Cioppino (pronounced chuh-PEE-noh) originated in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco where Italian immigrant fishermen would prepare it on their boats while they were out fishing.

Fresh off the boat

Recipes differ greatly depending on the catch of the day, but they almost always include Dungeness crab, which is abundant in the Bay area. For ease I prefer to use crab claws or legs, or sometimes none at all.

In my cioppino you’ll always find large shrimp (U-15, which just means there are about 15 shrimp to a pound), sea scallops (make sure you pick ones that don’t have any water or chemical additives), and small clams. Very often I add green-lipped mussels and some kind of white fish that is fresh, and is listed as a safe, sustainable option.

Make more than enough

I love this soup with a crusty baguette and butter on a cold day. I always make enough for 12 even though there are only two of us. It’s a great dish for leftovers and easy for hungry kids to heat up.

San Francisco Style Cioppino or Fish Stew


For more information on sustainable choices for fish, check Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide.

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 quart chicken or fish stock
  • 1 large can whole plum tomatoes with juice
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced (reserve some zest for garnish)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound white fish, halibut, or sea bass, cut into large pieces
  • 1 pound small clams, washed
  • ½ pound calamari, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound Dungeness crab, cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces, shell on
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • red pepper flakes, optional
  • lemon wedges


  1. Heat oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or slow cooker insert over medium heat. When butter has melted, add onion, celery, and carrots; sauté until translucent. Add garlic and stir briefly, do not brown.
  2. Add wine, stock, tomatoes with juice, herbs, half the lemon zest, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes in a Dutch oven or 6 hours on low in a slow cooker.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to Dutch oven 10 minutes before serving, or 30 minutes before serving if using a slow cooker. Cook and simmer, do not boil. Add parsley, reserved lemon zest, and lemon juice to taste just before serving.

Best enjoyed with a loaf of crusty San Francisco-style sourdough bread, real butter, and a glass of hearty red wine.