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How to Make Fish Broth That Doesn’t Taste Fishy (Plus Recipe for Cioppino)

Fish Bone Broth

This is a guest post from Craig Fear of Fearless Eating.

Nothing quite stirs my soul like the taste of the sea in the form of soups made with fish broth. With each succulent slurp I feel a deep connection to the coastal places I’ve lived and visited.

And yet, I know that statement sends shivers of fishy horror down many peoples’ spines.

I can hear the collective voice of fish haters everywhere…

Fish broth?! Blech!

As a Nutritional Therapist I am constantly reminded how off-putting anything fish-related is to many people. Many of my clients refuse to eat any type of fish or seafood. They just haaaaaate it. Some of my family members are the same way.

As a seafood lover I can only think of one possible reason to explain this strange phenomenon:

Because so many of us grew up eating icky fishy things like frozen fish sticks and god forbid, filet o’ fish sandwiches, it has created a negative connotation to anything fish-related.

But REAL fish broth should NOT taste fishy!

Made the right way, fish broth should only have subtle hints of fish essence in the broth and be balanced by the flavors of vegetables, herbs, spices, and wine.

Why Your Fish Broth Tastes Fishy

Now that being said, maybe you’ve made fish broth before and it did in fact come out overly fishy. Truth be told, for several years I also made some pretty gross fish broth. And the reason for that may shock some of you in the traditional food community…

I was following Sally Fallon’s recipe in Nourishing Traditions.



Yes, I know. Many consider Nourishing Traditions the bible of all things traditional food. But seriously, have you ever tried the fish broth recipe in Nourishing Traditions?

It’s pretty gross.

Cooking salmon fish broth with a vegetables

Because similar to the broths for chicken and beef, she calls for an extended simmer time of up to 24 hours.

Well, unlike the more stable fats in land animals, fish contains very delicate, unstable polyunsaturated fats that are highly susceptible to heat. Cooking fish for 24 hours is going to break down those fats and make them rancid, giving you a VERY fishy and overly bitter tasting broth.

But there’s good news here….

Two Awesome Reasons to Start Making Fish Broth

First, all you need is an hour to make fish broth….at most. THAT’S IT! Every source I’ve come across outside of Nourishing Traditions cautions against simmering fish bones for longer than an hour.

With the significantly shorter simmer time, the fats release their flavors into the broth without going rancid. It gives the broth a very delicate fish flavor without being overly fishy. Along with some veggies, herbs and wine, it’s absolutely deeeeeeelicious.

Second, fish broth is the cheapest broth to make!

By far.

In fact, you can often get fish bones for free. Just ask your local fishmonger to save some fish carcasses for you. At most they’ll charge you a few bucks. And they’d be thrilled to do it because after they filet the fish, they just throw them out. What a waste!

There are many ways to make real food affordable. Adding fish broth to your kitchen repertoire is one of the best ways to do it.

So let’s learn how to do it.

How to Make a Delicious Non-Fishy Fish Broth

Make sure you use the carcasses from non-oily whitefish such as cod, sole, snapper, haddock and hake. Any non-oily fish works fine. Avoid oily fish like salmon, tuna, herring and swordfish (though their flesh works great in chowders and other fish-based soups).

Also, if possible, try to get some fish heads in addition to the carcasses. Generally speaking, you probably won’t get much gelatin (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!) from just fish carcasses. But the gelatin-rich fish heads, prized throughout Asia, are another story. Note from Katie: hopefully we can all “get over” using fish heads, much like I got over using chicken feet in my bone broth!

Finally, as opposed to other types of bone broths, be sure to dice the veggies fine. This allows them to release their flavors more efficiently with the shorter cooking time.

