A brothy stew full of tomatoes, fennel, shrimp, and aromatics, is made luscious with pearl couscous, and bright with lemon, dill, and Castelvetrano olives (any green olive will do!). It’s reminiscent of Cioppino taken up a notch with zesty flavors.

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pot of shrimp and couscous stew

What’s Special About this Mediterranean Shrimp Stew?

I’m excited to share this Mediterranean Shrimp Stew recipe with you for so many reasons. Like most of my recipes, it comes together easily and quickly, it’s full of fresh, zesty flavors, colorful ingredients and as a bonus, it makes a showstopping presentation with little effort! No beige food here! Seriously though, it melds many of the great Mediterranean ingredients such as lemon, olive, tomato, dill, and fennel, and shows them off beautifully. I suggest using your prettiest Dutch oven and serving it at the table. I almost forgot to mention the pearl couscous, which adds a luscious texture to the dish and makes this shrimp stew more filling than a traditional Cioppino. It’s Cioppino, dare I say, leveled up!

shrimp stew close up.

fennel tops and lemon zest for shrimp stew.

Above: The green stalks and soft herb leaves of the fennel bulb are chopped up with fresh dill and lemon zest to add to the shrimp stew at the end of cooking.

Mediterranean Diet Ingredient Notes + Substitutions

  • Pearl CouscousPearl couscous is larger and rounder than traditional couscous. Both are a type of tiny pasta. I wanted to try something different that wouldn’t absorb as much water as a grain. Pasta products fall within the main part of the Med. Diet Food Pyramid, along with grains, though whole grains are emphasized more than foods made with grain flour. This recipe only asks for 4 oz or 1 cup of the couscous. I emphasize this, because as tempting as it might be to measure casually or throw in the last of what you have, using more in this recipe will cause the liquid/broth to disappear (pasta will continue to absorb any liquid it is in). You’ll have a shrimp pilaf, not a stew! If you cannot get your hands on pearl couscous, I recommend orzo, another tiny pasta, or traditional couscous. Keep in mind, if you sub, this recipe is based on using pasta, not a grain.
  • Raw Shrimp – Fish and seafood are emphasized to be eaten a couple times a week. You’ll want deveined and shelled shrimp for this dish. Delicate in flavor, shrimp cook in an instant. There isn’t a good substitute, as shrimp in the shells will be hard to pick out of hot broth.
  • Fennel bulb – This ribbed veggie, is not unlike celery, but in a rounder shape, and with a subtle anise flavor. Don’t be deterred, as it is very mellow. If you prefer you can substitute celery (a couple of stalks) in place of it. It happens to be very prevalent in Mediterranean areas, such as Italy.
  • White wine – Wine adds a wonderful fruity acidity to the dish, and is part of the food pyramid as well, but you can leave it out if you prefer, as the lemon adds a similar flavor. Much of it cooks off, so if you are not using it, add 1/2 cup of water or broth.
  • Green Olives – Any green pitted olive works here and adds a great briny flavor, but the brighter green olives you see in the photos for this recipe are Castelvetrano, which have a mild, buttery flavor and taste a tad less briny. If you can find them, they are worth a try.

Above: These produce ingredients, along with some pantry staples, are all you need for this Mediterranean Shrimp Stew.

Method + Timing

  • Saute – The aromatics are sauteed in olive oil for a few minutes, then the tomato paste is added and sauteed briefly. The wine and canned tomatoes are then added and cooked briefly to cook down the wine.
  • Cook the couscous – the pearl couscous is then added to the broth and the stew cooks for 20 minutes. Stir and check a few times to make sure the couscous is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Cook the shrimp – At this point, the shrimp are added along with the fresh dill, lemon zest, juice, and olives. Within 5 minutes the shrimp will be cooked and the dish can be served.

Above: 1. Saute onion, fennel, carrots, garlic. 2. Add tomato paste and cook for a bit to caramelize the tomato paste (deepens flavor). 3. Add in pearl couscous and broth.

