Kakavia, greek fish soup


FISH SOUP TIPS: I’ve recommended fish fillets in this recipe to make the job of making the soup a little easier – fewer bones, for one! Typically, fishermen’s soups like this call for all the fish not suitable for sale when the catch comes in because they might be ripped or town or somehow not “perfect” for the market. Typically, too, whole fish is layered by size, largest first, smallest on top. The best flavor comes from fish with lots of gelatin, such as grouper. But in this soup, a kind of abbreviated version of a traditional Greek kakavia, fillets will work just fine. I like to mix flavorful fillets, such as cod, haddock and salmon. NEVER add hot water to the fish when starting the soup. Let everything heat together. Keep the lid slightly ajar when simmering. and, BTW – the name kakavia comes from the Greek word kakavi, which is the name of the pot used when making this traditional soup at sea.

45 min
15 min


  • 2 medium onions quartered
  • 3 medium carrots trimmed peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick slices
  • ½ pound or 250 g potatoes peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs of celery sticks trimmed with a vegetable parer and cut into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 2 large fresh firm ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped in big pieces, with their juices
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and whole
  • 2 pounds of thick fish fillets of choice see note
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes or Greek boukovo or to taste
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 whole medium shrimp optional, heads and tails pn
  • 2-3 Tbsp fresh strained lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin Greek olive oil or more, to taste


  1. In a large pot layer the vegetables starting with the onions, then potatoes, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and garlic. Season each layer very lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add enough water to come about halfway up the vegetables. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are halfway cooked, about 15 minutes.
  2. Place the fish over the vegetables. Season with a little salt and pepper and the boukovo.
  3. Add water, if needed, to come up just below the surface of the fish. Cover the pot slightly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until the fish is almost done. Place the shrimp on top and continue simmering for about 6 to 7 more minutes, until everything is fork tender and the shrimp bright pink and meaty.
  4. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and cook for a few more minutes.
  5. Divide soup among 6 plates. Serve hot with some crusty bread.

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