Seafood Cioppino Stew

This cioppino stew is loaded with fresh seafood flavor in a hearty and flavorful tomato-fennel broth. It combines an assortment of seafood, which can be whatever you have on hand, then cooks it in a blend of spices to make a comforting and nourishing seafood stew.  

Cioppino in a white bowl with two wedges of toast in the bowl.

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The Best Seafood Cioppino

Frank and I made this seafood cioppino over New Year’s to share with friends, and it was such a hit that I knew I had to post it. I loved the balance of textures between the different seafood and how fresh it tastes, considering it’s a pretty hearty stew.

One thing I love about this recipe is how easy it is to customize. This recipe, in particular, is a compilation of Frank’s many experiences making cioppino in restaurants along the Pacific Northwest, then tweaking it to suit what we had on hand and the seafood we most enjoy eating.

This recipe is gluten-free and can easily be adjusted to suit your own seafood preferences and seafood allergies or to fit seasonally with what’s available near you. I’ve included possible swaps down below.

Oh, and if you have any leftover clams, then you should definitely try these Thai clams steamed in an aromatic tom yum and coconut milk broth.

Cioppino in a white bowl with a lobster tail sticking out.


The ingredient list for this seafood cioppino recipe is simple, and I encourage you to seek out whatever calls to you while you’re perusing the seafood market. 

Here’s everything you’ll need for this cioppino recipe:

  • Fennel- Essential for the soup base, though it imparts only a very subtle fennel flavor that’s barely detectable in the final dish. 
  • Onions and garlic- Imparts aroma and adds complexity.
  • Olive oil- For sautéeing.
  • Bay leaves, dried thyme, red chili flakes- Deepens flavor, and can be adjusted to suit your preferences. Red chili flakes can be omitted.
  • Canned crushed tomatoes- The main component of the soup base. I recommend San Marzano crushed tomatoes.
  • Full-bodied red wine- Adds delicious complexity and layers of flavor to the dish. Can be swapped for equal portions of broth, tomato juice, or water.
  • Clam juice- Adds a savory quality that pairs well with the seafood. Can be swapped for broth.
  • Salt and pepper- Adjusted to taste.
  • Fresh parsley and toasted bread- For garnish and dipping.

And here’s the seafood you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Clams- Can be swapped for mussels. 
  • Prawns- Peeled and deveined, with tails on or off. We used frozen prawns for this recipe.
  • Salmon- Or any white fish will work, such as cod, halibut, or sea bass.
  • Lobster tails- Definitely optional since they can be on the pricey side, but they make a darn good presentation. 
  • Scallops- I used large sea scallops, but you can use smaller bay scallops as well.
Cioppino in a white bowl with two wedges of toast in the bowl and the rest of the stew in the background.

How to Cook with Wine

I know it can be hard to pour good wine into a stockpot, but I guarantee you it will be worth it in the final dish. Here are some tips for selecting the best wine for cooking.

Don’t use a wine you wouldn’t drink- It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be a wine you would willingly drink. And for heaven’s sake, stay out of the “cooking wine aisle” at all costs! That stuff is basically vinegar, and that’s exactly what it’ll taste like in your final dish.

Use what’s open- If you have a bottle that’s been open for a few days, then just use that, and open a fresh one for dinner.

Or, have a few standby bottles on hand- It’s never a bad idea to have 2-3 bottles of okay-but-no-exceptional wines on hand, either to quaff with friends or to empty into your stockpot.

Make it Yours

This recipe is perfect as is, but if you’re interested, there are plenty of adjustments to be made so you can enjoy this recipe a little differently each time. 

Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Serve atop rice, pasta noodles, mashed potatoes, or creamy polenta
  • Stir in leafy greens like kale or spinach
  • Serve with freshly grated parmesan
  • Play around with the seafood! Think squid, mussels, crabmeat, shucked oysters…

How to Make Seafood Cioppino Stew

This is a somewhat involved recipe, but I found it quite fun playing with so many fresh ingredients. Here’s how to make cioppino seafood stew.

