Ever felt intimidated by making seafood stock from scratch? It's much simpler than you think - and so delicious! This homemade seafood stock recipe is so flavorful, with notes of sweetness and savory complexity from toasted seafood shells, fresh herbs, and aromatic vegetables.
It's also a great no-waste option for using up seafood shells and vegetable scraps.
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.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- 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 just about 4 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.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
- Seafood shells and bones: Seafood shells provide tons of briny, sweet flavor in this stock. You can use any combination of shrimp, crab, and lobster shells - or fish bones. We'll discuss more on that below!
- 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!
- Clam Juice: Clam juice provides a nice base for the stock, but if you can't find it, you can use chicken stock instead.
- Herbs and Spices: I typically use fresh dill or parsley, as well as bay leaves.
Optionally, I like to deglaze the shells with dry white wine for added flavor. Just make sure to reduce the wine to boil off the alcohol!
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.
Well, there are two methods of "prepping" for this recipe:
Method 1: If you prepare seafood often, you can proactively freeze leftover shellfish shells, crab shells, lobster shells, and fish bones as you cook with them. Simply store the shells in a sealed ziploc bag in the freezer for 1 - 2 months. I will often freeze leftovers when I make my shrimp oreganata.
Method 2: 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 unpeeled shrimp or pre-cooked shell-on crab. You can also ask your fishmonger if they have any fish bones available.
Tip: Don't be afraid of asking your fishmonger questions. They love helping and providing suggestions!
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.
- Supermarket: You can find crab 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."
- Local Fish Market: If you have a particular fish market you like to go to, call them up and ask about their availability.
- 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, you'll want to buy thawed shrimp from the seafood counter.
- 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 regularly prepare whole fish, you can save and freeze the bones for stock.
How to Make This Seafood Stock
Step 1 - Saute everything: In a large stockpot set over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Add the seafood shells, garlic, onion, carrot, fennel, bay leaf, and peppercorns, and saute for 2 - 3 minutes, or until everything is nicely golden-brown and aromatic.
Step 2 - Add the liquids: If using wine, add the wine first, then bring to a boil and allow it to reduce by half, 3 - 5 minutes.
Once the alcohol smell has dissipated, add the herbs, clam juice, water, and bring to a boil.
Step 3 - Simmer: Skim off any scum on the surface, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes until the stock tastes aromatic and is golden brown.
Step 4 - Strain: Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids.
Step 5 - After straining, you should be left with about 3 ½ - 4 cups of this beautiful orange-hued stock!
Season with salt and black pepper, then cool to room temperature and use as desired.
- Citrusy: Add a few lemon or orange peels to the liquid when simmering.
- Tomato: For a deeper stock, add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste after toasting the shells. Once the paste has caramelized nicely, add the liquids.
- Spiced Up: If I'm looking for a super jazzed up stock, I might stir in some smoky paprika, coriander seeds, or dried oregano.
Homemade seafood stock lasts 3 - 4 days in the fridge in an airtight container. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight ziploc freezer bag for up to 2 months.
Looking for more individual portions? Freeze the stock in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and store in an airtight ziploc bag.
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 the full 30 minutes - keep in mind that you don't want to simmer it for too long, as it can get bitter or fishy.
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.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Homemade Seafood Stock
- Fine mesh sieve or strainer, for straining the stock
- 8 ounces crab shells or shrimp shells**, or fish bones or lobster shells | see notes section for more details
- 1 small onion
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small fennel bulb, or the stalks from a fennel bulb
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup dry white wine, optional
- ½ cup fresh dill, or fresh flat-leaf parsley | stems included
- 1 cup clam juice
- 4 cups water
- Salt, optional
- Prepare the shells: Use seafood or kitchen shears to cut any large seafood shells into 2-inch pieces. Note: Alternatively, place the shells in a sealed bag and pound them with a meat mallet.8 ounces crab shells or shrimp shells**
- Prepare the vegetables: Cut the onion, carrot, and fennel into 2-inch pieces (leaving the peels intact). Smash the garlic cloves (leaving the peels intact).1 small onion, 1 small carrot, 1 small fennel bulb, 4 cloves garlic
Make the stock:
- Saute the aromatics: To a large dutch oven or stock pot set over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, fennel, garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and seafood shells. Saute for 2 - 3 minutes until the vegetables turn golden-brown and the shells toast slightly (for example, the shrimp shells will turn pink when toasted).1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf
- If using wine: If using wine, add the wine first, then bring to a boil and allow it to reduce by half, about 3 - 5 minutes. Once the alcohol smell has dissipated, add the dill, clam juice, and water and bring to a gentle simmer. Skim off any scum on the surface, then continue simmering for 20 - 30 minutes until the liquid darkens significantly to a deep golden-brown color and the stock tastes aromatic. Note: Avoid boiling the seafood stock after adding the water and clam juice as boiling can cause cloudiness.½ cup dry white wine, ½ cup fresh dill, 1 cup clam juice, 4 cups water
Strain the stock:
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. You should have just about 4 cups of stock.Season to taste with salt if desired. Note: If you're not quite sure what you're going to use the stock for, I recommend keeping it unseasoned!Salt
- Deeper Flavor: Pre-roast the vegetables and shells for 10-15 minutes at 425°F/218°C. After sauteeing the aromatics in olive oil, add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and saute for a couple of minutes until the paste caramelizes slightly.
- Lighter Flavor: Omit the vegetables and simmer just the seafood shells with the water and clam juice.