What Is French Bouillabaisse Soup?

Soup is one of the perfect dishes to warm yourself up in freezing winters. Every region, country, and ethnicity has its particular flavors and dishes associated with soup. One such very popular soup from France is the French Bouillabaisse soup- a fish soup made from a tomato base. Over the past few years, the French Bouillabaisse soup has become quite popular in different parts of the world. 

Where Does French Bouillabaisse Soup Originate From?

The French Bouillabaisse soup’s history is quite a long one as it dates back to the 1600s. French Bouillabaisse soup came to the world from the port city of Marseille, in France by the early 1600s. It has become a famous dish in France, and Michelin restaurants all over the world. 

This soup was made by fishermen on the port of Marseille, from bony shellfishes that got caught into their nets. These fishes couldn’t be sold to restaurants. The fishermen added the fish to a large pot of boiling water and used garlic and fennel as seasonings to make a broth. This was the start of the French Bouillabaisse soup.  In the 17th century, tomatoes were added to the recipe as well which gave it an even better taste. 

While this was originally a peasant dish, during the 19th century, restaurants started serving this dish to the public as a part of their menu. The amazing flavor meant that the French Bouillabaisse soup became popular very fast. Over time, the recipe has been adjusted to make it more expensive and refined. The addition of onions and leeks has become common as well.  

French Bouillabaisse soup is made by adding a combination of mussels, fish, and clams, to tomato and fish broth. Whole pieces of fish, aromatics, and vegetables are added to the tomato soup and are left to stew. Finally, all of this is strained out, and we are left with a thick, creamy, and hearty soup. 

Although the word “French Bouillabaisse” may be difficult to pronounce, the dish itself is surprisingly simple and tastes amazing. However, not everyone is a big fan of fish soups which is why only a handful of people like it, particularly, the french.

The Vieux-Port of Marseille, the birthplace of Bouillabaisse

How to Make French Bouillabaisse Soup?

You can make French Bouillabaisse soup in any home kitchen. It requires a bit of preparation, however, there are no fancy equipment, or cooking methods involved. All you need is a large quartz pot. Normally, chefs use a mixture of fishes that are flaky, and gelatinous. The flaky fish is served on the side, and the smaller, gelatinous fish disintegrates into the soup to make it creamy. 

The creamy texture of the soup comes from the fact that it is rapidly boiled. This pressure suspends tiny droplets of oil into the water. Gelatin from the fish used also helps. If you want to make the French Bouillabaisse soup at home, follow the recipe mentioned below. 


½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon saffron

1 tablespoon sea salt

1-inch orange peel (optional)


1 pound Mussels and Clams

1 pound fish (cod and snapper), cut into big pieces. 

1 pound shrimps

3-4 pounds of fish trimmings for the stock (available from any fish vendor or market)

Sea urchins (optional)


1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped leek

Two cups, chopped, or canned tomatoes



4 cloves garlic

Herbs (Fennel, Thyme, Parsley, Basil)


  1. Add oil to the pot you intend to make your stock in and warm up a bit. Add in your onion and leek, and cook them till they are softened. Combine in the garlic and wait for it to become fragrant. Finally, incorporate in your tomatoes, herbs, salt, and fish bones in about 2.5-liter water. You can also add shrimp shells to the broth. 
  2. Let the broth come to a boil, and then reduce the heat, so it is constantly bubbling. 
  3. Leave the broth to cook for about 30 minutes. 
  4. Once the broth is cooked, strain it into another pot. Discard all the solids in the stew. Transfer the strained broth back to the quartz pot, and bring it back to boil. 
  5. Add your shrimps first, and let them cook for a minute or two until they are pink. 
  6. Cut open your sea urchins, and remove the coral with a small spoon. The sea urchins go inside the broth. 
  7. Peel and chop your potatoes into smaller pieces. Boil them in salted water for about 10-15 minutes. 
  8. Taste the soup, and adjust the flavor as needed. 
  9. Serve the soup in a bowl, with the bread and rouille. The fish and potatoes are served on the side on a different plate. 

Making a French Bouillabaisse Soup is easy.

Things to Take Care of When Making French Bouillabaisse Soup

  • Don’t throw away the shrimp shells after removing them, these should go into the stock. 
  • You can make the stock up to 3 days before using it, this way you simply need to add the seafood the day you want to have it. However, the best way to consume French Bouillabaisse soup is to make it fresh and eat it there and then. The older it gets, the less tasty it will be.
  • Remove the beard from the mussels. This is a fibrous end that hangs out of them, which they use to attach themselves to things under the sea. This way they don’t get washed away by the tide. Let’s say you don’t want to get them in your mouth. 
  • While Michelin star restaurants usually make French Bouillabaisse with about 6 types of fish, you can use whatever is available to you. However, it is a great idea to try it once with every kind of fish and then find out the one that suits you the best. 
  • You can also add crustaceans, like crabs and lobsters to the soup. This is because when the dish originated in the 17th century, fishermen used to add these as well sometimes if they wanted a different taste of the soup.  
  • Traditionally, the seafood and the stew are served separately. This way the flaky fish doesn’t disintegrate into the broth. The soup is served with a slice of crusty bread, with a spicy mayonnaise called rouille. You will learn how to make this below. 
  • You can also serve the soup with pasta if you want to make it heartier. Other items you can serve the French Bouillabaisse soup include crackers, breadsticks, and biscuits. 

Suggested Reading – Common Onigiri Fillings


How to Make a Rouille?

The soup is served with a slice of crusty bread, which is meant to be used to wipe the bowl clean at the end. This crusty bread is accompanied by a red chili pepper, and bell pepper spread. This is called a Rouille and can be made easily at home with the simple recipe mentioned below. 


  • 1 roasted red bell paper
  • 1 roasted chili pepper. This can be substituted with cayenne powder. 
  • ½ tablespoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 peeled garlic clove


  • Make a puree out of everything in a food processor. Don’t add in the olive oil.
  • Slice your bread and brush with olive oil. 
  • Toast the bread, and spread the puree on top of it. 
  • Serve with the soup. 

The rouille sauce.

Nutritional Value

French Bouillabaisse is a very hearty soup. The seafood and tomato broth are rich in fats and calories. The fact that it is served with seafood, makes it even richer. This recipe gives you 996kcal energy, 10g carbohydrates, 44g fat, 496 mg cholesterol, 1524 IU vitamin A, 43 mg Vitamin C, 222 mg Calcium, and 6mg Iron. 

It is important to consider the nutritional value of this soup because many other types of soup such as chicken corn soup often contain high amounts of fat which is why they are not recommended. However, with fish being an important source of protein as well as various other kinds of multivitamins, the French Bouillabaisse soup is a healthy choice. 

There are many other healthy soups as well which you can try. One of them is the Cabbage Miso Soup. Read more about it here – Benefits of Cabbage Miso Soup


French Bouillabaisse soup is made from exotic fish and expensive seafood in Michelin star restaurants. However, the dish doesn’t need all of these. You can make this dish very easily at home, with whatever fish and seafood you have available. While the seafood is served separately, you can have it all in one bowl, if you don’t care for appearances. Serve the soup with a nice piece of toasted bread on the side, and enjoy!