Serving, Storing + Reheating

  • Serving – This dish is incredibly easy to put together and is so pretty, you might like to bring the entire pot to the table to serve family style. It’s worthy of serving on a special occasion, with some crusty bread and a salad! Garnish with fresh dill, extra lemon zest, and even lemon wedges with each bowlful.
top down view of stew.
  • Storing + Reheating – Because the couscous is a very small pasta, it does not seem to absorb all of the broth overnight when stored in fridge and it can be reheated on the stovetop easily the next day. If yours does lose too much liquid after storing, feel free to add 1/4 cup of broth or water.
steamy bowl of shrimp and couscous stew.

Other Fish + Seafood Recipes

Try my super easy and delicious Herby Fish Stew with Crispy Potatoes or my Tuna Casserole Reinvented: Tuna with Zesty Artichoke and Goat Cheese Pasta Sauce (hot or chilled)!


I had a blast collaborating with my fellow blogger over on Club Trader Joe’s who reviews all kinds of TJ’s products. I highly recommend his site. I guest-posted a version of this recipe on his site called Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend and Argentinian Shrimp Stew using Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend and Raw Argentinian Red Shrimp. Check it out!

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Pot of Mediterranean shrimp stew.

Zesty Mediterranean Shrimp Stew (With Pearl Couscous)

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time14 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
A brothy stew full of tomatoes, fennel, shrimp, and aromatics, is made luscious with pearl couscous, and bright with lemon, dill, and Castelvetrano olives (any green olive will do!). Reminiscent of Cioppino taken up a notch with zesty flavors.
Kitchen Tools
  • 1 3.5 qt dutch oven, or any soup/stew pot


  • 1 medium red onion sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb sliced (can sub celery)
  • 1 medium carrot chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (or crushed)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (optional i.e. pinot grigio)
  • 1 quart vegetable broth (can sub water)
  • 4 oz pearl couscous (or 1 cup)
  • 1 lb raw shrimp (shelled, deveined)
  • 20 pitted green olives (I love the bright green Castelvetrano, but any will do)
  • 1/2 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh dill (at least 2 tbsp- reserve some for serving)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, red pepper flakes (to taste)


  • Slice the fennel bulb and onion (reserve the green fennel tops to chop and add with dill)
  • Roughly chop garlic and carrot
  • Add all to pot with olive oil and saute on medium-high for 5 minutes to soften.
  • Add tomato paste, stir and saute a couple minutes to caramelize the tomato paste, then add the wine and can of tomatoes, and saute 10 minutes to evaporate the wine some.
  • Add 4 oz (1 cup) pearl couscous and the quart of broth. Bring to a simmer, then cover and let simmer 20 minutes. See important note.
  • Taste to adjust seasonings. If the broth has evaporated too much for your liking, add 1/4 cup water, then add shrimp, olives, lemon zest, lemon juice and fresh dill (remember to hold some dill aside for garnish). Bring to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve topped with extra zest and dill.


Cooking the couscous – keep an eye on it, once you add the couscous to cook. Bits of it may stick to the bottom of the pan due to its starch, so stir every 5 min. or so, and keep the heat to the lowest setting possible to keep it at a low simmer. Gentle cooking will help ensure the couscous doesn’t stick.

Nutrition (an estimate)

Calories: 427kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 2374mg | Potassium: 869mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 175mg | Iron: 3mg | Magnesium: 78mg | Net Carbohydrates: 38g
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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious! THe flavors are different from other seafood stews in that it is much brighter tasting. I made it just as described, except I added the other half of the lemon juice, so it wouldn’t go to waste. I made it ahead of time and then it had to sit for an hour before we ate it, and the couscous did soak up some of the liquid. So I added a bit more wine and water and then it was fine. Also, our shrimp were a bit on the larger side and I would recommend small to medium sized shrimp so that they fit easily on a soup spoon and don’t have to be cut. SInce we live near the coast with easy access to seafood, I will definitely be making this again!