Tastetrotting: Marmitako a.k.a Basque Tuna Stew with Peppers and Potatoes

Marmitako - Basque Tuna Stew with Potatoes and Peppers One of the things I’ve been dying to recreate from my trip to San Sebastian is Marmitako. Not only was it one of the best things I ate, but it also might be my favorite zippy, funky Basque word. (Fun fact: Basque is the only language in the world that linguists cannot explain the origin of. I have no footnote, but someone told me that…). If you said something like that around these parts, people would not want to go near your skanky ass taco. So let me try to entice you…

Marmitako is a rustic late summer stew with potatoes, various bell peppers, and rich fish stock. We made it during my cooking class with San Sebastian Food at a little seaside restaurant in San Juan. The main event of the stew is sometimes squid, but more often than not, it’s tuna.

Marmitako - Fish for Stew This Marmitako recipe creates a Basque Tuna Stew with Potatoes and Peppers Marmitako - Basque Tuna Fish Stew with Potatoes and Peppers A huge part of my culinary awakening in the Basque region was refocusing my attention on tuna. I’ve never had anything against eating it, but in terms of cooking, it always just felt a little cheesy. This could be because when interviewing guys for the dating section of my book, 3 out of 5 said they’d make seared tuna steaks for a first cooking date. (I mean…come on.)

I’ll admit that I’ve been known to be overly fickle in my personal life, and in the case of tuna, that just might have trickled down into my culinary life as well. And while you will still probably never see a recipe on this site for seared tuna steaks with wasabi aioli, I have definitely come around to using it in a more rustic nature, like this stew.

marmitako tuna fish stew is a traditional and classic basque dish This Basque Marmitako recipe uses tuna fish for stew as well as potatoes and peppers My version of Marmitako was pretty darn good. But the one thing I was unable to recreate was the subtle kick in the broth. The chef used a small dried red chile – perhaps something like a New Mexican chile — rehydrated, seeds removed, and then torn up and tossed into the pot. I was lazy and used some red chile flakes instead. But it definitely lacked a little something something.

If you share my tuna biases or my budget, I would definitely recommend playing around with this stew and using squid or even a sturdy white stew fish like cod, hake, or halibut. Regardless of what you use, marmitako could not be simpler to make and it couldn’t taste further from a nasty ass taco.

Marmitako Recipe - Basque Tuna Stew with Potatoes and Peppers. This tuna fish stew is a classic and traditional Basque meal I don’t know about where you live, but things are starting to cool off here in New York. I was even able to break out my cashmere sweat pants for the first day of the year (also known as my favorite day of the year). Spending money on cashmere sweatpants is not entirely dissimilar from spending money on tuna steaks and then throwing them in a stew. Some people might consider both concepts ridiculous (like, say, eating caviar with potato chips or having a bachelorette party in Ibiza). But I will say that they have made me very warm and snuggly and happy. And I’d highly recommend them in tandem.

Happy Fall!


Recipes Marmitako is a classic basque meal. This Basque Tuna Stew Recipe uses Potatoes and Peppers

Marmitako Basque Tuna Stew with Peppers and Potatoes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Serving Size: 4

Marmitako Basque Tuna Stew with Peppers and Potatoes

To save time, you can pulse the onion, peppers, and garlic in a food processor to finely chop.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/4 pounds tuna steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 sweet onion (Spanish or Vidalia), finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno or fresno chile pepper, ribs and seeds removed, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 large russet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 cups fish stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Season the tuna with salt and sear it in batches over high heat until browned on at least two sides, about 2 minutes total. Remove to a plate.
  2. Add the remaining oil and the onion, peppers, garlic, chile flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Saute over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft but not browning, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and potatoes. Cover with the stock or water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender and the broth has thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as necessary.
  3. Stir in half the parsley and the tuna. remove from the heat and let stand 3 minutes, until the tuna is heated through and just barely cooked.
  4. Serve the stew in bowls and garnish with the remaining parsley.

instagram  If you make this, share a photo and tag me @PhoebeLapine #feedmephoebe - I would love to see it!


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Taste With The Eyes: Ensalada de Papas a la Huancaina (Peruvian-Style Salad with Potato Cake, Egg and Yellow Chile)
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22 Responses to Tastetrotting: Marmitako a.k.a Basque Tuna Stew with Peppers and Potatoes

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  5. Frankie says:

    I feel the same way about tuna, which I also find too dry. I’ll try this with cod, maybe. Thanks for bringing this recipe back with you!

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  8. Steph says:

    I would never think to use tuna in a stew, or really to ever buy it other than in the italian canned variety, but this looks absolutely delicious. As much as I love a picture-perfect dessert, it’s these more rustic looking foods that really make me want to get in the kitchen. Thank you!

  9. Brady says:

    Thanks for this beautiful recipe! I love fish stews and have never tried tuna, a special yet expensive treat. And, mabe one day I’ll get to try potato chips with caviar…mmmmm…

    • The nice thing about stews is that you don’t need to have very much of that special protein in there. If you’re on a budget, try only a 3/4 or 1 pound of tuna and up the potatoes! Unfort same trick doesn’t work with potato chips and caviar 🙂

  10. Seble asnake says:

    I love sea foods, but never made a stew before. It looks delicious!
    I’m going to make one today.
    Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  11. Pip says:

    Hi Phoebe,
    You really nailed marmitako with this post.. I was served it last week and it was exactly as you describe..
    I think the spicy kick you were trying to find is Piment d’Espelette.. and it’s available online. We live in the Pays Basque and it’s the signature flavour just about everywhere..
    Great post!

    • what a compliment Pip!! Yes, that is definitely the stuff. Wish I Had picked some up! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      • Pip says:

        Hi Phoebe,
        Just realised that a couple of years ago we had lunch at the very same restaurant – “Casa Camara” – at Pasajes San Juan where you had your cooking class..
        Story & pics here: http://piperade-thecompleatanglo.blogspot.fr/search/label/Pasajes%20San%20Juan
        Enjoyed the experience very much.
        Have you discovered yet the style of cooking with a “Cataplana”..? Imagine a wok with a lid clamped down.. Imagine it full of prawns, clams, crab, mussels, rice, chorizo, white wine, herbs, garlic etc etc.. Imagine the rich waft of steam when you remove the lid.. You’ll have to try it!☺

  12. Pip says:

    You’ll find Piment d’Espelette online at the Petricorena web site (far cheaper than Amazon).
    Needless to say I have no connection of any kind with Petricorena other than as a v satisfied consumer.

  13. courtney says:

    LOVED this recipe! made it with cod instead of tuna – it’s just so dang expensive here! the peppers were wonderful – just the right amount of heat & freshness, especially with the parsley. excellent broth. i will watch the cook time & temperature a little more closely next time. flavor of that cod went well with the broth, but i would try something even firmer next time or cook for less time/less vigorously, as it kind of disintegrated, as did the potatoes. but LOVED it nonetheless and will mos def be making this again. super easy with big payoff. thank you!

    • So great to know you loved it with cod! I make something similar with cod and chorizo and lots of lemon. I’m sure it was delicious. Cod definitely takes less take to cook than tuna, so great adjustment. But the potatoes shouldn’t have disintegrated! Will have to make this again soon. It’s so yummy.

  14. Arty says:

    Aren’t Polbanos Mexican?

    • I suppose you’re right Arty! I’m not sure what kind they use over in Spain – perhaps padron or just green bell peppers. You can use any of the above. I like poblanos since they’re mild but still have a slight spice to them.

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