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Healthy, satisfying comfort food! This Cioppino recipe (or “Fisherman’s Stew”) is an easy seafood soup that’s full of fish, crab, clams, and shrimp, plus plenty of fresh herbs and rich Italian flavor. Prepare it on the stovetop or in the Crock Pot, and serve each bowl with a loaf of crusty bread to soak up the extra broth!

Hands holding a bowl of fisherman's stew

Seafood Cioppino

Serve this Fisherman’s Stew to guests at a dinner party this season, or offer cozy bowls to your family on a busy weeknight. Full of shrimp, crab, fish, and clams, cioppino is a simple and delicious way to enjoy a bounty of fresh seafood! Best of all, you can throw it in your slow cooker or stir it together in a heavy pot on your stovetop. The preparation is easy, and (unlike other cioppino recipes) the ingredients are accessible!

What is Cioppino?

Cioppino (also called “Fisherman’s Stew”) is an Italian-American fish stew that’s traditionally loaded with delicious seafood, including clams, shrimp, scallops, fish, crab, and mussels. The dish originated in San Francisco, California, where it was developed in the late 1800’s by Italian immigrants who fished off Meiggs Wharf, and lived in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco (source). It’s a combination of the fresh “catch of the day,” which is then simmered in a tomato and wine-based broth.

The name “cioppino” comes from cioppin which is the word for a classic soup from the Italian region Liguria, similar in flavor to cioppino but with less tomato and using Mediterranean seafood cooked to the point that it falls apart.

Side shot of two bowls of seafood cioppino with a side of bread

The Difference Between Cioppino and Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is a hearty French seafood stew that’s similar to cioppino. Cioppino has a rich tomato broth, while bouillabaisse has a white (fish stock) base with some tomatoes thrown in. Saffron is also a key distinguishing ingredient that you’ll find in bouillabaisse but not in cioppino.

Adding vegetables to slow cooker

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pot of cioppino. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Petite diced tomatoes and tomato paste: give the soup its classic tomato-flavored broth.
  • Red bell pepper, onion, celery, and garlic: aromatics that give the stew texture and depth.
  • Stock or broth: use a seafood stock or fish stock, when available, or substitute with chicken broth or vegetable broth.
  • White wine: choose a dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or unoaked Chardonnay. For an alcohol-free option, substitute with additional stock or broth instead.
  • Italian seasoning: a convenient blend of marjoram, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, and sage.
  • Sugar: balances the acidity in the tomatoes.
  • Bay leaf: adds depth of flavor to the stew.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: for a little bit of spicy kick.
  • Shrimp, fish, crabmeat, and canned chopped clams: I like to use easy-to-find seafood in this homemade stew, but you can adjust the ingredients to suit your personal taste and budget. Scallops, oyster, and mussels are also nice additions! I use a blue lump crab (that’s sold fully cooked in the refrigerated section of the seafood counter), but dungeness crab will also work well.
  • Basil and parsley: fresh herbs add bright flavor to the hearty stew.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: enhance the other flavors in the dish.
Adding raw shrimp to a slow cooker

How to Make Cioppino

I’ve included instructions below for both the slow cooker and the stovetop. The Crock Pot method is a great hands-off option, while the stovetop yields a rich, flavorful stew that’s ready from start to finish in less than 1 hour. Pick whichever option works best for you — no restaurant reservations necessary! Here’s how to make it in the Crock Pot:

  1. Combine the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, celery, stock, tomato paste, wine, garlic, Italian seasoning, sugar, and bay leaf in a slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or on HIGH for 3-4 hours (or until the vegetables are tender).
  3. Crank the heat up to HIGH and add the seafood.
  4. Cover and cook for 20-30 more minutes, or just until the fish and shrimp are done. Keep an eye on it so that you don’t overcook the seafood.
  5. Remove the bay leaf, add the fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper, and ladle into bowls!
Two bowls of san francisco cioppino on a table with bread

What to Serve with Cioppino

A crusty French baguette or a loaf of sourdough bread is the perfect dipping companion for a bowl of this seafood soup. Other options that go well with cioppino include a crisp green salad or a Caesar salad, saltines or oyster crackers, homemade buttermilk biscuits, a loaf of no-knead bread, homemade focaccia, 3-ingredient sour cream muffinscorn sticks, or a pan of cornbread.

Two mugs of slow cooker cioppino with herbs, wine, and bread in the background

Make Ahead

To prepare the stew ahead of time, cook the vegetable and broth mixture as instructed (without the seafood). Store the cooked broth in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. When ready to serve, heat the broth on the stovetop or in the slow cooker on HIGH and add the seafood as instructed.

Storage

Properly stored in an airtight container, this fish chowder will last in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I don’t recommend freezing the soup, since the thawed and reheated seafood may have a weird, rubbery texture.

How to Reheat

Warm the stew on the stovetop over low heat, just until it reaches the desired temperature. Be careful not to overcook the seafood.

