Fish Head Broth

PrimalFish broth isn’t as versatile as chicken or beef broth, but it’s a special thing, nevertheless. It’s delicate and savory with the appetizing flavor of seafood.

Is this the type of broth you’ll sip straight from a mug? There’s no reason not to if you like fish. Plus, you’ll get a healthy dose of omega-3s, fat-soluble vitamins, selenium, iodine, and other minerals. Enough gelatin can be extracted from a few pounds of fish parts to give your broth a gelatin-rich texture that turns to jelly when refrigerated. The most important fish part to use is the head. In fact, you can make broth entirely from fish heads, although the spine and other bones can be added as well.

Salmon heads typically give fish stock a stronger flavor; halibut, bass, cod, and other white fish give broth a milder flavor. You can use one type of fish, or a combination of different types. In this fish stock recipe, the quantity of fish parts is given by weight, not by the number of fish heads. This is because you might end up with one big fish head that weighs several pounds, or you might get several smaller heads. Either is fine.

To make fish stock, the heads and parts only need to be simmered 30 minutes with a few chopped veggies. Then, it’s ready for sipping or to be used as an ingredient in any chowder or soup recipe.

If you’re a fisherman (or woman), save the heads! If you’re not, then call ahead to a fish counter and ask for some heads to be set aside (and also ask for the gills to be removed).

Quantity: Approximately 1 quart

Time in the Kitchen:
15 minutes, plus 30 minutes to simmer



  • 3 to 4 pounds fish heads (gills removed), or a combination of heads and bones (1.5 kg to 1.8 kg)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 6 parsley stems
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 to 8 cups/(1.4 to 2 L) water, approximately (or 6 cups water and 1 cup white wine)


Make sure the gills of the fish are removed (they can make stock bitter). Wash the heads and parts well by soaking and running under water to remove any blood.

Put the heads and any bones in a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, celery, parsley, peppercorns and bay leaf. Pour in enough cold water to just cover the fish parts (no more than 8 cups, or the flavor will be diluted).


Bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, never letting the broth come to a full boil. Skim any foam that rises to surface.

Strain in a colander, pressing on the solids to release liquid. Strain again, this time through a fine mesh strainer. Chill the broth.

Refrigerated fish stock will stay fresh up to 5 days, or can be frozen for several months.



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19 thoughts on “Fish Head Broth”

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  1. I heard that you’re supposed to also remove the eyes because it may discolor the broth. Is that true?

    1. Ha! No way! Eyes are the best part, along with brain.
      Everyone make sure you eat all the delicious meat left in the head after cooking! Cheek meat, eyes, and brain are delicious.

  2. On special occasions, my husband sometimes makes bouillabaise from scratch, beginning with fish head broth. It is one of the most delicious things in the universe!

  3. Halibut, Sheepshead and Red Snapper are my favorite fish species for broth. If you time a visit to a boat ramp well you may be able to get it fresh and free from a fisherman at the cleaning station.

  4. Sorry I just can’t wrap my head around this one. Ha ha! Seriously I am sure this is delicious and nutrient dense, but I don’t think I could look at those fish heads. Love the idea, but going to stick with my chicken bone broth!

    1. Ha, I’m with you on that Elizabeth. I’m proud I finally built up the nerve to eat sardines, but fish heads are a bit much for this wimpy city boy.

      1. Lol, yes we are brave to eat sardines!!! And I have some liver in the freezer. That’s about as far as I can go!

  5. Yum! I make crab stock with shells and parts from Dungeness crab, too Amazing to use in fish chowder.

  6. Fish stock is delicious, but I’ve never used the heads before.

  7. That fish looks kind of depressed. I don’t blame it.
    Motivational poster. Contains a swear word.

  8. will 30 minutes simmering actually extract all the beneficial nutrients? normally broths are cooked for many hours

  9. Is it okay to use frozen fish heads? Another blog I read advised against it for some reason and also mentioned the eyes shiild be clear. Curious about your experience!