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Trader Joe’s Cioppino Seafood Stew

Trader Joe's Cioppino Seafood Stew

The giant, over-sized cioppino bag.

Seafood can be done well, and seafood can strand you in the bathroom for 24 hours – so when someone, even Trader Joe’s, offers to make me a stew from assorted castoff bits of seafood I take pause. Nevertheless, it is my duty to report on such things to you, dear reader, and so I found myself face to face with a bubbling bowl of Trader Joe’s Cioppino Seafood Stew.

Cioppino, despite it’s robustly Italian-sounding name, is actually an American creation – springing into existence on the docks of San Francisco in the 1800’s. It owes it’s name to a derivation of the Italian word meaning “to chop”, a naming convention that is less than totally unique.

In this case, the chopping was done to whatever the fisherman had left over once the good bits of their day’s catch had been accounted for. This fish, bivalve and crustacean medley was then chucked into a pot and simmered in a tomato and wine base until delicious. This colorful history played through my head as I stared at the floppy, opaque bag Trader Joe’s was peddling – images of unsavory, marine castoffs swimming through my head. As I ripped open the bag and poured its contents into my stew pot, I discovered my fears were for naught. Once again, the TJ’s chefs have saved what may have been a questionable concept in lesser hands by the strength of their delicious recipes. Rich, red and flavorful, Trader Joe’s Cioppino Seafood Stew is as hearty as it is delicious.

It’s the base that makes it work – a heavily seasoned tomato stock cut with red wine that verges on the edge of being too salty without going over. It’s a good stew base through and through, a gut-warmer that invites slow, deep sips.

The seafood itself is a nice mixture of deboned cod, and shelled shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams. Strictly speaking, this is a departure from traditional ciopinno, which is made from local fish plus shrimp, crab and squid, still bone-in and in shell, as suits the tuff wharf walkers of San Fran. Even better, despite the plentiful helping of seafood in the stew, it doesn’t suffer from a debilitating fishy taste.

I didn’t find much to dislike with this stew. One quibble is that the bag contains 80% of your daily sodium intake between two small servings. Speaking of which, the bag is ridiculously oversized for the contents it holds. Despite the appearances, you’ll be able to cook up the entire dish in a pint-sized sauce pan with room to spare. Trader Joe’s calls this two servings. Not where I come from, TJ.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Get your cioppino on, those of you not suffering from high blood pressure!

Would I Buy It Again: It’s the perfect excuse for me to buy a bread bowl.

Final Synopsis: A tasty, salty seafood stew that does it all right.

Trader Joe's Cioppino Seafood Stew - Nutritional Facts

Trader Joe’s Cioppino Seafood Stew – Nutritional Facts

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6 Comments on “Trader Joe’s Cioppino Seafood Stew”

  1. Ed Galicki says:

    I have been eating this stuff since HOPPS – a local bistro went out of business – because their version was unbeatable. This is really god – and if you know where to get it there’s a dried ground red pepper called PEQUIN that when sprinkled on the stew makes it supernaturally good. We grow these peppers, but I found when the birds eat too many and I need a new supply MEXGROCER has them for under 2 bucks. These are the best tasting peppers of any I have tried, and I have tried a lot. They make this step, pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, and any casserole wonderfully exciting and flavorful.

  2. Michael Kemper says:

    This is the closest thing to one of the best dishes in San Francisco from the early 80s through 2012 when Little Joe’s closed. Their Ciacucco was to die for. The only thing missing in Trader Joe’s version is the fresh Dungeness Crab but the flavor’s there, I like to add a little, maybe a lot, of sautéed garlic remembering the dish of cloves at Little Joe’s cash register with the label “Italian Breath Mints.”

  3. Cellomommy says:

    How to extend this meal to feed three or four – and reduce the salt per serving.
    Put some minced garlic and a can of no salt added diced tomatoes in your slowcooker, with the frozen packet of broth from the bag, along with a glug or two of red or white wine if you happen to have some open. Put the seafood in the bag back in the freezer. Let this cook together until hot, about two hours in the slowcooker. Taste for salt. If too salty, add no salt added chicken broth, or water, or wine. Add the seafood from the bag, plus half of a bag of TJ’s frozen Seafood Mix, or a frozen tilapia fillet. Cook for another two hours in the slow cooker. Break up the tilapia fillet to check for doneness. Serve with salad and bread.

  4. David Branton says:

    I always ask where the seafood came from: is it USA or imported? We don’t eat imported. I was told by the T.J.’s manager that food laws dictate that foreign ingredients have to be identified. True?

  5. Andrea Frost says:

    This stew is delicious, but alas it seems to have gone the way of so many of my TJ favorites. No longer orderable :((

  6. Dorothy Bohlman says:

    The manager of our local TJ’s tells us that the cioppino is in for repackaging from their marketing department. Let’s all hope it’s true.


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