Skip to content

Cioppino, The Other San Francisco Treat

cioppinoIn San Francisco we are always searching for the best way to beat the fog. Hard as we try to fight it, the dampness manages to put a chill in our wanderings around the city. This is why we constantly look for a hearty treat to ward off the clammy climate. We finally found it in this stew chock full of clams, mussels, and other seafood yummies called cioppino. There is something about the spicy broth, the chunky pieces of scallop, and the fun of peeling apart crab legs that has us falling in love with this dish. Not even the rolling waves of cold haze can stop us after a good bowl of this meal.


Serves 6 to 8               Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes [17 minutes preparation; 88 minutes cooking]


Seafood                                                                                                                        Liquids

1 1/2 pounds halibut filet, cut into 1-inch chunks                                           2 cups dry white wine

16 sea scallops                                                                                                         2 cups clam juice or fish stock

16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined                                                                1 lemon, juiced

12 ounces crabmeat, preferably Dungeness, picked over                              4 cups water

1 pound Manila clams, scrubbed

1 pound mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded

Veggies                                                                                                                      Herbs

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped                                                    4 bay leaves

3 large shallots, chopped                                                                                        1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and chopped                                           1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 rib celery, chopped                                                                                               1 teaspoon dried basil

1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced                                                                          2 pinches cayenne

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped                                                                   1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped                                                                    1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 cans crushed tomatoes (28-ounces)                                                               2 teaspoons ground pepper


1/4 cup olive oil

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups flour


1. In a large pot on medium heat, warm 1/2 cup of the olive oil and 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the onions and shallots and cook for 2 minutes. While stirring frequently, add the carrots, celery, and fennel, cooking for approximately 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 4 cups of water, the dried herbs (bay leaves, oregano, thyme, and basil), cayenne, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour stirring periodically.

2. Heat the remaining 1/2 cup oil and 4 tablespoons butter in a large heavy pan over high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Dredge the halibut, scallops, crabmeat, and shrimp in the flour. Be sure to shake off any excess flour. In batches, cook the seafood until golden, approximately 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the sauce pot and add the crabmeat. Cover the pot and continue to simmer.

3. To cook the shellfish (clams and mussels), add the white wine, clam juice, and lemon juice to the pan containing the seafood drippings and heat over medium-high heat. Scrape up any browned bits from the seafood. Add the clams and mussels and cover. Cook until all the shellfish have opened, approximately 5 minutes. Toss out any shellfish that do not open. Add to the broth in the pot. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

4. Ladle the cioppino into large bowls, garnish with the chopped parsley, and serve with sourdough bread* and red wine. Or, ladle the cioppino into sourdough bread bowls for a more classic San Franciscan look.

* BT Tip: To make your own sourdough bread try the recipe here.

11 replies »

  1. This looks delicious! Your pic has crab legs in it, did you use those instead of crab meat? If so, how many? I’m thinking of trying to cut the recipe in half….

    • Thanks Emilie! We did use crab legs for the photo version you see. Using crab meat is quicker, but if you want to try using the legs, or even an entire crab you can. Since the legs (and body) will take longer to cook, place it into the pot right after you finish simmering the broth. For half the recipe, 4 to 6 Dungeness crab legs sound good to us. Enjoy your cioppino!

  2. It took me a while, but I just “got” your title 🙂 Having grown up in an inland state, I have not had much occasion to cook seafood. Your instructions look very doable, though — and the dish looks enticing.

    • Thanks Sandi! If you are not aware of Rice-a-roni, the title will not make much sense. 😉 There are a lot of steps in making cioppino, but I hope the instructions are easy to follow. It is a delicious dish and if you ever visit San Francisco you have to try a bowl there.

      • Do they still make Rice-a-Roni? That product must have been marketed very well in the 70s: as soon as I saw your title, I could hear the Rice-a-Roni jingle in my head.

Send A Note

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Buy My Books
Follow Bespoke Traveler on

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog:

Join 19,289 other subscribers


Thank you for your support. Donate button


Click the envelope below to sign up for the Bespoke Traveler newsletter:

Bespoke Traveler Newsletter





%d bloggers like this: