Fisherman’s Soup – Ukha (Уха)
One of the easiest and healthiest fish soups is the Russian Ukha. Prepared by cooking a fish broth from a whole fish, you then add a handful of additional vegetables, such as onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and fresh dill and parsley into that clear and flavorful broth.
Ukha has been part of the Russian cuisine for hundreds of years. It’s a simple, rustic soup that is delightfully light and flavorful. Made after a successful fishing trip with the catch of the day, either back in the kitchen of your home or right over the fire on the banks of the river. My husband doesn’t fish, so we usually use store bought fish in our household:).
One summer, when we went on a mission trip to Siberia, we took a group of boys from a juvenile detention center for a day spent in the beautiful Russian outdoors. It was a wonderful day filled with soccer, singing, running and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Fishing was also part of the day and our picnic lunch included this fisherman’s soup – Ukha, prepared with the help of the boys themselves.
What is Ukha or Uha?
Ukha (Yxa) is a Russian fish soup made with all variations of fish. The fish is cooked whole, from head to tail, to make a clear broth and then some simple vegetables are added, like onions, carrots, potatoes and fresh herbs. The broth is both concentrated in fish flavor as well as really light and fresh. It’s crystal clear and each ingredient is very distinct.
What Kind of Fish Should Be Used For Ukha?
You can use just about any type of fish for this soup. Most of the time, Ukha is made from a whole fish. The types of fish I use most often are rainbow trout, snapper, bass and/or bass. However, the possibilities are endless. Of course, in Russia, pike is well known. You can use any kind of fish that you like the flavor of. I really enjoy making this with salmon as well.
The great thing about this soup is that you can use pieces of fish if you don’t have a whole fish available or even use a combination of different types of fish. Using the whole fish, with the head and bones will make the broth much more rich, concentrated and flavorful, but you can certainly use fish fillets on their own.
Vegetables For Fish Soup
Ukha is traditionally made with just onion, potatoes, carrots and fresh herbs. I love the addition of celery, because it pairs so well with seafood. You can also add other vegetables, like garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, etc, but that will be a very different version, of course and won’t have that iconic clear and simple flavor that Ukha is so well known for.
Preparing the Fish Broth
- If you buy the fish at a grocery store or fish market, they are cleaned and scaled for you, which saves you so much time and mess. Scaling a fish isn’t hard, but the scales fly everywhere! If you catch the fish yourself, remove the insides and scale the fish by using a knife or a fish scaling tool, going against the direction of the scales. Wash the fish thoroughly. If the fish is really big, cut it into several pieces, if not, you can leave it whole.
- Add the bay leaves, peppercorns and salt, pouring in about 10 cups of water.
- Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. If you use a larger fish, it may take longer. (I used a rainbow trout that was slightly less than a pound.) Taste the broth and add more salt if needed.
- A great addition to the broth is adding in the veggie scraps from the vegetables that you will use in the soup later. This is completely optional, but I love the additional flavor and it’s a great way to use up your groceries. In this case, of course, wash all the vegetables really well first, before removing the outer first layer of the onion, cutting off the tops and ends of the onion, celery, peeling the carrots and then add it all in to the broth.
- When the fish is cooked through, strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve. If the broth is cloudy, you may want to line the sieve with a cheesecloth or paper towel first. Set aside the cooked fish. Discard the cooked vegetable scraps, bay leaves and peppercorns.
How to Make the Easiest and Healthiest Fish Soup:
1 . Cook the fish broth from the whole fish. (Instructions above.) Strain the broth and set aside.
2. When the fish is cool enough to handle, discard the fish skin and bones and set aside the cooked fish to be added to the soup at the very end. (Fish overcooks very easily, so don’t add it in until all the vegetables are cooked through and you are ready to serve the soup.)
3. While the fish broth is cooking, prep all the vegetables. Peel and chop the onion, slice the carrots and celery, peel and chop the potatoes and chop the fresh herbs – dill and parsley are my favorite for this soup.
