead.
  • Dungeness Crab. If Dungeness crab is not available, you could use snow crab, blue claw, stone crab claws, or even Alaskan King crab.Also, you could just use crab meat instead of the legs and body, which would certainly make this cioppino easier to eat, although it is such a fun presentation to have the crab legs.
  • Fennel. If you can't find fennel bulbs, don't substitute them for fennel seeds. They are quite different in flavor and substance. The bulb is best substituted for the same amount in celery or bok choy plus a small amount of fennel seeds. For example, for this recipe, 1 fennel bulb will need about ½ lb celery and ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds as a substitution.
  • Turn up the heat. Add some chili pepper to the mix for some added spice.
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More Hearty Soup Recipes

  • Creamy Irish Leek and Potato Soup
  • New England Fish Chowder
  • Zuppa Toscana
  • Smoked Salmon Chowder with Bacon
  • One Pot Lasagna Soup

Soup Recipes

New England Clam Chowder Recipe

Soup Recipes

Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.

Authentic San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew - House of Nash Eats (12)

PrintPinRate

Authentic San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew

4.91 from 117 votes

Amy Nash

Prep Time 15 minutes mins

Cook Time 50 minutes mins

Total Time 1 hour hr 5 minutes mins

Course Soup

Cuisine American

Servings 6 adults

Considered by many to be the signature dish of San Francisco, Cioppino is a wonderful seafood stew that is perfect for entertaining and holidays. Serve this with crusty sourdough bread to sop up all the delicious broth for a truly Californian dining experience!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ bunch fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ cups white wine optional - can replace with additional fish or chicken stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups fish or seafood stock*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound small clams
  • 1 pound mussels scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 pounds crab I used 1 whole cooked Dungeness crab**, with its legs removed from its body
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound bay scallops
  • ½ pound cod fillet cut into large chunks (or other firm-fleshed fish like halibut or salmon)
  • Fresh basil and parsley chopped, for garnish

Instructions

  • Melt the butter over medium heat in a large dutch oven, then add the onion, fennel, garlic, parsley, sauteing until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, basil, salt, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes and saute 2 minutes longer.

  • Add the white wine, crushed and diced tomatoes, fish stock, and bay leaves, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes so the flavors can blend. While the broth simmers, prepare the crab by removing the crab legs from the body (if not already done for you) and using a nutcracker to crack the shells (leave the meat in the shell) so that the meat can be easily removed once the cioppino is served.

  • Increase the heat to medium and add the clams and mussels to the broth and cook for 5 minutes until they start to open. Then add the crab legs and cook for another minute, followed by the shrimp and scallops. Finally, lay the chunks of cod on top of the broth and cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until the mussels and clams are open, the shrimp curl and the scallops are just firm.

  • Ladle the cioppino into large bowls garnish with chopped fresh parsley and basil. Serve with warm, crusty sourdough bread! Have plenty of napkins, extra bowls for shells, and nutcrackers and tiny forks on hand for the crab.

Notes

* You can replace all or part of the fish or seafood stock with the same amount of chicken stock along with a small bottle of clam juice instead.

** If Dungeness crab is not available, you could use snow crab, blue claw, stone crab claws, or even Alaskan King crab. Also, you could just use crab meat instead of the legs and body, which would certainly make this cioppino easier to eat, although it is such a fun presentation to have the crab legs.

Adapted from AllRecipes.

Nutrition

Calories: 519kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 227mg | Sodium: 2371mg | Potassium: 1675mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1090IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 275mg | Iron: 7mg

Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series

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About the author

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Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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