One-Pot Mediterranean Fish Stew

(Zarzuela de Mariscos)

A large pot of Mediterranean Fish stew waits to be served

Mediterranean Fish stew (Zarzuela de Mariscos) is a quick and easy one-pot fish stew that embraces healthy Mediterranean ingredients. This recipe includes plenty of spices and fresh herbs, plus a generous serving of mussels and your white fish of choice. It comes together in under 45 minutes and serves 4-6 people. Be sure to read through the nitty gritty details for important cooking tips and ingredient purchasing advice!

Stews and Casseroles Recipe | One-Pot Recipe | Main Meal Recipe | Fall Recipe Mediterranean Recipe | Seafood Recipe | Stews and Casseroles | Made Under an Hour | Zarzuela de Mariscos | Midweek Dinner Option | White Fish Recipe | Mussels Recipe 

Serving:

Main for 6

Ready in:

45 minutes

Skill level:

Easy

Serve with:

Bread and wine

Ingredients for making Mediterranean fish stew (Zarzuela de Mariscos) are laid out on a wooden table

Ingredients you’ll need to make Mediterranean Fish Stew (Zarzuela de Mariscos)

serves 6

Ingredients

  • 28oz (800g) Fresh white fish (we used Hake and cod fillets)
  • 28oz (800g) Mussels (cleaned and beards removed)
  • ½ Cup Ground Almonds
  • ½ Cup Dry White Wine
  • 60ml Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 Cups (1 liter) Fish Stock 
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper (diced)
  • 1 Onion (diced)
  • ½ Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Large pinch of Saffron
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3 sticks of rosemary
  • 14oz (400g) canned tomatoes
  • 1-2 Lemons
  • ¼ Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley (optional for garnish)

Equipment needed

  • 1 medium-sized bowl for marinading the fish
  • 1 large 12-inch (30cm) pot with deep sides (4-6 inches in ideal)
  • Food processor (or mortar and pestle) for crushing the almonds 

 Watch step-by-step recipe video

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What is Mediterranean fish stew

You’ll find this classic fish stew recipe up and down the Mediterranean Sea with more than a few variations from one country to the next. Perhaps the most well-known version is the French fish stew called ‘bouillabaisse’ from Marseille. 

Spanish fish stew (Zarzuela de mariscos)

Here, in Spain, it’s called Zarzuela de mariscos and the Spanish version of this recipe has more of a focus on using locally sourced fish and a range of seafood including shrimp (gambas), mussels (mejillones), or clams (almejas). White fish varieties are most commonly used as the main ingredient, although smoked haddock or even salmon could be used. 

Fish stew broth

Another key flavor component of the Spanish Zarzuela de mariscos is the use of a rich tomato base as the broth. This fish stew broth is more like a sauce, and is similar to a sofrito sauce, that’s used extensively in Spanish and rice dishes found along the Mediterranean such as Fideua de marisco (seafood with noodles), and of course, the seafood paella (Paella mariscos). 

We’ve added a subtle hint of rosemary to this dish which pairs flavors perfectly with the rich tomato, onion, and garlic. If you’re looking for zesty alternative, use fresh cilantro, or parsley with lots of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. 

Does Mediterranean fish stew use only fish?

Nope, this recipe is very versatile and there’s absolutely no problem with adding a mixture of seafood to your fish stew. Along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, you’ll find this dish served with whatever is available seasonally. 

Depending on what seafood you use, the cooking time won’t vary much either! For this recipe, We’ve gone with two types of white fish (Cod and Hake), plus some fresh mussels

What seafood to use

For this recipe, we used a simple combination of white fish and some mussels. We used Hake (Meluza) and Codfish (Bacalao) as that’s locally sourced here in Spain.

Any white fish will work, but fish that are more flakey (like cod) work well as they don’t break apart too much in the stew. 

The beauty of this classic fish stew recipe is there really are no rules when it comes to what seafood to use. Clams work well, as do fresh uncooked shrimp. Using just large fish fillets also works perfectly well and allows for the soft flavors of the fish to stand out more. 

Fresh or frozen fish?

For best results, use the freshest seafood that is locally (and sustainably) sourced whenever you can. It’s always worth speaking to your local fishmonger to find what’s fresh and has come in that morning. Most supermarkets usually have a decent fish counter section these days, so be sure to ask the fishmonger for recommendations.

If you’re using frozen fish, then choose a white fish with large fillets. For this recipe, you can either thaw your fish before cooking with it, or you can add the fillets frozen and adjust the cooking time. If cooking from frozen, add around 6 minutes to the cooking time. 

