Ever felt intimidated by making seafood stock from scratch? It’s much easier than you think – and so delicious!
Seafood stock is a super flavorful and easy way to bolster up your seafood soups and stews! It’s also a great no-waste option for using up seafood shells and vegetable scraps. I love using homemade stock in my crab stew recipe.
You can collect the scraps in your freezer from time to time as you’re preparing dinners, then use the scraps to build up a robust stock. Cool, right?
What is Seafood Stock?
Seafood stock is made from a mixture of water and/or broth infused with seafood shells or bones (carcasses), vegetables, and aromatics. Here, I toast the shells in a pan to bring out their flavors. The shells then simmer in a liquid with vegetables until the stock turns a deep golden-brown color.
Homemade Seafood Stock Is Super Easy and Delicious
What makes this recipe special?
- This seafood stock is made in a single pot and is very hands-off! No need to roast the seafood shells or vegetables separately. It yields 2 cups so it’s a perfect small batch option.
- My method is very flexible, depending on what you have! I’ve used crab shells, shrimp shells, and a mix of both and they all yield delicious results. You can even add in some fish bones if you have them.
- The stock comes together in just twenty minutes of simmering.
Where to Purchase Seafood Shells and Bones
Like I said, you can use a mix of seafood shells and bones for this stew. You may be wondering where to buy seafood shells. There are two methods of “prepping” for this recipe.
- If you prepare seafood often, you can proactively freeze leftover shrimp shells, crab shells, and fish bones as you cook with them. Simply store the shells in a sealed ziploc bag in the freezer for 1 to 2 months. This method also works with vegetable scraps! Store anything from carrot peels to onion peels to fennel fronds in a sealed ziploc bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Make sure everything is washed and cleaned before storing!
- This second option assumes you don’t have much prep time. Let’s say you’re looking to prepare a seafood risotto over the weekend, and you need seafood stock — or maybe you want to prepare something later tonight. In this case, I recommend purchasing shrimp (in their shells) or pre-cooked shell-on crab. You can also ask your fishmonger if they have any fish bones available. Don’t be afraid of asking questions; I’ve had great experiences with my fishmongers. They love helping and providing suggestions!
Where to purchase crab
The easiest way to source crab shells is to purchase pre-cooked crab legs in their shells. Live crabs require some skill to cook and clean, so I highly suggest purchasing the pre-cooked variety unless you’re already comfortable cooking them.
At the supermarket
The easiest place to find crab is usually at your local supermarket – it’s also likely to be the most affordable. You can usually find them in the frozen seafood section of the grocery store labeled “Pre-Cooked and Frozen Crab Legs.” Depending on your location and availability, you might see anything from Giant Alaskan King Crab Legs to Snow Crab Clusters to Dungeness Crab.
From your local fish market/fishmonger
If you have a particular fish market you like to go to, call them up and ask about their availability.
Where to purchase shrimp
Make sure to purchase shell-on shrimp so that you can use the shells here! I typically purchase a large bag of frozen wild shrimp to keep in the freezer. If you’re planning on making the seafood stock in a few hours, make sure to buy thawed shrimp from the seafood counter.
Where to purchase fish bones
Contact your local fishmonger to see if they have any fish bones available. You can also check the seafood counter at your grocery store. Alternatively, if you enjoy cooking whole fish often, you can save and freeze the carcasses for stock.
This stock contains a variety of seafood shells and aromatics. Let’s talk through each one.
- Seafood shells and bones
- Aromatics: Garlic peels, onion peels, carrot peels, and fennel fronds provide lots of allium flavor and sweetness. If you don’t have fennel, use celery instead. A bell pepper would be great too, depending on what you like to use the stock for. You’re welcome to use chopped up onion, garlic, carrot, etc. in addition to the scraps — it’ll add even more complexity to the stock!
- Herbs and Spices: I typically use dill or parsley, as well as a bay leaf. Black peppercorns are a classic flavoring in stocks. If I’m looking for a super jazzed up stock, I might add some smoky paprika or cumin powder if I’m making a Spanish or Indian stew.
- Clam juice: I like to start the seafood stock with clam juice, just to provide additional flavor. You can also use white wine instead — just make sure to reduce the wine and boil off any of the alcohol flavor!
How to Make This Small-Batch Seafood Stock
Making this stock could not be easier! Let’s walk through each step.
- Saute the scraps
In a medium dutch oven set over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the crab shells, garlic peels, onion peels, carrot peels, fennel and dill stems, bay leaf, and peppercorns, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, or until everything is nicely golden-brown and aromatic.
- Add the liquids (if using clam juice)
Add the clam juice and water to the pot and bring to a boil. Skim off any scum on the surface, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the liquids (if using wine)
If using wine, add the wine first, then bring to a boil and allow it to reduce by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Once the alcohol smell has dissipated, add the water and simmer the stock for 20 minutes.
- Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the solids.
- After straining, you should be left with abou 2 cups of a beautiful orange-hued stock! Season if desired.
Storage Instructions for Seafood Stock
Homemade seafood stock will last 3 to 4 days in the fridge. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container or ziploc bag for up to 2 months.
Crab stock has a subtle sweetness and a slightly more intense “crab” flavor. Shrimp stock is milder, but still has a nice shrimpy flavor and savory taste.
You can omit the vegetables and simply simmer the shells with water and clam juice for a lighter stock!
You can pre-roast the vegetables before simmering them in the liquid for a deeper flavored stock! You can also simmer the stock for 30 minutes – keep in mind that you don’t want to overeduce it, or it can be too intensely flavored.
This totally depends on what you plan to use the stock for. If you’re going to add it directly to a stew or soup, I like adding a bit of seasoning. If you’re not quite sure what you’re going to use it for, I recommend keeping it unseasoned!
Yep, you can! Keep in mind, the simmering time will increase, but it will likely not double. I haven’t tested this myself, so I don’t have exact times for larger proportions.
Did you try this recipe? I would love to hear your feedback! Be sure to rate the recipe and leave a comment below.
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Seafood Stock Recipe
- Fine mesh sieve for straining the stock
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces crab shells or shrimp shells, fish bones work too!
- 1 small onion, or peels from 1 onion
- 1 small carrot, or peels from 1 carrot
- 1 small fennel bulb, or fennel fronds and stalk
- 4 cloves garlic, or peels from 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup fresh dill, or fresh flat-leaf parsley | stems included
- 1/8 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup clam juice, or white wine
- 2 cups water
- Salt, optional
Prepare the ingredients:
- Use seafood or kitchen shears to cut any large crab shells into 2-inch pieces. If using whole vegetables: Cut the onion, carrot, and fennel into 2-inch pieces (leaving the peels intact). Smash the garlic cloves (leaving the peels intact). Roughly chop the herbs. If using vegetable scraps only: Cut the fennel stalk into 2-inch pieces. Roughly chop the herbs.8 ounces crab shells or shrimp shells
Simmer the stock:
- In a medium dutch oven or pot set over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion (or onion peels), carrot (or carrot peels), fennel (or fronds and stalk), garlic (or garlic peels), dill, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and seafood shells. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes until vegetables turn golden-brown.
- If using clam juice: Add the clam juice and water to the pot and bring to a boil. Skim off any scum on the surface, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the liquid darkens significantly to a deep golden-brown color.
- OR, if using wine: If using wine, add the wine first, then bring to a boil and allow it to reduce by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Once the alcohol smell has dissipated, add the water and simmer the stock for 20 minutes until the liquid darkens significantly to a deep golden-brown color.
Strain the stock:
- Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. You should have just about 2 cups liquid.Season to taste with salt if desired.