Here’s my simple 5-step recipe with the optional use of fish heads:

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Fish Bone Broth

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.7 from 3 reviews
  • Author: Craig Fear
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 mins
  • Yield: 4 quarts 1x


Units Scale
  • 12 non-oily fish carcasses from cod, sole, haddock, hake, etc.
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • Vegetables, diced fine – 1 onion, 1-2 carrots, 1-2 celery
  • 1 c. dry white wine, optional
  • Herbs, optional – 3-4 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 -1 tsp. peppercorns
  • Cold, filtered water, to cover

For extra gelatin (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!) (optional)

  • 12 fish heads, gills removed

ship kroger


  1. Simmer veggies in butter over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes. Place fish carcasses, fish heads (if using), herbs and peppercorns over veggies, cover and simmer 5-10 more minutes. This will stimulate the fish to release their flavors before adding the water.
  2. Add wine (if using) and water to cover the carcasses and bring to a simmer and skim scum that forms on the surface. The scum won’t hurt you! It’s just some impurities that get released. This happens in all types of bone broths.
  3. Simmer gently 45-60 minutes.
  4. Strain broth from carcasses and veggies or use a fish spatula to scoop out solids.
  5. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Freeze whatever you won’t use within that time.

  • Need a little help getting healthy food on the table every day? Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type, including GAPS, Paleo, AIP, Whole30, vegetarian and more! You remain totally in control: use your own recipes, accept theirs, and teach the system what your family likes…Check out how powerful it is here!

Looking for more help with bone broths? Check out my eCourse How to Make Bone Broth 101. Perfect for those new to broths or new to diets like GAPS where you need to make and consume a lot of nourishing broths.


A Sample Recipe from Fearless Broths and Soups

OK, so now you have some fish broth.

Now what?

Well the simplest way is to make some fish broth-based soups and stews! A great place to start is by making a very basic cioppino.

Cioppino is an Italian fish stew that originated in San Francisco. It combines a variety of seafood in a tomato-based fish broth. Its straightforward simplicity and variability is what I love about it.

Basically, take whatever seafood you want and simmer it in a simple base of fish broth, wine, tomatoes and herbs. It’s really that easy. And totally addictive. Throw in a mid-summer ocean-side setting, a sunset, good friends and family and a bottle of wine (or three) for the ultimate cioppino experience. For me, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Fish Bone Broth

Below is the simple 3-step recipe from my new book, Fearless Broths and Soups. It’s not set in stone. As with all the recipes in the book, I encourage you to improvise and find what you like. Ingredient amounts are adjustable to your personal tastes. Sub whatever seafood you want – lobster, scallops, other types of clams, crab, other types of fish, squid, etc. Needless to say, the fresher the seafood, the better.

So don’t use frozen fish sticks! wlEmoticon-winkingsmile.png

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Basic Cioppino

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.7 from 3 reviews
  • Author: Craig Fear
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 50 mins
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x


Printed with permission from Fearless Broths and Soups.


Units Scale
  • 1 qt. fish broth
  • 1/21 . dry red wine
  • 1/21 lb. mussels and/or steamer clams
  • 1/21 lb. shrimp, removed from shells
  • 1/21 lb. white fish, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 36 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 28oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 45 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 510 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 24 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
  • 24 Tbs. fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

ship kroger


  1. Heat olive oil (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!) in a stockpot over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic until softened and fragrant about 5 minutes.
  2. Add wine, fish broth, tomatoes, tomato paste (in glass jars, no BPA!) and herbs. Bring to a boil then turn down heat and simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the mussels and/or steamers and simmer until the shells open, about 4-5 minutes. Next, add the shrimp and white fish and simmer until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Top with parsley and basil and add salt (Use the code kitchenstewardship for 15% off of your first purchase) and pepper to taste.

Learn to Make More Soups from the Sea

Fearless Broths and Soups cover

Cioppino is just the tip of the iceberg! There are SO MANY simple fish broth-based soups and stews you can easily make at home. If you’re new to making fish broth, my new book, Fearless Broths and Soups: Ditch the Boxes and Cans with 60 Simple Recipes for Real People on Real Budgets, has an entire chapter devoted to fish broth-based soups which I call “Soups from the Sea.” And just like the cioppino recipe above, all of the recipes are broken down into 3 simple steps. It also includes:

  • Basic Bouillabaisse
  • New England Clam Chowder
  • New England-Portuguese Clam Boil Soup
  • Spicy Cilantro-Lime Seafood Soup
  • Simple Asian Seafood Soup
  • Thai Coconut Green Curry Seafood Soup
  • Thai Hot and Sour Seafood Soup
  • Mango-Coconut-Curry Mussels Soup
  • Mohinga (a Burmese noodle soup which is the absolute BOMB!)

