Salmon Head Fish Stock

Salmon Head Fish Stock

Tara Carpenter, NC.

Holistic nutrition for digestion; specialized in yeast overgrowth. 

Originally published: April 1, 2019

Salmon heads are packed with tender meat and abundant fat along jawbone and prized for making rich fish stock that can be used as a base for soup of all kinds. Salmon head fish stock contains vitamin A, Omega-3, iron, zinc, and calcium. I felt apprehensive to make fish stock because I only have experience with chicken and meat stock and imagined my whole home would smell fishy!

I knew the benefits of stock in general; that this liquid gold can strengthen bones and joints, reverse tooth decay, and as an anti-inflammatory brings health to thyroid, eyes, and gut lining. What convinced me is that fish head stock is a traditional food that’s been around for centuries and revered in most parts of the world.

As my readers know, I love traditional foods like milk kefir, cod liver oil, unsalted kraut, marrow, and liver. These are the foods I give my attention to and talk about. The foods gracing my kitchen with hope of normalizing them for my children who will one day give to my grandchildren 🙂

This looking ahead propels me to the fish market for a pair of wild salmon heads. On making the stock, I am surprised the smell is pleasant and the stock savory as chicken stock with a delicacy all its own. Very easy to make! Two hours start to finish.

My youngest enjoying a fish head.
My youngest enjoying a fish head.

Fish Head Stock 

Makes: about 5 cups


1-2 pounds of salmon fish heads

2-4 garlic cloves

1-2 bay leaves

1-2 Tbsp. ginger, thinly sliced


  1. Remove gills with kitchen shears; these are attached to the head on each end; cut them at the joint where they attach. Discard. If you skip this part, the gills will give stock bad color and off-taste. Ask the guy behind the fish counter to remove them for you.
  2. Clean thoroughly with water.
  3. Place them in a soup pot with enough water to cover heads by at least 1-inch.
  4. Add 2-4 garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, and 1-2 Tbs. thin sliced ginger.
  5. Bring to simmer and reduce heat to low.  
  6. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, should only bubble slightly, note that cooking for more than an hour will turn the stock bitter.
  7. Skim off any foam that may rise to the top.
  8. Strain through a couple layers of cheesecloth.
  9. Pick the meat and soft tissue off bones, anything soft is edible, including eyes and brains.
  10. Return the meat and tissue to the stock.
  11. Store in fridge up to 5 days or freeze for several months.

Tips & Tricks

  • Add sauteed onions, garlic, leeks, cabbage, or lemon at any point while fish heads cook.
  • Substitute fish stock for vegetable stock in fish chowder or creamy salmon soup.
  • Squeamish about fish eyes? No worries, they dissolve into stock and fatty tissue around eyes is rich in vitamin A.
  • Head is healthiest part of fish to eat, also the spine. 
  • Salmon heads give stock strong flavor; if want mild flavor try cod, halibut, bass, or another white fish. Use one type of fish or combo.
  • This is a friendly recipe for those on The Body Ecology Diet; a healing protocol for gut imbalances (i.e., yeast overgrowth, GBS+).
  • If have leaky gut, Crohn’s, autism, ADHD, seizures/tics, avoid long-cooked broth. Stick to short-cooked stocks because free glutamates (MSG, glutamine, glutamic acid) increase the longer bones are cooked. This can bother people.
  • Hard time sourcing fish heads? Special order from these guys
  • Here’s a list of fish to eat, fish to avoid.

This recipe is from Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel who says best stock for bone/tooth decay comes from wild fish carcasses, heads, and organs.

How I Make Apple Cider Kefir

Rooster Meat Stock Recipe

LivAmend for Liver Support


Nagel, R. (2011). Cure Tooth Decay. Los Gatos, CA: Golden Child Publishing

Paula, CHS. (2012). Author of a website called Whole Intentions Fish Heads in My Stock Pot

Schuette, K. (2017). Stock vs. Broth – Are You Confused. Retrieved from Healthy Home Economist

Worker Bee (2016). Fish Head Broth. Retrieved from Mark’s Daily Apple

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 May all bellies be happy!

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9 replies on “Salmon Head Fish Stock”

30-45 minutes is the correct amount of time to allow things to simmer. Thank you for bringing that error to my attention, I was editing that recipe a couple days ago and forgot to delete that above line 🙂

Exactly how long should it simmer? Number 5 says it should simmer 30 minutes. Then number 6 says to simmer 30 to 45 minutes. Does that mean it should simmer 1 hr to 1 hr and 15 minutes? thanks

I haven’t tried slow cooking it, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I’d just watch it closely the first time you do it, as some slow cookers heat up quite hot and it’s best if this stock simmers at a very slow bubble. You could always lift the lid a bit to keep it so if need be.

Thanks for sharing! I wonder if i can slowcook this one, have you tried?

Yes, I use a variety of stocks as the base for many things that cook in liquid. I bet that risotto would take on a lovely flavor when cooked in the fish stock!

This is such a great idea! I’ve never thought about making stock from salmon heads. How cool. I bet this might taste really good in a risotto with fish? Thanks for sharing your recipe!

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