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Homemade Fish Stock


Staff member
Dec 14, 2023
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There are two types of people: those who make stock all the time and don’t need or want someone else to tell them how to do it, and those who are intimidated by the process and never start in the first place. The other day, when writing my Blue Crab and Chipotle Bisque recipe, I realized that simply calling for fish stock was a little mean to the latter group, since they might not have some fish stock handy. Honestly, it was a little negligent of me to have this blog for over four years and not post a fish stock guide – after all, what if it was the only thing stopping you from making my delicious Brudet recipe?

One thing in particular I like about fish stock is that it’s surprisingly cheap to make. For example, most fish markets will give you their unused fish heads for free or super cheap. Additionally, I find that the best herbs for making stock are actually the stems of fresh herbs, which means you can save the actual herbs for other cooking creations. Fish stock keeps well in the freezer; we tend to divide the stock into pint jars and leave them in the freezer until we need them. We often use it to whip up a quick fish-based soup, or to add to risotto or fish curries.


Homemade Fish Stock​

  • Servings: ~12 cups (3 quarts)
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

2-3 lbs non-oily fish heads and/or bones, gills removed (see note below)
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 handfull dill stems
1 handfull parsley stems
4 bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 cup white wine

1. Prep your fish head(s) by removing the gills with a pair of kitchen shears. The gills will be attached to the head on each end; I like to cut the gills right at the joint where they attach. Discard the gills (they give the broth a bad color and an off-tasting flavor).

2. In a large stockpot, warm the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened, about 4 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients (minus the wine). Saute until aromatic, about 1 minute, then add the wine; simmer until the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the fish head(s) and enough water to cover the fish by 1″. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. You want a very low simmer – it should only bubble slightly. Simmer for 45 minutes, then strain through four layers of cheesecloth. Divide into jars and use within two weeks, or freeze and use within a few months.

** The best fish for stock are mild, non-oily fish, like cod, halibut, rockfish, or flounder. It’s best to avoid fish like salmon, mackerel, or trout.


Half a rockfish head, with its gills removed.

Other uses for fish stock:

Seafood Stew (Virginia is for Hunter-Gatherers)
Ginger and Lime Fish Soup (Things my Belly Likes)
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