  1. Make the soup base: Add fennel, onion, and garlic to a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Heat ¼ cup of oil in a 6-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel mixture, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, until the veggies are tender and aromatic.
  2. Add liquid: Add the tomatoes, 3 ½ cups water, clam juice, and 2 cups red wine. Let this simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Prepare the seafood: Heat another ¼ cup of oil in a 10-quart stock pot, then add the clams, mussels, prawns, scallops, and lobster. Sauté the seafood for 2-3 minutes, then add the fish and sauté for an additional minute. Add the rest of the red wine and let this simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Combine and serve: Carefully transfer the broth to your seafood pot and let everything simmer for 10 minutes or longer if needed. Serve your seafood cioppino warm with a garnish of fresh parsley and toasted bread. 
Sauce pot filled with minced fennel, red chili flakes, and dried bay leaves.

Storing and Reheating Leftover Seafood Cioppino Stew

This recipe for seafood cioppino stew makes 4 large servings, though I usually find I still end up with some leftovers.

To store leftover cioppino, allow it to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Stored this way, it should keep for 2-3 days. 

Alternatively, you can freeze the cioppino in an airtight container, and it should keep for up to 3 months.

To reheat leftovers, I recommend either the stovetop or microwave. If using the stovetop, place leftovers in a small saucepot set over medium heat. Stir frequently until fully reheated. If using the microwave, transfer leftovers to a bowl and microwave in 30-second increments until fully warmed. 

Final Thoughts

Well, I hope you enjoy this seafood cioppino stew as much as I do!

I especially love making this seafood stew in the cold winter months when shellfish are in peak season. Considering I live in the Pacific Northwest, I am fortunate to be surrounded by so much awesome seafood!

Rain or shine, I can usually be found at Hama Hama Oysters along the Hood Canal this time of year, enjoying fresh oysters and a glass (or two) of Albariño.

If you gave this recipe a try, please be sure to leave a comment below and let me know how it went!

And, as always, be sure to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, where I share my favorite seasonal recipes, wine-pairing tips, and the occasional travel tale. Check out my Instagram to hear about it first!


What is usually served with cioppino?

Cioppino is a hearty stew and is best served with toasted bread, pasta, rice, or atop creamy mashed potatoes. 

What is the difference between cioppino and bouillabaisse?

Cioppino is made with a tomato-based sauce, whereas bouillabaisse is made of white fish stock with tomatoes added to the seafood stew. 

What’s the best red wine for cooking? 

Ideally, you should seek to match flavor for flavor. So, for a rich seafood stew, you should use a full-bodied red wine such as Cabernet or Merlot. That said, a lighter-bodied red wine like Pinot Noir would do just fine as well.

Cioppino in a white bowl with a lobster tail sticking out.

Seafood Cioppino

This seafood cioppino is loaded with fresh seafood flavor in a hearty and flavorful broth of tomato, fennel, spices, and red wine.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people


  • 1 6-quart pot
  • 1 10-quart pot
  • 1 Food processor
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Wood spoon


  • 2 Fennel bulbs Stalks composted and bulbs cut lengthwise into 6 wedges
  • 2 medium Onions, peeled and quartered
  • 9 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp Dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Red chili flakes Or more to taste
  • 2 28 oz. Cans crushed tomatoes in juice
  • 3 1/2 cups Water
  • 2 cups Full-bodied red wine
  • 2 8 oz. Bottles of clam juice
  • Salt and black pepper To taste

The Seafood

  • 1 lb Clams
  • 1 lb Prawns
  • 1 lb Fish, cut into 1-inch cubes I used salmon but whitefish would work as well
  • 2 Lobster tails Split down the back
  • 4 Scallops
  • Toasted bread Optional, to serve
  • Parsley Optional, for garnish


  • Add fennel, onion, and garlic to a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
  • Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it simmers, then stir in the fennel mixture, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
  • Reduce heat to medium then cook with the lid on, stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes with their juices, water, clam juice, and 2 cups red wine. Simmer for 5 minutes.

For seafood

  • As the base is simmering, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 10-quart stock pot, then add clams, mussels, prawns, scallops, and lobster. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add fish and cook for 1 additional minute.
  • Add 1 cup red wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add cioppino base to the pot of seafood and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Serve warm with toasted bread and optional fresh parsley.
Keyword Fennel, Lobster mushrooms, Seafood, Soup, Stew
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