Red mullet soup

Provençal Style Red Mullet Soup

Looking for an easy Red Mullet soup recipe? This recipe is incredibly quick to make and is an excellent addition to your repertoire. It uses minimal ingredients but brings a lot of flavour and makes for an incredibly elegant fish course.

Inspired by restaurants in the South of France, this soup can be made with different fish, vegetables and even the addition of shellfish.

 provencal red mullet soup

An Easy Bouillabaisse Style Fish Soup

This recipe is inspired by the bouillabaisse soup from Marseille but simplified with only one fish. A traditional bouillabaisse is made with at least 4 different rockfish (for example John Dory, Rascasse, Red Guard and Conger Eel) which can be particularly difficult to source outside of the Mediterranean. Red Mullet (Rouget in French) however, is available around the world and is great to make a simple yet awesome fish soup with.

Red Mullet

A fantastic ingredient, Red Mullet, is a small red fish mainly found in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. It’s particularly popular in France, Italy, Spain and the UK. Red Mullet fillet’s are small and delicate and don’t require much cooking at all. It can be filleted easily and the bones make for a delicious stock or soup!

red mullet

I’d recommend buying Red Mullet whole so you keep the bones and head for the soup. You can always ask your fishmonger to remove the guts, scales and fillet them for you – just make sure to ask keep the carcass! If you’re squeamish and don’t fancy cooking the heads then ask your fishmonger for some other fishbones such as Seabass – you’ll usually be able to get these for free.

red mullet bones

Filleting Red Mullet is easy and very forgiving. The first step is to remove the head but cutting under the gills on each side of fish. Take your knife and cut firmly down to remove the head. Next, take a sharp knife and cut down the length of the fish running down the back bone. Release the fillet and repeat on the other side. Watch this video if you need a visual guide. Once filleted, remove the pin bones with fish tweezers.


You can make this soup with only the bones and you’ll still get a fantastic flavour from them. If you’re using the heads you’ll need to remove the eyes as these add a bitter flavour to the soup. This isn’t particularly pleasant but you’ll need to get a sharp, small knife and go through the eye-socket to remove them. Once the eyes are removed, thoroughly wash the bones and heads.

Rouille & Rustic Bread

Just like with a rustic bouillabaisse, this fish soup is accompanied with a rouille which is a French garlic mayonnaise flavoured with saffron and paprika. It’s generally served on a slice of rustic French bread (pain de campagne) or put directly into the soup for a flavour bomb!


What You’ll Need

To make our easy French Red Mullet soup, you’ll need:

  • Red Mullet: Red mullet is perfect for a simple fish soup as it’s inexpensive and easy to prepare. If you can’t find red mullet you can use Gunard. If you’re in the USA and find it hard to source Mediterranean fish then you can use Halibut or Cod fillets and make the soup with whatever fish bones your fish monger can get you.

  • Onions & Garlic: White onion and sliced garlic help build the initial aromatic layer and add a great flavour to their soup.

  • Fennel: Fennel brings the classic aniseed flavour to the soup which does mellow down as you cook it incase you’re not a big fan!

  • Carrots: Carrots bring a natural sweetness and bright colour to the soup.

  • Tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes are added to add a beautiful Mediterranean flavour and also help thicken the soup.

  • White Wine: Fish and white wine work so well together. Use a dry white wine rather than a round one – this will add acidity and a beautiful background flavour.

Optional Ingredients: Pastis or Pernod is great to amp up the aniseed flavour and makes it even more authentic. You can also add shellfish such as mussels and clams to add more flavour. Cream can also be added at the end to add sweetness and will help round-off the fish taste.


Makes enough for 2 people.

  • 2 Red Mullets, filleted and pin bones removed
  • Fish bones & heads, from the filleted Red Mullet or other fish bones (Heads optional)
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 small carrot, chopped roughly
  • 1 small stick of celery, chopped roughly
  • Half a fennel, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 2 stalks of parsley
  • 2 springs of thyme
  • 100ml white wine

How to Make Red Mullet Fish Soup

  1. Heat up a splash of olive oil to a sauce or sauté pan on a medium heat. Add your sliced onions and sweat for 1-2 minutes until softened. Add your sliced garlic and continue to sweat until fragrant.

  2. Add the rest of the vegetables and sweat for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently.

  3. Add your fish bones (and heads if using) and tomato purée and sauté for a few minutes. Feel free to add more olive oil if the pan looks dry.

  4. Increase the heat and add white wine and cook until the wine has reduced.

  5. Pour in cold water to cover the bones and vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add your tomatoes and herbs. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface off.

  6. Cover and cook on a low simmer for 30 minutes.

  7. Turn off the heat and add the contents1 of the pot to a blender/liquidiser. Blend on a high speed until you’ve got a smooth consistency. Do this in batches if needed.

  8. Strain the soup through a very fine sieve or chinois to ensure no bone pieces go through. Push as much liquid as you can out of the blended mixture.

  9. Pour the strained soup into a pot and, depending on how thin the soup is, cook on a low heat for 15-20 minutes to reduce the soup and concentrate the flavour. You should be left with at least 600ml of soup.

  10. Now either pan fry or poach the fillets in the soup until cooked. I pan fry mine and sear the skin with a blow torch.

  11. Once ready, pour the soup into bowls and top with the cooked fish fillets. Garnish with fennel fronds and olive oil.


  1. The fish bones and heads quickly soften up when heated and can be blended without issue. You will need to strain the mixture however as fragments of bone will remain.

Can You Freeze it?

The soup freezes very well. Once cooled, pour the soup into a zip-lock bag and close slowly whilst squeezing as much air out as you can.

The fish fillets do not freeze well and should be cooked immediately – the fresher the better!

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