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Easy French Bouillabaisse: Seafood Stew Recipe with Fennel and Orange Zest

Easy French Bouillabaisse: Seafood Stew Recipe with Fennel and Orange Zest
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Bouillabaisse is a hearty French seafood stew, similar to cioppino but further characterized by the addition of saffron and a fish stock/white wine base as the broth. Fennel and orange peels are also ingredients that are common to a French bouillabaisse and are included in the recipe below.

Table of Contents:
What makes Bouillabaisse Broth Unique?
Key Ingredients
Substitutes for Scorpion Fish
Is Bouillabaisse Low Carb?
Tips for Best Seafood Stews

Low Carb French Bouillabaisse
Low Carb French Bouillabaisse

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Bouillabaisse Broth vs Other Seafood Stew Broths?

While the fish itself can be quite similar in classic seafood stews, the broth is where the seafood stews make their stand and differentiate themselves.

A classic French bouillabaisse broth would be characterized by a homemade fish stock with perhaps the addition of some white wine. Another key ingredient to a bouillabaisse stock is saffron.

Chowders, like this Seafood Corn Chowder tend to have a cream based broth, while cioppino has a tomato based stock, Brazilian fish stew (moqueca) has a coconut milk base, and recipes like this Thai curry fish stew have a curry/coconut milk base.

Of course there is a fish stew indigenous to just about every region, but those are the ones I am most familiar with.

Ingredients that Distinguish a Classic French Bouillabaisse

In addition to the wine-based fish stock noted above, most French bouillabaisse stews include the addition of saffron, and will most likely include fennel and orange peels.

There are, of course, cultural distinctions between these fish stews. Understanding the differences between a bouillabaisse and a cioppino for example is often dependent on regional availability of key ingredients.

Bowl of West Coast Cioppino
Bowl of West Coast Cioppino

What Kind of Fish can be Substituted for the Scorpion Fish?

To get really technical, an “authentic” bouillabaisse cannot be made outside of Provence because it must include Provence’s indigenous scorpion fish.  

In the states, a snapper or sea bass is frequently used as a substitute for scorpion fish. 

The main thing that most fish stew aficionados agree on is that oily fish like salmon is a travesty in a bouillabaisse. If you don’t have access to scorpian fish and you avoid oily fish like salmon, then just about any seafood will work.

I like to start with white fish like cod, snapper, halibut and maybe tilapia. After cooking the white fish for a few minutes I will add some shrimp and mussels. If lobster or crab is available, all the better!

How to Make Bouillabaisse Low Carb

It is quite easy to make bouillabaisse low carb ….just avoid adding potatoes. Most of the other ingredients are low carb compliant and shouldn’t be a problem on low carb, slow carb or keto lifestyles.

3 Tips to Making Great Seafood Stews (of any kind)

  1. the flavor of the broth is key. Often, seafood can become somewhat bland and needs a flavorful broth to enhance it. Taste as you go and if the broth is too bland for you, add something spicy or perhaps some more anise-flavored liqueur. For a spicier fish stew, check out this Mexican Fish Stew
  2. Seafood cooks very quickly and it is easy to overcook it and get a rubbery texture. Simmer the broth a long time to meld all the flavors but only add the seafood in the last 3-5 minutes
  3. Don’t forget the salt. This goes hand in hand with #1. Salt can bring out the more subtle and delicate flavors which is desirable. Salt and taste as you go.

More Great Low Carb Seafood Dishes:

Mexican Fish Veracruz

Low carb fish veracruz dinner in iron skillet
Low carb fish veracruz dinner in iron skillet

Or try a Paella

Paella de Mariscos being made outdoors in Spain.
Paella de Mariscos being made outdoors in Spain.

Cod with Spanish Pil Pil Sauce

Two filets of cod with pil pil sauce
Spanish Cod al Pil Pil

Or try this Pistachio-Crusted fish dinner, or these Mexican Fish Tacos

Last but not least, use this low carb breading on any of your favorite fish dishes to add some great texture without going over the low carb limits.

If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below and any comments others might find helpful. It means a lot to me when you try my recipes, and I’d love to know how it goes.

Low Carb Bouillabaisse

Low Carb French Bouillabaisse Stew
Easy recipe for a perfect bouillabaisse
4.63 from 8 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 458


  • ¼ tsp saffron
  • 2 cups white wine divided
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel chopped
  • 3 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 14 oz diced tomatoes
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 2 Tbsp Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur
  • 5 orange peels from 1/2 orange
  • 2 cups clam juice or home-made fish stock
  • 2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 3 lbs white fish some combination of cod, snapper, halibut, or monkfish
  • ½ lb mussels
  • ½ lb shrimp
  • ¼ tsp cayenne optional


  • In a small bowl or glass, add 1/4 tsp saffron to 1/2 cup white wine and set aside
    1/4 tsp saffron, 2 cups white wine
  • Heat oil in a large pot over med-high and then add chopped fennel, celery, onions. Saute mixture until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add chopped garlic for 30 seconds to a minute.
    2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 bulb fennel, 3 stalks celery, 1 onion, 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Add next 8 ingredients (tomato paste through salt) to the pot and bring to a low boil. Turn down heat and simmer broth for about 30 minutes. If you want more liquid in the soup, add another cup of water, clam juice or wine at this point.
    1 Tbsp tomato paste, 14 oz diced tomatoes, 3 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley, 2 Tbsp Pernod, 5 orange peels, 2 cups clam juice, 2 tsp salt
  • Taste the broth for salt and flavor. If desired, add the cayenne and/or more salt or Pernod.
    1/4 tsp cayenne, 2 Tbsp Pernod
  • Add the white fish to the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes, until no longer transcluent. Be careful not to overcook. Add shrimp and mussels to the pot and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
    3 lbs white fish, 1/2 lb mussels, 1/2 lb shrimp
  • Taste again for seasoning and adjust to your taste. Serve with low carb almond flour crackers if low carb. Otherwise, serve with crusty French bread.


Low Carb Bouillabaisse - a Cooking Tutorial
Watch this video on YouTube.
Watch the Step by Step Video for More Details


Calories: 458kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 58gFat: 10gSodium: 1512mgPotassium: 1281mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 474IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 151mgIron: 4mg
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Recipe Rating

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Sunday 19th of September 2021

How is this low carb at 15g net carbs?

dorothy stainbrook

Sunday 19th of September 2021

I think 15g carbs for a dinner is actually very low carb! If you are doing keto the standard goal is to stay under 30g carbs for the whole day. If you are just striving for a low carb lifestyle, you can easily stay low carb with a total of 50 - 100 grams of carbs for the whole day. Low carb is not “no-carb”

Sophia Grace

Monday 20th of January 2020

What a cute dish! Thanks for the recipe and the explanation of how the fish stews are different. This looks so good, can't wait to try.

dorothy stainbrook

Monday 20th of January 2020

I love that dish Sophia! Found it at a thrift store :). Let me know how the stew turns out for you....I’d love to know if you made any substitutions. Thanks!

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