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April 15, 2010

How to make fish stock (without fish heads)

Mock fish stock 

When it comes to fish heads, I'm a bit squeamish. Making real fish stock involves boiling fish heads and bones with aromatic vegetables. I've never been able to do it. And unless I buy stock from a fish market that makes its own, I stay away from store-bought fish stock; the popular brands that come in a box all taste like dish water to me. Instead, I make my own "mock stock", starting with the chicken stock I make every week. It's quick and easy to whip up a batch of this fish stock when you're preparing shrimp for another dish. The stock can be frozen.

How to make fish stock

Makes 1-1/4 quarts.


8 oz homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
16 oz clam juice
Shells from 1 lb of shrimp
4 black peppercorns
1 small bay leaf


Combine all ingredients in a pot, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Strain out the shrimp shells, peppercorns and bay leaf. Use the stock immediately or store in the refrigerator (3 days) or freezer (up to 6 months).

Note: the recipe doesn't call for any salt. Before using the stock, adjust with salt to suit the recipe. Fish stock made with store-bought chicken stock will be much saltier than that made with homemade stock.

Print recipe only.


Posted by: T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types | April 15, 2010 at 07:55 AM

What a great idea! Fish stock made easy is something I've always struggled with, but since I've got some shrimp in the freezer, I think you've given me a solution!

Posted by: Heidi | April 15, 2010 at 07:57 AM

What a great work-around. Love it.

Posted by: Kirsten | April 15, 2010 at 12:45 PM

I am really enjoying this blog! Thanks for doing double duty along with the Perfect pantry (which I would really miss if you were to end that venture!)

Posted by: Teresa | April 16, 2010 at 08:50 AM

Making fish stock has kept me from trying seafood and fish chowder recipes in the past. Thanks so much for this alternative! And the shrimp shells can be double-bagged and frozen to have on hand when you want to make this stock

Posted by: Teresa | April 16, 2010 at 08:51 AM

And P.S.

Please don't take away our Perfect Pantry.....please?

Posted by: Lydia | April 16, 2010 at 09:39 AM

TW, I think you can tell by the comments that many of us struggle with fish stock. Is it the image of fish heads floating in the pot (yes, that's my problem) or something else? Anyway, this is a great substitute; not as subtle as real fish stock, but not out of a can or box or powder.

Heidi, it's been a good all-purpose fishy substitute for me.

Kirsten, Teresa: The Perfect Pantry isn't going away! Thanks for your loyalty to it, and for finding this blog, too.

Posted by: Marie | FeelingFoodish | October 5, 2012 at 01:12 PM

Great idea!! I'll have to try this...I don't like the idea of boiling fish heads either.. lol

Posted by: enid | June 3, 2018 at 08:47 PM

Hi, what do people do with the fish after straining the broth? do you eat the rest of the fish or .....?

thanks so much,

Posted by: Lydia (Soup Chick) | June 5, 2018 at 10:17 AM

Enid, generally, I discard the fish after it has given its all to the broth.

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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