There are also dozens more broth and soup recipes that use more standard broths like chicken and beef. With chapters on Asian noodle soups, creamy vegetable soups, simple sausage and meatball soups and simple broth-based breakfast recipes for those rushed AM hours, there’s a little something for everyone.

You can find Fearless Broths and Soups right here on Amazon.

It was a joy to write this guest post and share my love of fish broth! I hope I’ve inspired some of you ardent seafood haters to give real fish broth a chance. And I hope I’ve inspired many of you real foodies to add fish broth to your bone broth repertoire.

Have you made fish broth before? If not, are you ready to try?
How to Make Fish Broth
head shot
Craig Fear is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP). He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts where he works with clients with digestive health issues. He started his blog, Fearless Eating, in 2011 and wrote his first book, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, in 2013. To complement his new book, Fearless Broths and Soups, Craig created an online video e-course for bone broth-making newbies called How to Make Bone Broth 101.
Craig’s other interests include hiking, playing his guitar, travel, and rooting for his beloved New York Giants. He also loves coffee and claims to be only mildly addicted to it.
You can connect with Craig over on his blog, Fearless Eating, on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

9 thoughts on “How to Make Fish Broth That Doesn’t Taste Fishy (Plus Recipe for Cioppino)”

  1. Since I am intolerant of most vegetable,among numerous other things, will this work without the veggies, wine and peppercorns?The only vegetable I can eat now is spinach. Also, can I substitute coconut oil, ’cause I can’t use butter?

    1. Hi gee,
      Coconut oil can certainly sub for butter, but I’m not sure about cutting allll those other things. I mean – you’ll still get the health benefits of the bone broth, but the flavor obviously will change a lot so maybe it will be fishy?

      1. ty for your help. i tried it. it came out ok. i wouldnt say it was delicous but it wasnt disgusting. so thats a positive. and surprisingly my kitchen did not smell like fish. i will be making this again. thanks

  2. Jasmine Wiest

    REALLY wish I had seen this oh I dunno like earlier today when I started my stock! Any way to remedy it you think? I did do Sally’s recipe…well sort of. I CERTAINLY don’t plan on cooking it that long. I should add I’m using prawn shells, lobster shells, leftover mushroom bits and some cheekbones. Forgot to ask the butcher if they had carcasses on hand. Such a bummer bc the gelatin is my favorite part of all my broths! Oy, the house smells super fishy. I hope this ends up being yummier than you all are suggesting. I did add a couple of bay leaves. Of all the rest of the ingredients its all I have on hand. I will in the future totally try this though. Especially with the inheritance dwindling, its hard to fork over what they’re asking for marrow bones these days!

      1. Jasmine Wiest

        It ended up OK. Still a bit on the fishy side, but I CAN taste the peppercorns and the wine which I like. I’m thinking of making it into an Udon noodle soup. Having a hard time eating just as is like I normally do with my broths. I do so miss the gelatin a nice fish head would have imparted. But now I’m omw to thinking of a nice pork and ck compound stock (considering I have leftovers of both bones in the freezer right now!). Since one of Sally’s cowriters is Jewish they never include a non-kosher pork stock. Any tips there? Do you happen to have a recipe? I have used a trotter before for the gelatin which works nicely. The neck works ok as well, but really i get the most gelatin from ck feet, hands down!

  3. This is great news! One of the FIRST things I did after receiving my copy of Nourishing Traditions ~ 8 years ago was to go straight for the fish broth and not only was it terrible, it made the whole house stink and I completely gave up. I LOVE seafood; who knows how long I might have gone without trying again. Looking forward to trying these recipes very soon!

  4. Quinton @ Southern Food Lovin'

    Okay this is something that I have been looking into and I am so glad I saw this post. I have been looking at different broths lately and the benefit of each, and one was a fish broth. I will be trying this soon. Thank you

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