Caldo pescado with chipotle chile — chipotle fish soup


If you only make one recipe from my entire blog, I hope it is Chipotle Caldo Pescado — Chipotle Fish Soup. This is my favorite way to prepare fish and my favorite soup, despite its unpretentious name. We enjoy this so much, that even in the midst of summer when the temperature could not get any hotter we eat this. That’s how good it is. Serve it with a green salad and a loaf of French bread, and you can impress your guests with a minimum of effort. Or just impress yourself with this easy, colorful, tasty soup.

Chipotle chiles are dry, smoked jalapeños. Canned, they come in a spicy adobo sauce. Mark Miller, in The Great Chile Book, claims that the flavor has hints of chocolate, tobacco and Brazil nuts. Hmmm … if you can taste this, let me know. But whatever the flavors, they are complex and addictive. And very hot. Use sparingly, but please don’t omit the chipotle. It is what gives Caldo Pescado its zip.

This is one recipe where it is important to follow the practice of mise en place — the French culinary term for having all of the ingredients measured and cut before you start cooking. This recipe comes together so quickly that you won’t have time to prepare ingredients once you heat your pan. Mise en place. Mise en place. My kitchen mantra.

Caldo Pescado — Chipotle Fish Soup
Serves 4
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup poblano pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 small zucchini or Mexican green squash
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup (240 ml.) chopped fresh tomato (about 3 med.) or canned tomato
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons canned chipotle chile with sauce (finely mince chile)
  • 2 cups (1/2 l.)  fish stock or bottled clam juice
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml.) dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 lbs. (680 grams) of boneless fish,  1″ (2.5 cm.) dice
  • generous pinch of dry thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dry Mexican oregano
  • salt to taste
  • minced cilantro for garnish
  • olive oil to finish


  1. Heat pan; sauté onion, bell pepper, poblano chile and squash in olive oil for 4 minutes.
  2. Add minced garlic and sauté 30 seconds longer, stirring.
  3. Add tomato, tomato paste and chipotle chile and cook two minutes more.
  4. Add fish stock, white wine, fish, thyme and oregano. Stir gently and simmer on a low heat for 2 minutes.
  5. Turn off burner, cover pot with lid, and let rest to finish cooking for 3 minutes, or until fish is cooked through.
  6. Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with a splash of  flavorful olive oil and a generous amount of chopped cilantro. Serve with thick, toasted slices of Mexican bolillos or French bread.

Today’s Free Tip: So often I needed a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, put the remainder in the fridge, and forgot about it until it had spoiled. Cook’s Illustrated suggests freezing a small can of tomato paste, removing the ends, and pushing out the frozen cylinder of paste. Keep it in a zip-lock bag in the freezer and slice off just the amount you need. This works great for cans of chipotle chile, also. Finally, no more wasted tomato paste in my  kitchen.


More ways to enjoy canned chipotle chile: blend into mayonnaise for a zippy sandwich spread; make compound butter with chipotle and adobo sauce, and use to top grilled steaks, chicken or fish; for a “picante” kick in any savory dish, reach for chipotle in adobo sauce, instead of Tabasco or Sriracha sauce

Homemade fish stock makes this soup special. You can use bottled clam juice, and it will be very good, but not the same.

For guidance on selecting sustainable fish species, refer to the Links at the top of this page for Monterey Bay Aquarium  or  past article on this blog, The Pescatarian’s Dilemma.

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14 thoughts on “Caldo pescado with chipotle chile — chipotle fish soup

  1. leon braun

    Dear kathleen,
    I usually don’t leave replies, but your recipe for the fish soup with chipotle was outstanding and gave me great pleasure that I had to thank you with a post. As you described in your blog, it was a complete delicious sensory experience.
    Thank you,

    1. Leon, I’m so glad to hear that you made the soup and enjoyed it. It still remains one of my favorite soups of all time. Recently, we made it with a little twist — grinding raw fish, herbs and onion in the food processor, forming balls (like meatballs), and dropping them in the simmering broth to cook. Very, very good.
      Thanks for your nice comment.

    1. I had a discussion with my chief taster, Russ, about your question. He reminded me that Chinese soups use chicken broth, with fish and other meats added, so he thought this might work. If you do use chicken broth, use a very good quality — preferably home made. And if you try this, be sure to let me know how it turned out.

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  3. Hi Kathleen, just made this for lunch, in the snowy, miserable 20-degree NYC weather.

    It was delicious! We didn’t buy enough fish for it (we used hake fish) and couldn’t find a poblano, so I reduced the liquid some. So good! Next time, I actually would probably double the amount of chipotles you used because I’m a nut for chipotle and have a high tolerance for spiciness.

    1. Hello Joy, and thank you for visiting! It is always nice to hear that someone actually makes one of my recipes, and doubly nice to know that it turned out well. I have made many versions of this soup, sometimes not having enough fish, sometimes forgetting I like it best with zucchini. But no one complains. You are a serious chile head if you can double the chipotle! Maybe it will add some warmth to your snowy weather. I hope so.

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  5. Chris Coen

    Where do you buy the aforementioned cans of tomato paste in Mexico? I live in Guadalajara and I never see tomato paste in cans for sale here like they have in the US.

  6. Hmmm, I wonder how Mexican oregano differs from Greek. I am going to check where I can get this Poblano pepper here in Berlin. This soup seems like it would be tasty and with such a great introduction “If you make one thing from my blog…” Well I’ve got to do it!

    1. Mexican oregano (Lippia berlandieri), is a different plant. True oregano (Origanum vulgare) is from the Mediterranean region. They each have their unique flavors. I would be surprised if you can find Mexican oregano in Germany, but if you don’t have it, Greek oregano will still make a very good fish soup. If you can’t find poblano chiles, any mild, green chile would make a good substitute, even green bell pepper. It is a wonderful soup, and I hope you try this recipe, even if you have to use substitutions.

  7. Kathleen, this soup looks great! If you ever have a problem with the herbs names´ translations, please feel free to look into my label ¨hierbas-huerta¨, I have a post with the words in Spanish and English,
    Best regards,

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