Simple Homemade Fish Stock

While perhaps not as popular as chicken stock, or vegetable stock, fish stock, or the more concentrated version ‘fish fumet’, forms the basis of quite a few dishes, particularly seafood soups like bouillabaisse, fish stews and sauces. A basic, simple fish stock is usually made with a mirepoix (finely chopped onion, carrot, and celery usually in the ratio of 2:1:1), fish bones and usually some heads of any kind of white fish… and mine’s not much different. As with most classic French recipes, making stock comes with a lot of rules (concerning the temperature of the water, adding raw, finely chopped ingredients only, skimming off the dirt, or not, adding wine, or not, and the seasoning in general), but I don’t think many of those rules really matter all that much. I only choose to follow those rules I care about most and my recipe for fish stock here couldn’t be easier!


I wanted this fish stock to be light and fresh, but with a little bit of potency. Therefore, I do sauté my finely chopped vegetables, fish bones and heads slightly – which some cooks say shouldn’t be done to keep the stock from discoloring, or becoming cloudy and to keep the stock very light – before adding cold water that is slowly brought to a very soft simmer. I find finely chopping the vegetables (from which I’ve replaced part of the usual amount of onion with some leek, which is more delicate in flavour) and sautéing them lightly brings out maximum flavor and a welcome sweetness in minimum time. Unlike with chicken stock, or beef stock – which I would try to cook for as long as possible – a light fish stock shouldn’t be cooked for too long… which I find one of the more welcome ‘rules’. Cooking the fish stock for around 25 minutes to 30 minutes should do the trick as cooking it for much longer might spoil the flavor and even turn the stock slightly bitter.


Speaking of potentially ruining flavors; I used to always season my stocks with a bit of salt and peppercorns (and I still do at times), but I’ve only recently learned that stocks aren’t really supposed to be seasoned with salt and pepper—Whaaaat? It might come as a surprise to those that usually reach for an overly salty stock cube, but, in a way it makes sense, I guess. Since a stock is often further reduced when using it in sauces, soups and dishes such as risotto, over-salting can become an issue. So, depending on what you are planning to use this fish stock for, I would suggest to season it only lightly (or not at all) and add more salt and pepper once cooking the final dish they are used in.

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Well, that’s it I suppose. If you thought making your own homemade fish stock was quite a large undertaking, I hope I’ve convinced you to make your own homemade, fresh fish stock in the future, rather than going for stock cubes, or avoiding it altogether. Fish stock tastes best when freshly made, but what you can do is to make some extra and store it in an airtight container in the freezer for about 3 months for future use.

Note: I’ve used seabass for this recipe, but you can replace this fish with almost any other large-ish white fish, for example: halibut, sole, flounder, or cod. Avoid using fatty oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, or trout for this recipe.


Simple Homemade Fish Stock

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  • GF
Simple, quick homemade fish stock
  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Prep Time:5 mins
  • Cook Time:30 mins
  • Freezable:Yes

Nutrition per portion

  • 1 tablespoon butter, or sunflower oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 small leek, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 4 parsley stalks+leaves (tiny bunch)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1.2kg – 1.5kg white fish heads and bones, gills removed (I’ve used seabass)
  • 150ml dry white wine (optional)
  • 3 liters water
  • Salt, to taste (optional)
  1. Clean the fish bones: Let the fish bones and heads soak in cold water for about 5 minutes. Rinse the fish bones and heads under cold, running water and remove the gills if there are any. Scrape as much blood from the inside of the heads and bones as possible. Rinse under cold water one more time.
  2. Lightly sweat the ingredients: In a large pot, heat up 1 tablespoon of butter, or sunflower oil. Add the thinly sliced onion, carrots, celery stick and leek. Sweat vegetables for about 5 minutes until they become soft, but not brown. Add the fish bones and heads and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Making the stock: If using, deglaze the pan with the dry white wine. Add the 3 liters of water (or more to completely cover the ingredients) and bring almost to a boil, skimming off the foam and scum when necessary. Simmer very gently for 30 minutes. If the ingredients aren’t covered by the water, add a little bit more to keep about the same amount of liquid as you started with.
  4. Steep and strain: Remove stock from the heat and let it slightly cool and steep for 10 minutes. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into another pot, or container. Discard solids.
  5. [optional] Season stock lightly with salt.
  6. To store: If you are not going to use the stock immediately, chill it as quickly as possible and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months (it will still be safe to eat after, but it will lose some of its taste).

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