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Easy French Bouillabaisse with Fennel and Orange Zest

Easy French Bouillabaisse with Fennel and Orange Zest
Home » Recipes by Ingredients » Fish and Seafood » Bouillabaisse Seafood Stew

Bouillabaisse is a hearty French seafood stew, similar to cioppino but further characterized by adding 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. This easy but elegant low-carb bouillabaisse is great for family weeknight dinners or entertaining.

Low Carb French Bouillabaisse
Low Carb French Bouillabaisse

Jump to: RECIPE | What makes Bouillabaisse Broth Unique? | Substitutes for Scorpion Fish | Is Bouillabaisse Low-Carb? | Tips for Best Seafood Stews

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Bouillabaisse Broth vs Other Seafood Stew Broths

While the fish itself can be quite similar to 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 homemade fish stock with perhaps the addition of some white wine. Another key ingredient in 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; 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.

Seafood and fish are an integral part of the Pesco Mediterranean Diet. This article will fill you in on the details of the Pesco Mediterranean Diet to see if it might be something you want to try.

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?

An “authentic” bouillabaisse cannot be made outside of Provence because it must include Provence’s indigenous scorpion fish.  

Did you know? In the US, a snapper or sea bass is frequently used as a substitute for scorpion fish. 

Oily fish like salmon, however, is something to avoid in a bouillabaisse. If you don’t have access to scorpion fish and 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 don’t add 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 for 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.

Keeping the Dinner Low Carb

To be compliant with a low-carb diet, use this low-carb breading on any of your favorite fish dishes to add some great texture without going over the low-carb limits.

More Great Seafood Stews

Seafood Corn Chowder (without Shellfish)

Seafood corn chowder in a large bowl with a side of oyster crackers
Seafood corn chowder without shellfish

Mexican Fish Veracruz

Low carb fish veracruz dinner in iron skillet
Low-carb fish Veracruz dinner in an iron skillet

Or try a Paella

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

Cod with Spanish Pil Pil Sauce

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

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Low Carb Bouillabaisse

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


  • ¼ teaspoon saffron
  • 2 cups white wine divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel chopped
  • 3 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablepoon tomato paste
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur
  • 5 orange peels from 1/2 orange
  • 2 cups clam juice or home-made fish stock
  • 2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 3 pounds white fish some combination of cod, snapper, halibut, or monkfish. No oily fish please!
  • ½ pound mussels
  • ½ pound shrimp
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne optional


  • In a small bowl or glass, add 1/4 tsp saffron to 1/2 cup white wine and set aside
    1/4 teaspoon saffron, 2 cups white wine
  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high and then add chopped fennel, celery, onions. Sauté mixture until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add chopped garlic for 30 seconds to a minute.
    2 tablespoons 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 tablepoon tomato paste, 14 ounces diced tomatoes, 3 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs parsley, 2 tablespoons Pernod, 5 orange peels, 2 cups clam juice, 2 teaspoon salt
  • Taste the broth for salt and flavor. If desired, add the cayenne and/or more salt or Pernod.
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 2 tablespoons 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 pounds white fish, 1/2 pound mussels, 1/2 pound shrimp
  • Taste again for seasoning and adjust to your taste. Serve with low carb almond flour crackers if low carb dinner is what you want. 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


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

    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.

  2. Marky says:

    How is this low carb at 15g net carbs?

    • 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”

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