This North Carolina Fish Stew is loaded with chunks of fish, bacon, potatoes and onions in a seasoned tomato broth, then finished off with eggs cooked right in the stew… it’s an Eastern NC classic!
This fish stew is a tradition in my family; we’ve enjoyed it for as long as I can remember. The flavors are complex, but it’s actually a simple, no-fuss recipe.
As you can see, the ingredients are quite simple!
- Use a FIRM fish, such as red drum or sheepshead. You want the fish to be chunky in this stew. If you use a flaky fish, it will break apart so much during cooking, you’ll hardly know it’s even there.
- Don’t stir the pot! Even when using a firm fish, it will still break up some during cooking. If you stir, you’ll risk the chance of breaking the fish up into tiny little pieces, and we don’t want that. You can very gently (and carefully) shake the pot back and forth (while the lid is on) a few times while it’s cooking, but it is not mandatory.
- Freeze your bacon for about 20 to 30 minutes before cutting. This firms it up, making it easier to cut into pieces.
- If you want to do your prep work ahead of time, place your peeled and cut potatoes in a large bowl of cold water with a splash of lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Store covered in the fridge for up to 24 hours before using in the stew.
Start off by frying bacon in a large (8 to 10 quart) pot or Dutch oven. I highly recommend a 10 quart, as I used an 8 quart and was pushing the limit with my pot’s capacity. Once cooked, transfer the bacon to a plate and leave the fat in the pot.
On top of the fat left in the pot, you will layer the ingredients. The first layer will be the potatoes.
The next layer will be chopped yellow onion.
Place the fish chunks on top of the yellow onion layer.
Then you’ll add tomato soup, stewed tomatoes, seasonings and just enough water to cover the ingredients. It’s okay if a few of the tomatoes are a little above the water. Bring to a gentle boil, cover and cook.
During the last few minutes of cook time, you’ll add the eggs and allow them to gently boil until fully cooked, about 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with cornbread, hushpuppies or saltine crackers.
Originally published December 10, 2011. Updated with photographs, helpful tips and recipe revised April 2020.