International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Cioppino (American West Coast fish and seafood stew)

(American West Coast fish and seafood stew)

Image Creative Commons by Kelly Sue

Average: 4.3 (7 votes)

This tomatoey fish stew is perhaps the iconic San Francisco dish. Italian fishmongers in North Beach developed a flavorful broth studded with the best of the day's catch. The name most likely comes from the Italian dialect word ciuppin, for "to chop." But at Fisherman's Wharf, a favorite story you hear is that Italian cooks would ask fishermen to "chip in" to that day's pot.

6 to 8 servings


  • Firm white fish fillets -- 2 pounds
  • Cooked dungeness crab -- 1 (2-pound)
  • Clams or mussels -- 1 1/2 pounds
  • Shrimp -- 1 pound
  • Olive oil -- 1/4 cup
  • Onions, chopped -- 2
  • Garlic, minced -- 3 to 4 cloves
  • Crushed tomatoes -- 1 (28-ounce) can
  • Red or white wine -- 1 cup
  • Fish or shellfish stock, or clam juice -- 3 cups
  • Parsley, chopped -- 1/4 cup
  • Basil, chopped -- 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste


  1. Cut the fish fillets into bite-sized chunks. Clean the crab, remove its legs and crack them with a nutcracker to allow easy access to the meat. Break the body into halves or quarters. Scrub the clams or mussels clean under running water and debeard the mussels. Peel and devein the shrimp. Set all the seafood aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high flame. Add the onion and saute until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes and wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half in volume. Add the stock or clam juice, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the fish and shrimp and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes. Next add the crab and clams or mussels, pushing them down into the soup a little. Cover the pot and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the clams or mussels are steamed open and cooked through.
  5. Scoop the stew into large bowls, garnish with a little chopped parsley and serve with thick slices of sourdough bread. It's best to have a side plate for each diner to hold empty shells.

Cioppino Variations

  • Fish and Seafood: most versions of cioppino contain a mix of fish, crab and shellfish. Halibut is a favorite fish, but you can use cod, snapper or even salmon. For the crab, you can substitute a cooked lobster or 1 cup of cooked, flaked crabmeat. Squid and scallops are great additions too.
  • Broth: Saute some chopped celery or bell peppers with the onion if you like. A dash of Worcestershire or hot pepper sauce sometimes adds extra flavor. You can make a quick, if weak, seafood stock by simmering the shrimp shells in 3 cups of water for about 20 minutes. Strain before using.
  • Local dungeness crab is used for cioppino in San Francisco. Its prime catching season in winter makes cioppino a favorite Christmas dish there.
  • Try serving cioppino over spaghetti or linguine.


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