How to make fish stock

Summer is here. While there’s nothing like a cold drink to quench the thirst, there are others ways to replenish lost body fluids without ingesting all the sugar that often goes with shakes and smoothies. Serving a soup dish with every meal is a good idea. And if you want to cut down on the fat drastically without sacrificing on flavor, use fish stock as a base for your soup. Use fish head and bones

Making fish stock is simple. You need fish head and bones to start with. I am aware that fish head and bones are discarded in many Western countries and that’s really a shame because there is so much flavor in the head and bones. If you prefer to use fish fillets in your fish dishes, buy a whole fish, ask the fish monger to fillet the fish for you then bring home everything — fillets, head and bones. You can now make your fish stock. If you’re into fish head soup, chop off the head from the bones so you can serve it as a soup. Reserve the rest of the stock, cool, pour into freezer containers and keep in the freezer until needed. Boil fish head and bones

Place the fish heads and bones in a pot. Pour enough water to cover then bring to the boil. Remove scum

Remove the scum that rises. Add spices and aromatics

Add your aromatics, season with salt and pepper, then simmer for at least 30 minutes.

What aromatics should you add? If you’re making a large batch of fish stock that you intend to freeze and use in different dishes like stews and soups that taste quite differently from one another, then stick to the basics. Add a few cloves of garlic, sliced ginger, shallots and that’s it. When you use the stock to make a stew later, you can add more herbs and spices and they won’t clash with the flavors that are already in the fish stock.


  1. says

    Hi Connie, thanks for this idea of making fish stock. Here in Gen San, it is common to find tuna fish bones sold per kilo, ~60 pesos per kilo lang. Fresh tuna bones leftover from the fillets, cubes, etc… With the litin and fats pa. I’ll be sure to make my own fish soup stock soon.

  2. says

    If the litid and fats melt into the stock (extended simmering time though), it’ll be even tastier. And the texture will be richer too. :)

  3. starterwife says

    hi ms. connie, i’ve been a fan of your blog even before i got married almost six months ago. i practiced with your recipes and now that i’m married i still follow your site for new things to try in my very own kitchen =)
    how much (or how many) fish should i use if i’m making soup stock for just two? also, can i use similar portions when making chicken stock – like, half a chicken instead of a whole one? thanks!

  4. Barbara R. says

    Hi Connie,

    I read in “Nourishing traditions” by Sally Fallon that you need to simmer the fish stock for between 4 to 24 hours. What do you think of such long simmering time? I believe that she recommends such long time so that the minerals and other “goodies” can be drawn out from the fish into the stock. Therefore the stock will be more healthy and therapeutic. She also for that same reason (to draw out the minerals) recommends adding a little bit of vinegar.

    • Connie says

      Long simmering of bones breaks down cartilages which results in a richer soup. But, for any practical cook, 24 hours of simmering means a high electric bill.

      The vinegar thing is a basic chemistry principle. Try soaking a piece of chicken bone in vinegar for a couple of days and the bone will turn soft because the calcium has been drawn out. However, “a little vinegar” in a pot of water and bones will not have the same effect.

      • Barbara R. says

        Hi Connie,
        Thank you very much for your response.
        When I make a stock (whether chicken or fish) the stock is not gelatinised ( is there such a word? LOL). What do I do wrong? How do I get the “jello”?For example a couple days ago I simmered halibut head and I had no gelatine (once cooled down in fridge). I hear that if the stock thickens then it is more healthy but I am not sure why.
        Thank you.

        • Connie says

          You won’t see the gelatinous texture until after you have chilled the broth in the fridge for several hours to give it enough time to congeal. Four hours of simmering can yield a gelatinous stock as long as you reduce the liquid. If you keep adding water while simmering, the liquid will always stay thin.

  5. Marylou says

    Connie, thank you so much for the recipes you posted and will post in the future. I love the Custard Cake and I’ve baked the cake twice. I can easily follow your instructions, plus the pictures shown are great help. I am going to make sure that my grandchildren will go your website to learn how to cook Pinoy food.

    When you say corn flour, does that mean cornstarch?

  6. Diane Bouwman says

    Hi Connie,
    I made a fish stock from 8 cod heads (the cheeks.and jaw) The broth was very bitter. Why is it bitter and can I do something to make it taste better?Thanks,Diane

  7. Petticoat Philosopher says

    Diane, my guess is that the gills were still attached. Those will give fish stock a bitter taste. Next time you use heads, make sure the gills are removed or remove them yourself. Then you should have no problems–cod makes a very good stock.

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