Frozen fish can be thawed in the fridge overnight, or by leaving it unpackaged on the counter (at room temperature) for an hour. 

Frozen seafood

Frozen seafood can also be used. Scallops, shrimp, and clams are very easy to find frozen in supermarkets and work well in this fish stew. Fresh seafood will always taste better, so if you can source fresh seafood locally, it’s worth it!

Mussels and chunks of fish float in a broth made with Mediterranean fish stew

Preparing and cooking mussels 

If you buy your mussels from a supermarket, it’s likely they’ll come ‘cleaned’ in a little mesh bag. Once you get them home, you’ll need to carefully inspect each mussel before cooking.

  • Inspecting mussels: Any mussels that already have an open or damaged shell should be discarded. 
  • Cleaning mussels: Some mussels will already be cleaned, but you may still find that they have some seaweed or ‘beards’ that can be removed before cooking. The easiest way to remove any grit from shells it to use a clean kitchen sponge with a coarse scrub. Steel wool also works but be careful as it can easily scratch and damage the shells if you scrub too hard. 
  • Remove beards: This is the tricky part. The beard is the little bit of ‘fur’ that comes from the mussel between the two halves. The easiest way to remove it is to grab it with your fingers and wriggle it up and down the fold of mussel shells until it comes free. The beards can be quite stubborn (and slippery) so be sure to get a good grip. 

Cooking mussels: Mussels require a lot of hot steam to cook and open. Make sure your pot has plenty of liquid in it and cover the pot with a lid. It should take around 5 minutes on high heat for the mussel shells to open, although some may take a little longer. Discard any shells that have not opened before serving.

A large pot of Mediterranean fish stew sits beside some sliced bread and some lemons

Best fish stock to use

For best results, make homemade fish stock in advance. It uses just a few easy-to-find ingredients and only takes around an hour. Of course, you can always use store-bought fish stock if you’re short on time. 

Homemade fish stock

Homemade fish stock can easily be left to bubble away on the stove while you prepare other things. When purchasing your fish, ask your fishmonger to keep the head, bones, and skin in a separate bag. You can also use the heads and peel from shrimp if you’re using those. 

Here’s what you’ll need;

  • 1kg fish bones (head, skin, spine, shrimp heads, etc..)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • Handful of fresh parsley (with stalks)
  • 1-2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 250ml white wine

How to make homemade fish stock

  • On medium-high heat add the olive oil, onion, garlic, and fish bones. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Add around 1 liter of water plus the herbs and white wine. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let everything simmer (uncovered) for around 30-40 minutes (the longer the better). 
  • Remove from the heat and strain. Retain the liquid (stock) and discard the rest. 
  • Homemade fish stock can be frozen and will keep up to 3 months.
A large pot of Mediterranean Fish stew waits to be served

How to bulk up your fish stew

Looking for a quick and easy way to bulk up this fish stew recipe? Simply add your favorite choice of root veg once the sauce and broth have been made.

Some inch-cubed potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, or even turnips work well, and help fill out this already tasty meal! 

Storage and freezing Fish stew

  • As this dish contains fresh seafood, it’s best to consume it straight after cooking. This recipe is so good that we doubt you’ll have any leftovers! If you do, store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours. 
  • It is not recommended to freeze fish stew as it will lose its consistency and flavor once frozen and thawed. 
A pot of Mediterranean fish stew Zarzuela de Mariscos with mussels and fish in a broth

One-Pot Mediterranean Fish Stew (Zarzuela de Mariscos)

Byron
Mediterranean Fish stew (Zarzuela de Mariscos) is a quick and easy one-pot fish stew that embraces healthy Mediterranean ingredients. This recipe includes plenty of spices and fresh herbs, plus a generous serving of mussels and your white fish of choice. It comes together in under 45 minutes and serves 6 people. Be sure to read through the nitty gritty details for important cooking tips and ingredient purchasing advice!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course dinner, Main Course, seafood
Cuisine Authentic Spanish recipe, Mediterranean, Seafood, Spain
Servings 6 people
Calories 423 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 large pot with lid (12-inch / 30cm) with deep sides (4-6 inches)
  • 1 medium bowl for marinating the fish

Ingredients

  • 28 oz 800g Fresh white fish (we used Hake and cod fillets)
  • 28 oz 800g Mussels (cleaned and beards removed)
  • ½ Cup Ground Almonds
  • ½ Cup Dry White Wine
  • 60 ml Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 Cups 1 liter Fish Stock
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper diced
  • 1 Onion diced
  • ½ Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • Large pinch of Saffron
  • 6 Cloves Garlic minced
  • 3 sticks of rosemary
  • 14 oz 400g canned tomatoes
  • 1-2 Lemons
  • ¼ Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley optional for garnish
  • 1 tsp Cumin

Instructions
 

Step 1 - Marinade the fish

  • Start off by preparing a marinade for your fish. First cut your fish fillets into large chunks (around 1-2 inches is ideal) and place them in a bowl.
    28 oz 800g Fresh white fish (we used Hake and cod fillets)
    some pieces of white fish sitting on a plate
  • Add the sherry vinegar, some finely chopped rosemary, cumin, some salt, and cracked black pepper. Give everything a mix and set it aside.
    60 ml Sherry vinegar, ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, ½ Teaspoon Sea Salt, ½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper, 3 sticks of rosemary, 1 tsp Cumin
    Spices for fish marinade sit on a table
  • In a small glass add the white wine and saffron threads. Set aside to allow the threads to bloom. We’ll use these later.
    ½ Cup Dry White Wine, Large pinch of Saffron
    A few threads of saffron sit soaking in some white wine

Step 2 - Prepare the broth

  • In a large pot, add the olive oil and diced onion and cook on medium-high heat until the onions are golden. Reduce the heat medium, add the garlic and strips of red bell pepper and let it cook until the vegetable soften.
    1 Red Bell Pepper, 1 Onion, 6 Cloves Garlic, ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    some onion garlic and red pepper simmer in a large pot
  • Add the large tin of tomato, bay leaves, sweet paprika, and a stick of rosemary. Give everything a stir and simmer for 10 minutes.
    4 Bay Leaves, 3 sticks of rosemary, 14 oz 400g canned tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
    tomato bay leaves and a stick of romesmary simmer on top of a rich red sauce
  • Add the crushed almonds and season to taste. Allow to simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally.
    ½ Cup Ground Almonds
    Some ground almonds in a food processor
  • Once the broth is cooked, it will be very fragrant and still quite lumpy. If you want an even consistency, remove the broth from the heat and allow it to cool before blending with a hand blender.

Step 3 - Add your fish and seafood

  • First, add the stock, white wine and saffron threads and mix well with the sauce. Next, add the fish and submerge it into the sauce, then add the mussels on top. (note: If you’re using frozen fish, allow 5 minutes extra cooking time before adding the mussels).
    4 Cups 1 liter Fish Stock, 28 oz 800g Mussels (cleaned and beards removed)
    Fillets of cod and hake are added to the sofrito sauce
  • Add a stick of rosemary on top, cover, and simmer on high heat for 5 minutes or until the mussels open. (discard any mussels that haven't opened before serving).
    Mussels and chunks of fish float in a broth made with Mediterranean fish stew

Step 4 - To serve

  • Right before serving, squeeze the juice from 1 lemon.
    1-2 Lemons
    A large pot of Mediterranean fish stew sits beside some sliced bread and some lemons
  • Spoon into serving bowls and dust with some sweet paprika and a little more chopped parsley (optional).
    ¼ Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
    A large pot of Mediterranean Fish stew waits to be served

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 200gCalories: 423kcalCarbohydrates: 17.2gProtein: 45.9gFat: 18.3gSaturated Fat: 2.5gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 869mgPotassium: 1011mgFiber: 3.7gSugar: 4.5gCalcium: 105mgIron: 7mg
Keyword Dinner party, Easy Dinner ideas, mediterranean, mediterranean cuisine, mediterranean soup, mussels, one-pot, one-pot recipe, seafood, Seafood Stew, Stew, White fish

Cooking Tips and FAQs 

How long does Mediterranean Fish Stew take to make?

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
  • Total time: 45-55 minutes

Why use homemade fish stock?

Making your own fish stock is quick and very easy to do and will have more flavor than store-bought varieties. You can easily make fish stock using the leftovers (fish heads, shrimp heads, shells) from your fish stew ingredients. 

Can frozen fish be used to make fish stew?

Yes, frozen fish is totally fine to use to make fish stew. You don’t need to thaw the fish, simply add 5-6 minutes of cooking time. 

What seafood works best in fish stew?

Raw shrimp, mussels, and clams all work great alongside white fish for a full-flavored fish stew. 

Is Fish stew spicy?

Nope, not at all. This fish stew recipe has no spice (or heat). The rich tomato sauce base has no spice element to it and only uses canned tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Spices can easily be added to this recipe with 1-2 teaspoons of chili powder or crushed chili flakes.

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