4. When the broth is cooked, rinse and wipe out the pot that you used for the broth, pour the broth back in and add all the vegetables except the herbs. At this point, you can add more water if you want the soup to be thinner and add more salt, ground black pepper, to taste, if it needs it. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and cooked through.
5. Add the fish and the fresh herbs to the soup and serve. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator, covered well, for up to a week.
Can You Make Fish Soup With Fish Fillets Instead of Using a Whole Fish?
Yes, you can use fish fillets, any kind that you like, such as salmon, cod, snapper, haddock, whiting, pike, etc.
In that case, cook the vegetables in water until cooked through (season with salt, pepper, add some bay leaves and whole peppercorns for flavor) and add the fish fillets at the very end. Cook for just 5-7 minutes, until the fish is cooked though. Fish cooks really quickly, so be careful not to overcook it. Garnish with fresh herbs.
The soup won’t be as flavorful as when cooking a fish broth using the whole fish, but it will still be good. You can also use a vegetable broth instead of the water too.
Other Fish Soups:
In our family, we love fish soups. Even my small boys, at the moment they are 3 and 5, have enjoyed these soups since they were babies, especially this one.
The Potato and Salmon Soup (I have a video of this recipe as well), Potato and Cod Soup and Creamy Shrimp Chowder are also amazing. If you haven’t tried my Clam Chowder, I highly recommend it too.Print
Fisherman’s Soup – Ukha
One of the easiest and healthiest fish soups is the Russian Ukha. Prepared by cooking a fish broth from a whole fish, you then add handful of additional vegetables, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and fresh dill and parsley into that clear and flavorful broth.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 45
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 6 1x
- 1 whole fish, 1-1 1/2 lbs, cleaned (snapper, trout, bass, salmon, etc.)
- 10 cups water
- 1/2 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 3 dry bay leaves
- salt, to taste
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3–4 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3–5 celery stalks, sliced
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 – 1 Tablespoon each, fresh parsley and dill, finely chopped
- Make the fish broth by placing the fish in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the water, black peppercorns, dry bay leaves and salt to taste. (I also like to add the veggie peels and scraps that you will be using for the soup – onion, carrots and celery. That is optional.) Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
- While the fish broth is cooking, prep the rest of the ingredients. Peel and chop the onion and potatoes, peel and slice the carrots, slice the celery and chop the fresh herbs.
- Set the fish aside until it’s cool enough to handle. Strain the fish broth through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the peppercorns, bay leaves and veggie scraps, if using. When the fish is cool enough to handle, remove the fish meat and set aside to be added to the soup at the very end. Discard the fish skin, bones and head.
- Rinse out the pot that you used to cook the fish broth. Return the broth to the pot and add all the vegetables except the herbs. Add more water, if you want the soup to be thinner. This is optional. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if it needs it.
- Bring the soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are tender and cooked through.
- Add the fish meat to the soup and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve hot. Refrigerate leftovers for 5-7 days.
Keywords: fish soup, clear fish broth soup, whole fish soup, trout soup, russian fish soup,
Another unique way to make Ukha is to use small whole potatoes and carrots instead of chopping them up. In the spring and early summer, when you have new potatoes and carrots in your garden or find some at a farmer’s market or grocery store, it’s a very effective presentation and is fun to eat too.
Cook the fish broth as the instructions say, then when pouring the strained fish broth into the pot, add the chopped onion, sliced celery and whole, peeled new potatoes and small spring carrots to the soup. They will take a little bit longer to cook through, but when the potatoes and carrots are tender and cooked, add the fish and the herbs and serve.
This is an updated version of the Fisherman’s Soup Ukha recipe that was published originally on August 26, 2013. I have updated the pictures and clarified the instructions, but the recipe is still the same. This has been our family favorite for years. Enjoy!
Love it:) always loved this soup but never tried making it myself and my husband is a fisherman, i will definatly give it a try next time 🙂 and i like the way u take the fish out and clean it from skin, cause i know that some ppl just leave the fish in! thank you for sharing
How awesome to have fresh caught fish!