Overhead shot of a bowl of cioppino

Recipe Variations

  • Wine is a traditional ingredient in cioppino; however, if you prefer an alcohol-free stew, you can substitute with additional seafood stock (or broth).
  • If you can’t find seafood stock or fish stock at your grocery store, you can substitute with vegetable broth or chicken broth.
  • I used canned chopped clams, but you can add mussels or clams in their shells, if you prefer. Cook the shellfish in the slow cooker or Dutch oven until the shells open (discard any shellfish that do not open on their own).
  • Oysters, scallops, mussels, or squid would also be great additions to your Fisherman’s Stew.
  • Add thinly sliced fennel to the vegetable mixture for even more authentic Italian flavor.
Close up side shot of cioppino soup with bread and wine in the background

Tips for the Best Cioppino Recipe

  • A firm-flesh fish holds up best in this stew. I recommend either salmon, cod, or halibut.
  • Every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature (which is why the recipe gives you general time ranges, rather than exact times). Keep an eye on your seafood, stirring gently, so that you can turn off the Crock Pot as soon as the shrimp and fish are done. You’ll know the stew is ready when the shrimp is opaque and the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Taste and season as you go. If you’re using unsalted or low-sodium stock, you will likely need more salt than if you’re starting with salted stock.
  • Use a dry, crisp white wine. Rich, oaky whites can become bitter during the cooking process, while sweeter whites add unwanted sweetness. Do not use a bottle of “cooking wine” from the grocery store, which often contains salt and other additives. Good options for cioppino include Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, or Pinot Grigio.
  • You don’t need to drain the clams or tomatoes, as the clam juice and tomato juices add great flavor to the broth.
Overhead shot of the best cioppino recipe in a mug with a spoon

More Seafood Soups and Stews to Try

Hands holding a bowl of fisherman's stew

Cioppino {Fisherman’s Stew}

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
Servings 12 cups
Calories 197.6 kcal
Make this easy and healthy Cioppino (or "Fisherman's Stew"} on the stovetop or in the slow cooker!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cups seafood stock or fish stock (or substitute with chicken broth or vegetable broth)
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • ½ cup white wine (or substitute with additional stock)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic (about 3 large cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb. raw medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 10 ounces firm-flesh fish fillets (such as halibut, cod, or salmon), skin removed, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 16 ounces lump crabmeat
  • 6 ounces canned chopped clams, not drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

SLOW COOKER INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Combine tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, celery, seafood stock, tomato paste, wine, garlic, Italian seasoning, sugar, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper flakes in a large slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours (or until vegetables are tender).
  • Turn the slow cooker to HIGH heat. Stir in the shrimp, fish, crabmeat and clams. Cover and cook on HIGH for 20-30 more minutes (stirring twice), or until shrimp is opaque and fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove bay leaf.
  • Just before serving, stir in basil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

STOVETOP INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the bell pepper, onion, and celery. Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute.
  • Stir in the tomatoes (with their juices), stock or broth, wine, Italian seasoning, sugar, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes.
  • Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp, fish, crab, and clams (with their juices). Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, cover, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and the fish flakes easily with a fork. Stir the pot gently so that you don't break up the fish.
  • Remove the bay leaf.
  • Just before serving, stir in basil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Notes

  • A firm-flesh fish holds up best in this stew. I recommend either salmon, cod, or halibut.
  • Every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature (which is why the recipe gives you general time ranges, rather than exact times). Keep an eye on your seafood, stirring gently, so that you can turn off the Crock Pot as soon as the shrimp and fish are done. You’ll know the stew is ready when the shrimp is opaque and when the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Taste and season as you go. If you’re using unsalted or low-sodium stock, you will likely need more salt than if you’re starting with salted stock.
  • Use a dry, crisp white wine. Rich, oaky whites can become bitter during the cooking process, while sweeter whites add unwanted sweetness. Do not use a bottle of “cooking wine” from the grocery store, which often contains salt and other additives. Good options for cioppino include Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, or Pinot Grigio.
  • You don’t need to drain the clams or tomatoes, as the clam juices and tomato juices add great flavor to the broth.
  • Wine is a traditional ingredient in cioppino; however, if you prefer an alcohol-free stew, you can substitute with additional seafood stock (or broth).
  • If you can’t find seafood stock or fish stock at your grocery store, you can substitute with vegetable broth or chicken broth.
  • I used canned chopped clams, but you can add mussels or clams in their shells, if you prefer. Cook the shellfish in the slow cooker or Dutch oven until the shells open (discard any shellfish that do not open on their own).
  • Oysters, scallops, mussels, or squid would also be great additions to your Fisherman’s Stew.
  • Add thinly sliced fennel to the vegetable mixture for even more authentic Italian flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 197.6kcalCarbohydrates: 11.5gProtein: 18.9gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 0.8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 69.1mgSodium: 550.8mgPotassium: 669mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4.5gVitamin A: 1015IUVitamin C: 32.4mgCalcium: 153mgIron: 3mg
Keyword: cioppino, cioppino recipe, fisherman’s stew, seafood soup, seafood stew
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan

This post was originally published in September, 2015. It was updated in April, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Yay! This Cioppino looks so yummy, and I absolutely love that it’s a crockpot recipe! And so little hands-on time too!! Definitely a keeper! 🙂 Pinned!

  2. 5 stars
    The last time I had Cioppino was while I was living in San Francisco some 20 years ago Where I live in the Midwest it is almost impossible to even get the ingredients. So I gave this a shot and you know what it was REALLY GOOD, I added some lobster meat and crab I had in the freezer and everyone loved it unfortunately there were no leftovers. Thank You I never thought of using Tuna and was a bit leery of even trying but I am so glad I did

    1. That’s wonderful, Sandra! I’m like you: I live in the middle of Virginia, with no easy access to fresh seafood. This does the trick in a pinch! So glad that you enjoyed it!

    1. Hah! It is 7-quarts, and I love it! 🙂 It’s made by All-Clad, and I bought it from Williams-Sonoma years ago (here’s the link: https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/all-clad-gourmet-slow-cooker-with-all-in-one-browning/ ). It looks like it’s not currently available at Williams-Sonoma, but I believe this is the same one at Bed Bath and Beyond: https://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/product/all-clad-gourmet-7-qt-slow-cooker-with-aluminum-insert-in-silver/5558921 I hope that helps!