Fish Stock for beginners

I’ve always found it surprising that when people start out on a paleo or traditional foods journey, fish stock falls last on the list when it comes to mastering homemade broth-making. Fish stock is by far the quickest and easiest to make. It’s also the most nutritious of all the broths and arguably the most delicious.

I’ve converted many a fish broth skeptic in my workshops. I always wait for the familiar moment that invariably takes place as tastings circulate the room. A gasp from one of the aforementioned skeptics. “It’s DIVINE. It’s not even fishy!”

And you know what? It’s NOT fishy.

The only minor hurdle for fish stock novices is handling fish heads for the first time. Some recipes suggest using carcasses only, which is a starting point for the squeamish, I guess. However, the lion’s share of the nutrition can be found in the head. It’s worth overcoming this hurdle nice and early. In fact, if you’re after maximum nutrition – I’d suggest opting for a heads-only stock.

Fish Stock

Why fish stock?

Fish heads are exceptionally valuable as they contain something that us modern folk rarely eat: the thyroid gland! Combined with its abundant, bioavailable iodine, fish broth is one of the most nourishing foods for thyroid health.

It’s also the most economical stock you can make. Get to know your fishmonger and they may offer you the heads and carcasses for free. At most, they’ll only charge a few dollars. Not bad for a few litres of this medicinal and versatile food! Often there’s enough meat left on the larger fish (e.g Barramundi) to utilise for a meal, especially if they’re not severed immediately behind the gill cover. Don’t underestimate how delicious and tender fish cheeks are!

Sourcing your fish

When it comes to the products of land animals, healthy food can only be a product of sustainable farming practices. Frustratingly, with seafood there’s often a trade-off between nutrition and sustainability. I’ve always recommended people opt for wild fish over farmed, as commercial fish feed utilises some pretty unappetising ingredients. However, these days there’s other issues to consider with sourcing wild fish, such as dwindling supplies or unsustainable fishing methods. Ideally, you’d find a variety in your area that ticks both boxes (wild and sustainable) using Sustainable Seafood Guide or similar.

Avoid oily fish where possible, as the unsaturated oils aren’t stable when cooked for long periods. If it’s the only type on offer, simply skim the fat off your broth before consuming it. Note however, that oily fish will also produce a stronger fishy flavour.

 

Fish Broth for Beginners

Rating: 51

Fish Broth for Beginners

This recipe can be enjoyed like any other broth: heated up with lots of salt, a sliver of butter, and squeeze of lemon. It’s a highly nourishing snack on its own. You can also add the broth to sauces, soups, and curries.

Ingredients

  • 1 wild, white fish carcass (or 2-3 fish heads)
  • 1 onion or leek, roughly chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • OPTIONAL EXTRAS:
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • coriander or dill
  • Small handful of lemon thyme
  • 5 kaffir lime or lemon myrtle leaves

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring the stock to the boil and immediately reduce the heat to low.
  2. Skim and remove any foam that may have risen to the top, then simmer gently for 40 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  3. Allow the broth to cool slightly, removing any oil from the surface with a ladle.
  4. Strain into glass jars for the fridge and consume within 2 days. If you're planning to freeze it, fish broth will last up to 3 months in the freezer. Leave at least an inch of space from the top to prevent your jars cracking and consume within 24hrs of defrosting.

Notes

Look for any type of wild, non-oily fish if possible (e.g. Snapper or Barramundi when they're in season).

 

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  • Geraldine

    Hi Georgia
    If I walked in to a fish monger and asked for a carcass they wouldn’t look at me oddly? I mean they have carcasses at the ready to sell or do you have to call and ask first ?

    • Hi Geraldine,

      Promise you, they wont! I usually ring first just to save myself the trip, but usually they’ll run out of heads before they run out of the remaining carcass. (Thanks to the growing numbers of strange people like us who love fish heads). ;)

  • Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I love everything you say here. I’m not a meat eater and needed confirmation that fish stock was just as good to go to the effort to make it. I’m also Hypothyroid so this is absolute perfect! Love it.

    I’ll defiantly share this onto my page Georgie. :-) x

    • Hi Karen,

      Oh fabulous news – you will love it! Be warned though, it’s very addictive! I was making several batches a week for a few years straight to fuel my other addictions: tom yum and savoury porridge. Have calmed down somewhat now and am back into rotating my broths again. :) x

    • Haha Georgia, thanks for the warning. There are worse things we could do in life.. ;-) keep up the great work, I love what your sharing. Enjoy your weekend. Karen x

    • Thanks so much Karen :)

  • Tea

    Hi Georgia, I am hopeless with fish and don’t know a lot about them. Other than Barrumundi what other fish is suitable (not oily like you said)?

    • Hi Tea,

      Good question – I ADORE Barramundi for stock, when they’re in season. (Many places will often pretend it is wild when it is actually farmed, so you really need to insist on honesty). The next best is snapper, but the flavour is really mild and they can be quite a bit smaller, so I usually throw 4-5 heads in for the same recipe if that’s the case.

      Any white fish will do, though, so just check with the fish monger what they have that might be suitable. :)

  • Tam

    HI – The fish in the photograph is not a white fish ? .. is it Ocean trout or Salmon ? – are they OK to use ?

    • Totally fine to use trout/salmon if you can find them wild (usually only in the Northern hemisphere). Just make sure you skim the fat from the top as the fragile oils tend to oxidise when cooked for long periods. Fattier fish will also give a stronger, fishy flavour. :)