Provencal Seafood Bisque

The soup is particularly good served with crusty French or Italian loaf bread for dipping.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6


  • 3 slices of bacon, roughly chopped (can substitute olive oil or butter, 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 pound white fish fillets, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • A large pinch of saffron
  • 1 quart of shellfish stock, OR 16 ounces of clam juice plus 16 ounces of fish stock or water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt to taste


1 Cook the bacon on medium heat in a 6 to 8 quart pot until it is crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon. Set aside on a paper towel to use for garnish later.

2 Increase the heat to medium high and add the onions, celery and carrot. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Do not brown. Sprinkle some salt over everything as it cooks.

3 Add the fish, tomatoes and the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often.

4 Add the orange zest, cayenne and saffron, then pour in the shellfish stock or whatever stock you are using. In a pinch you could even use chicken or vegetable stock, but the flavor of the soup will be different. Simmer this gently – do not let it get to a rolling boil – for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5 Get another pot ready. Fill a blender a third of the way with the soup and blend it on high (starting on low then increasing to high) for 1 minute, or until it is well puréed. Work in batches to purée the rest of the soup. Pour the puréed soup into the clean pot.

6 Put the soup on medium-low heat and add the cream. Stir well and taste for salt, adding if needed. Do not let this boil! Or it might break.

Serve garnished with bacon bits or dill fronds, and alongside some crusty bread. A dry rose or light red wine would go well with this; I’d suggest a Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir.

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  • Deborah Frati

    So I just made this for a ladies’ luncheon. It seems a bit thin and weak. How can I correct this? More cream might thicken the bisque more but also dilute the flavor further. Perhaps I should top with some crab meat for richness?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Deborah, this bisque is very similar to a classic Provencal “Soupe de Poisson”. In that dish you sprinkle slices of baguette or French bread with Gruyere cheese, and then you toast them until the cheese is melted. You put a slice of toasted cheesy bread in each bowl and ladle the soup over the bread. I also suggest adding more salt to the soup until it tastes properly seasoned. Salt will help bring out all of the flavors of the soup. Finally, make sure your saffron is aromatic. If too old or not stored well, or not good quality, you won’t get much saffron flavor out of it.

  • Gwox

    Just added some hot smoked salmon to this dish and it seemed to lift the flavour looking forward to using the left over as a sauce over a grilled fish fillet, great recipe easy to follow. Thank Hank.

  • Robert

    How far in advance can I make the soup prior to serving it at a dinner party?

    • Elise

      Hi Robert, I think you can safely make this soup a day in advance.

  • Chrissa

    Just made this bisque – thank you for such a simple recipe which can be made after work! I flaked some fish in it as well for more texture – worked well.
    Looking forward to trying this technique but with prawns/shrimp instead

    • Elise

      I’m so glad you liked it Chrissa! Let us know how it goes if you try it with shrimp.

  • SeattleDee

    OMG, this was scrumptious. Just ‘cuz I love tweaking recipes, I added a finishing splash of pernod and topped the bisque with a scattering of fresh Dungeness chunks.

    Your recipe was a treat, but I’m really excited about the link to shellfish stock. My previous fish stock fiasco was not inspiring.


  • Terri

    It’s a hit! My hubby & I just finished this off and sure wish we had tried it earlier in the winter season! I used cod, clam juice as the base, and realized I didn’t have saffron. After pureeing, I added some shelled/deveined shrimp I had on hand. It was extremely good! We both loved the hint of orange zest & cayenne!
    I’ll be making this many times. I’m thinking this will be my new “gift” meal with crusty bread and a bottle of wine!

  • Joannenicole

    I know you’re not a sommalier, but what wine would you suggest with this? Your description of sitting down to this lovely bisque with a glass of wine and some crusty bread sounded absolutely divine.

    I’d recommend anything from a dry, Spanish or French rose to a white Cote du Rhone blend. You could do worse with a California Viognier, too. ~Hank

  • Brian

    Made this recipe last night. Ended up using a half pound of tilapia and a half pound of salad shrimp.

    I liked the soup, but thought that perhaps the orange was a little over powering. If I try it again, I think I’d start with the zest of 1/2 an orange.

    I definitely agree on the 30 minutes cooking time, add a bit for prepping the fist two waves of ingredients.

  • Bella

    Can this be made into a lobster bisque by replacing the white fish?

    But of course! ~Hank


    Do you know if saffron is easy to grow? Where do you get your saffron?

    I get my saffron from the store. It is extremely difficult to grow yourself – it is the stamen of a particular type of crocus flower. ~Hank

  • Morgan

    Looks delicious. How should the fish be prepared?

    Chopped roughly, tossed in the pot. ~Hank

  • Karen

    Can I turn this into a Shrimp Bisque by subbing an equal amount of shrimp? Good, fresh fish can be hard to find in my neighborhood. But good shrimp can be a bit easier. Eager to try this one as I have four quarts of the shellfish stock in the freezer just waiting for this recipe.

    I suppose. Give it a go! ~Hank

  • Keli

    Maybe I’m being dense, but how much fish do I use and when do I add it?

    When I read the introduction, I was really excited to read that some of the fish I cook with frequency here in Minnesota were actually listed by name instead of as simply “other mild white fish”. Walleye, sunnies and crappies (pronounced CRAW-pees) are fabulous fish with great flavor, but they are almost completely ignored when it comes to recipes outside of cookbooks dedicated to game, fishing or Midwestern recipes. Thanks Hank and Elise!

    I’ve fixed the recipe; fish goes in with the tomatoes and garlic. And I used to live in Minnesota, so I have lotsa love for walleyes, perch and crappies! ~Hank