Polish Fish Stew {Zupa Rybna}

Cool fall weather is coming, and that means hot stews. One comes to mind. Fish stew. I grew up relatively close to the coast of the Baltic Sea, and fish was always cheap and available. Plus my dad went through a fisherman phase, and would bring some fresh water fish, like pike or perch in large amounts.

We’d go fishing with him sometimes. He taught me how to put a worm on a hook and I didn’t even gag doing it 😉

Cleaning the fish was part of the process, so we (kids) had to do it to all the fish that we caught ourselves. Scaling and gutting included. It is a relatively easy task, especially if the catch was not too big. I was very proud of myself when I caught a few pikes (I think), cleaned and gutted it lakeside. Dad came prepared with a small gas burner and with just a salt and pepper dusting, fried it up for us to eat right away.

The combination of fresh air, hanging out with dad, excitement of catching my own fish and eating it with our hands on a piece of board make it the best tasting fish in my little world.

We brought the bounty home and dad was really good at smoking it, and there was enough to fry, stew, steam, and freeze at home.

1990s - Dad after fishing trip

Dad and his boat

Dad and karp

 The soup I’m making today is a very mildly fishy soup; it’s a bit sweet and smoky, with a small bite, perfect with crunchy bread on a cool fall or winter night.

Polish Fish Stew {Zupa Rybna}

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Prep Time: 5 Min
  • Cook Time: 45 min


  • 1 medium fish, whole, raw, gutted or 2 filets and a couple of fish heads
  • 3-4 thick slices of smoked bacon or smoked ham
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 3 carrots
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 tbs of paprika
  • ½ tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of granulated garlic
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or more, if you like it extra spicy)
  • 1-2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Parsley as garnish


  1. Place fish, bacon (or ham) and carrots in about 2 quarts of water, add salt and bring to boil. Turn heat to low and simmer until fish is soft (about 10-15 min).

  2. Remove fish (leave heads if using, and ham) and simmer until carrots are soft. Remove carrots and heads when soft.

  3. Roast the peppers on open flame of gas stove (or broil in the oven) until skin is black. Place in paper bag or air tight container for a few minutes, until cool. Peel burnt skin off bell pepper, chop and add to stock.

  4. Peel and dice potatoes, add to stock. Add red pepper flakes. Boil soup until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).

  5. Remove fish bones from fish, and break up into smaller pieces. Chop up bacon/ham, slice carrots and add all to stock. Add remaining spices. Stir and taste, add salt, if needed.


Serve garnished with parsley. Serve with bread.

Hope all my fishermen friends report back with their feedback! Please leave me a comment below.