California has some of the best seafood, from the oysters at Hog Island in San Francisco to the clams at San Diego’s Ironside Fish and Oyster. As a follow-up to my recent travels to San Diego, here’s a recipe for cioppino.

Despite it’s Italian-sounding name, cioppino is thought to originate in San Francisco when fishermen needed sustenance after a hard day’s work at sea. The fresh catches of the day would be cooked in a simple, hearty stew, and the leftover broth would get mopped up with crusty bread (specifically sourdough if you want to stick to San Franciscan customs).

Cioppino is simple yet elegant enough to serve on a special occasion. I once made it for my pops on his birthday since he always dreams of seafood stews.

Since the quality of the stew is largely determined by the freshness of the seafood, cioppino does not make for good leftovers. You can, however, make the broth ahead of time, and then obtain your fresh seafood and cook it in the reheated broth right before serving.

With colder weather around the corner, fisherman’s stew is a fantastic option as it’ll warm your body but not leave you feeling heavy. Happy cooking!

Recipe: Cioppino | Fisherman’s Stew

Notes: The seafood listed in the ingredients below are what I typically add in my cioppino but take them as mere suggestions. Add whatever you have fresh on hand: squid, lobster, Dungeness crab, snapper, halibut, and so on.


  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14 ozs) can whole tomatoes, crushed, or 6 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 c poultry stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red chile flakes or more to taste
  • 3/4 c dry white wine
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1/2 lb bay scallops
  • 8 to 12 clams
  • 8 to 12 mussels, cleaned & debearded
  • 4 ozs lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 lb cod fillets, cubed
  • Accompaniments (optional):

  • crusty bread, such as sourdough or French


  1. Cook base: In a stockpot over medium-low heat, melt butter and sauté onion and garlic until tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, chile flakes, wine, and 1/2 c water; season with salt & pepper. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30m.
  2. Cook seafood: Bring broth to boil and add shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, crabmeat, and cod; lower heat, cover, and simmer until clams and mussels open, approx 5 to 7m.
  3. Serve immediately with bread.

Active time: 30m
Total time: 1h
Yields: 6 servings

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Discussion about this post

  1. Diego Lopes says:

    This really does look delicious! Tho I love seafood, so I may be suspicious to judge these kind of recipes…

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