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How to Cook with Frozen Mixed Seafood: Seafood Soups on a Budget

Updated: Jan 18

Cioppino and Thai Seafood Soup: Two great seafood Soups under $12.50 serving 2-4.


Cioppino and Thai Seafood Soup: classic recipes modified so that you can economically and easily prepare them at home.

Thai Seafood Soup

My Asian market sells these bags of mixed seafood for $3.99--shrimp, octopus, squid, and mussels. Costco, Sam's and Trader Joes also sell inexpensive mixed seafood. But how do you actually cook with them?

Frozen Mixed Seafood

These recipes originally appeared as part of a post on seafood soups at I modified the recipes so that they could be made using inexpensive mixed frozen seafood, which is available almost everywhere. The results were fantastic. Note: the mixed seafood bag I used was 14 oz., so I supplemented it with 3 additional oz. of shelled frozen shrimp from Sam's Club. You should have at least a pound of thawed, shelled seafood to finish both recipes. Other bags, such as the bag widely available at Walmart, is 1.5 pounds. Just use what you can find at a reasonable price--Costco has a large 2.5-pound bag which is adequate to make both recipes here, while Trader Joes has a 1-pound bag for $7.99.

I modified the Cioppino recipe to substitute ground fennel seeds for anise-flavored liquor, which can be both expensive and difficult to find. One thing I would not substitute under any condition: the fresh fennel bulb. It really makes the recipe and there is no real substitute. If you can't find fennel, I would save the frozen seafood until you can.

With regard to the Thai Seafood Soup, make a visit to your favorite Asian grocery--the ingredients there are typically far less expensive and of better quality. Try to find fresh lemongrass and grind the middle part up in a blender or food processor (discard the bottom and simmer the top in the pot, retrieve and throw away before serving). With regard to lime leaves, find fresh if you can, but dried is fine if you cannot find them--in a pinch, just add a teaspoon of lime zest. Coconut milk is available nearly everywhere in cans but don't buy the low-fat variety. With regard to galangal, its cheap and available at a Thai or Vietnamese grocery. Otherwise, you can find ginger in most groceries. My favorite Asian grocery sells a huge amount of galangal for under $3. If you get to the refrigerator case, and the ginger, galangal and turmeric bulbs all look the same, just ask someone for help. My experience is that staff is more than happy to educate you, especially if you come often and try new things.

Recipe #1: Cioppino

Cioppino Ingredients

Ingredients (Cost $12.40, serves 2)

  • 2 T olive oil ($0.25)

  • 2 T butter ($0.30)

  • 1/2 of a small, sweet onion, chopped ($0.25)

  • 1/4 c. carrots, chopped ($0.25)

  • 1/4 c. celery, chopped ($0.10)

  • 1/2 of a small fennel bulb, chopped fine ($2.00)

  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed

  • 1 T tomato paste

  • 1/2 c. dry white wine, such as Pinot Griego ($0.50)

  • 1 8 oz. bottle of clam juice ($2.00)

  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes ($1.00)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/4 t. dried thyme

  • 1/4 t. dried oregano

  • 1/4 t. dried basil

  • 1/4 t. ground fennel seeds (roast and grind in spice mill), optional

  • salt and pepper

  • 1-1.5 pounds mixed frozen seafood thawed and rinsed; shells removed. ($3.99 plus $2.00 for extra shrimp)

  • fennel fronds, chopped.


  1. Thaw frozen seafood, make sure to remove shells and rinse.

  2. Heat butter and olive oil. Add onions, celery, carrots and fennel bulb and cook until beginning to get tender, about 5 minutes.

Saute onions, celery, and carrots

3. Add pressed garlic and tomato paste. Add white wine and cook until alcohol has reduced to thickness. Add clam juice, tomatoes (with juices) and spices. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently, covered, for an hour.

Add tomatoes and spices and simmer.

4. Taste and check for salt and pepper. Add seafood and cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes. Don't allow to boil--heat it gently.

Add Seafood and cook gently.

5. This soup does not hold well once the seafood is added. You can make it ahead of time up to the point of adding the seafood and keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Heat and add the seafood and simmer for 5 minutes when you are ready to serve it.

Add mixed seafood and simmer.
Add seafood and simmer.

6. Serve with chopped fennel fronds or chopped parsley and lot of crusty bread.

Mixed Seafood Cioppino
Cioppino on a Budget

Recipe #2: Thai Seafood Soup (Tom Yum Talay)

Thai Seafood Soup ingredients
Tom Yum Talay Ingredients

Ingredients (Cost 12.35, serves 4)

  • 6 c chicken stock (Aldi, $1.60)

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, minced ($0.30)

  • 2 lime leaves, fresh or dried ($0.10)

  • 4 cloves garlic, press ($0.10)

  • 1 t grated galangal, or ginger ($0.25)

  • Thai chili paste or other minced hot peppers, to taste

  • 1 c mushrooms, sliced thinly ($1.00)

  • 1 lb frozen mixed seafood ($3.99 plus $2 for extra shrimp)

  • 1 Roma tomato, halved, pulp removed and cut into thin strips ($0.25)

  • 1 c bok choy, chopped, optional ($0.75)

  • 1/2 can coconut milk or cream (full fat) ($1.25)

  • 2 T fish sauce

  • 1 T soy sauce

  • Juice of 2 limes ($0.50)

  • 1 t sugar

  • 1/4 c chopped cilantro. ($0.25)


  1. Thaw frozen seafood, make sure to remove shells and rinse.

  2. Heat the stock, add lemongrass, and lime leaves to a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

Stock, lemongrass and lime leaves
Stock and Aromatics

3. Add garlic, galangal, chili, and mushrooms. Simmer until mushrooms are soft, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add aromatics and mushrooms
Add garlic, galangal, and chiles. Add Mushrooms.

4. Add the thawed mixed seafood, tomato, and bok choy. Simmer over medium heat until seafood is done (shrimp will pink and other seafood will be firm to the touch and no longer translucent).

Add thawed mixed seafood and tomatoes.
Add mixed seafood, tomato and bok choy.

5. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, and sugar, and simmer until hot (do not boil).

Add coconut milk and flavorings
Add coconut milk, fish sauce, soy and sugar.

6. Check for seasoning and garnish with cilantro.

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1 Comment

Dec 28, 2023

I just read a NYT article (or maybe Washington Post?) where they mentioned using frozen mixed seafood for a different soup and got curious about this mix, since I'd never heard of it or used it. Did some more Googling and came upon your recipe and site. I _love_ the "inflation bites" name and will check out all you have to offer - thanks!

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