I agree with you about the fish skin. I’m not a fan of flabby skin in my soup:).
I love uha, my favorite, I always make it when I get a fresh fish. thank you for sharing, I make it slightly different, next time I will make it your way.
It’s such a light and flavorful soup. Love it.
Wow, I am so happy you posted this recipe! On my list for tomorrow!
I’m so glad this recipe caught your eye. Enjoy!
This soup looks delicious, I can almost taste it :).
Thank you, Natasha.
OMG, Olya, I just made this soup, and it’s amazing! My Russian husband loves it. He also reminded me that this is one of those soups that improves with age, so it’s good I made a lot. Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes.
That’s great! I’m so happy you enjoyed the Ukha.
I made this soup today for the first time and it was delicious! I used fresh fish from the ocean 🙂 loved ur idea to cook the fish first and remove the bones and skin .. great recipe! Thank you for sharing
I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it, Yelena! Thanks for taking the time to let me know.
I ran across this recipe and can’t wait to try it tonight! I have always had my fish monger filet my fish. I then use the carcass to make my stock, adding the fish at the end! I have made fisherman’s stew many times before but I love the simplicity of your dish. I showed it to my co-worker, who is from Russia, and she told me to bring her some when I made it! I’m also planning to use shrimp, and yes, the shells will also be used to make the stock. Thank you!
Hello, and thanks for the recipe.
The ingredients call for “1 whole fish” but the first picture shows it sans head. Should the first step, making the broth, be with the head (for flavor)?
I usually use the head in the soup as well, but sometimes the grocery store doesn’t have fish with the heads still on. If you have a whole fish with the head on available, certainly include it in the soup:).
Thank you very much for this recipe. It was fantastic! I made it with a whole trout, head to tail, following your instructions. I am amazed at how much flavour this generated without the need for additional oils and herbs.
I’ve become a pescetarian and was looking for an alternative to chicken soup (my go to when I’m sick). I honestly think this is better. So thank you very much, Comrade! 🙂
Hi Madura. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I am so happy that you enjoyed the Ukha:).
I’ve never had–let alone made–a fish soup before, but this recipe is definitely a keeper! It was also super quick and easy to scale it down to a single-gal serving size–I used just half a trout filet (plus a splash of seafood stock to make up for not finding a whole fish at the grocery store).
That’s wonderful, Michelle. I’m so glad you enjoyed the soup.
This looks delicious and so healthy!! How do you get all of the small bones out of the fish flesh? I’m concerned about missing some and then having them stuck in my throat. I’ve always been scared of cooking with whole fish for this reason, but feel I’m missing out on some great dishes.
I don’t have any issues with removing the bones, but if you are fearful, you can just use boneless fillets. I have the instructions on how to make this soup with fish fillets in the recipe instructions.
I just made some chicken vegetable soup as the weather is getting cooler. Now, I am looking forward to this recipe and to make my grandmother proud as she made the best soups. Watched her kill and prepare her own chickens when I was 5 or 6. RIP grandma and our relatives in and from Ukraine.
I hope you enjoy this recipe, Ron! There is something so special about Grandma’s recipes:).
I like your detailed Russian recipes :), but I have a question: As I eat mainly low carb can I reduce or omit the potatoes in these recipes, for example in the “ukha”?
You can adjust the recipes to whatever you prefer.
My fish is already cleaned and fileted. Can I still boil it for the stock?
I am definitely a little late to the party but I wanted to give you some love for your ukha. I had some change of plans fish in the fridge and I hate to waste, especially the fish I catch! My search for a soup with rainbow trout came up with lots of chowder but not much soup, until I saw yours. Usually I lean Mexican or Japanese with my clear broth soups but I’m sure glad I tried your ukha. Granted, I had to add my embellishments of course. One small mostly seeded Thai chili, leeks instead of onions, and a squeeze of lime juice when served. So, 95% you. Very cool that you are still picking up comments almost a decade after your original post!
Thanks for sharing, John. Sounds like a delicious combination of ingredients. So happy that you enjoyed this recipe.