Fish Stock

Home made fish stock is a liquid treasure to have in your freezer. It forms the base, the flavor enhancer, the distinguishing ingredient in Bouillabaisse, Mediterranean and Italian seafood soups, and in my recipe for Caldo Pescado with Chipotle Chile — fish soup with zingy smoked jalapeno chile. Mexican cooks are to be commended for using every part of the fish or animal — feet, ears, cheeks, you name it. In this spirit, we are glad to be able to use the trimmings from the fish market when we brought home fresh fillets today.

Fish Stock
makes about 5 cups

  • 2 lbs. (1 kilo) fish trimmings — head, tail and skeleton (fish frame), rinsed clean
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 or 4 large sprigs of parsely
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1 quart (about one liter) water
  • 1/4 (240 ml.) cup dry white wine

Place fish trimmings and next four ingredients (celery through lemon or lime juice) in a stock pot. Add just enough water to cover, pushing fish pieces below the water level. Add wine, cover pot and bring to a boil. As soon as a boil is reached, reduce to a gentle simmer and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, push pieces below liquid again, cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding solids.

Refrigerate stock immediately, leaving lid off container until stock is completely cool. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.


When buying fish, tell the fishmonger you want the trimmings, minus the gills,  for stock making. He can also chop the frame and split the head in half.

North of the border, at your fish counter or seafood store, ask for trimmings. Often, this will be free, whether you buy fillets or not. At a large supermarket, I once asked for trimmings and I was given two huge King Salmon heads at no charge. When poached and de-boned, there was a pound of wonderful salmon to turn into salmon croquettes. At another store, I was charged a dollar a pound for trimmings, which is still a good deal, as the flavor of stock is so superior to bottled clam juice. Salmon trimmings are not recommended for making fish stock, but they do yield tasty meat.

Ideal fish trimmings to use for stock are firm, white-fleshed fish that are very fresh. Oily fish should be avoided. Treat the trimmings as you would the fillets, keeping all very cold until ready to use.

Salt and pepper are not called for in this recipe, because you will be using this as an ingredient in another dish, such as a fish soup, which you will adjust for seasoning when it is completed.  If you wish, you can salt and pepper the stock to taste before refrigerating or freezing.

La Cruz Marina in front of the Fish Market
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2 thoughts on “Fish Stock

  1. Casey Storer

    This is a fantastic Idea !!
    I make stock from other meats never thought about FISH
    Stock is the magic in all sauces for me

    Hmmm Will have to start buying whole fish again

    1. Sometimes fish markets will give away, or charge very little, for fish trimmings — head, tail and bones. This makes an excellent stock that freezes very well. I once asked for fish trimmings, telling the vendor it was for stock. All he had to give me (no charge) were two, huge King salmon heads! I took them home, poached them in water and white wine, and got 1 pound of meat off the two heads. This made very good salmon croquettes. I don’t recommend salmon for stock. (This was at a Whole Foods, but don’t tell anyone :)

      Fish trimmings routinely go to waste in fish markets and are thrown out, because cooks would rather buy bottled clam juice when a recipe calls for fish stock, than make their own. Needless to say, homemade stock is superior to bottled clam juice.

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