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Shrimp Saganaki Soup

Imagine the vibrant flavors of classic Shrimp Saganaki – juicy shrimp, tangy, salty feta, and a zesty tomato sauce infused with garlic and herbs – transformed into a deliciously comforting soup. Shrimp Saganaki Soup captures the essence of the beloved Greek dish, expanding it with flavorful broths and aromatics for a delightful and satisfying meal that celebrates Mediterranean cuisine.

Overhead view of Shrimp Saganaki Soup in a white Dutch Oven.

What is Shrimp Saganaki?

Shrimp Saganaki is a beloved Greek dish famous for its bold flavors and simple preparation. Plump shrimp are simmered in a zesty tomato-based sauce infused with garlic, herbs, and often a splash of ouzo for a unique anise note. Flavor-bomb feta cheese is melted into the sauce to bring everything together. It’s often served as a pre-meal appetizer.

Saganaki is actually cookware: it’s a small, two-handled pan and is probably most internationally known for the pan-seared Greek cheese appetizer that shares its name. Shrimp Saganaki is a saucy variation that’s almost a meal in itself.

During the end-of-year holidays, I stalked around shrimp saganaki as an appetizer, thinking about serving it on bread, especially as a treat for a small gathering where people might be seated around a table (as opposed to walking around, trying to keep saucy shrimp from dripping off a crostini).

Other appetizers eventually pushed it down the list, but I couldn’t stop thinking about shrimp in a tomato-feta sauce. It eventually hit me that it would be the perfect dish to transform into a soup, so here we are! (It’s a side hobby of mine, creating full-flavored soups from popular non-soup dishes. Check out the collection!).

The result is a lovely, light-but-flavorful soup that’s just perfect for spring and summer.

Overhead view of the soup in a soup pot with a side of toasted bread.

Ingredients, Prep Notes, and Substitutions

Shrimp — Of course, shrimp is the star of the show. Use a good quality shrimp. I’ll discuss shrimp in more detail in the sections below.

Veggies — Red onions, green bell peppers, fennel, and fresh garlic make up the aromatic mixture for this soup. Why fennel? Because traditional shrimp saganaki uses the Greek liquor, Ouzo, as a flavoring ingredient. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ouzo in stores around here, so I’m using fennel as a replacement for Ouzo’s anise flavoring.

If you happen to have Ouzo, feel free to omit the fennel, and add a 1/4 cup of ouzo along with the chicken broth in the recipe.

Tomato paste — Shrimp saganaki, the appetizer, does not use tomato paste. But I find it to be an almost essential ingredient in tomato-based soups. Tomato paste is simply tomato sauce that’s been reduced and concentrated to maximize the tomato’s natural umami qualities. You won’t regret adding this to your cart for this soup.

Seasonings — The seasonings used here are simple and are probably already in your pantry: salt (of course), oregano, and sweet paprika.

Paprika is not at all traditional in shrimp saganaki. I’m adding it here to ensure that this appetizer-made-into-a-soup remains fully flavored in the face of added liquids, without relying on salt.

This soup also calls for fresh lemon juice and sugar. Lemon juice brightens the soup in a very lovely way — don’t leave it out. Then, a small amount of sugar balances out the acid vibes of the tomatoes and lemon. It doesn’t make it dessert-sweet, it just tempers the strong notes of the other ingredients.

Flour — I’m using flour as a thickener for this soup, because I didn’t want the soup to be thin and brothy, but rather smooth and substantial. The goal is not stew, by the way. Just a liquid foundation that has some body to it. It’s optional, if you prefer a brothier result.

Tomatoes and Broth — I prefer to use petite diced tomatoes for this soup (and most soups, actually). A good alternative would be crushed tomatoes, but depending on the brand, they might or might not be too chunky. If they are, you can use kitchen sheers to snip through the can to cut up the tomatoes without any mess.

The petite cut has become more popular in recent years, because it’s a nicely sized dice, whereas regular diced tomatoes are often surprisingly large and not at all what I consider “diced.”

Chicken broth is my go-to here because it has a nice, neutral flavor that lets the tomatoes and shrimp shine through. If you want to emphasize seafood a little more, you can replace some of the chicken broth with a bottle of clam juice. I bet even Clamato would be interesting!

Feta cheese — And last, but certainly not least: the cheese. This soup would not be worthy of the name shrimp saganaki without Greek feta cheese. The creamy, salty flavor of a really good feta is absolutely essential here. If you can’t find feta in the moment — it happens, I know — use the best goat cheese you can find.

Prep tip: I usually buy crumbled feta, but if you buy a block, you make easy crumbles by dragging the tines of a fork along one side of the block.

What kind of shrimp to buy?

This recipe is incredibly flexible and can accommodate your shrimp preference. I live in the landlocked Midwest, and fresh seafood is not always convenient. My local grocery store has iffy “fresh” (sarcastic air quotes), so frozen is always the better bet for me. You can use fresh, raw, frozen, or cooked for this soup.

If using frozen, make sure to thaw and then rinse the shrimp first. I pour the frozen shrimp into a large bowl and fill it to cover with cold water. Change the water every few minutes. It’ll take about 10 to 15 minutes to thaw this way. Rinse well at the end.

Shrimp are sold by size, that is, the approximate number of shrimp per pound:

Small: 36/45
Medium: 31/35
Large: 21/30
Extra large: 16/20
Jumbo: 11/15
Colossal: 13/15

I recommend medium or large for this recipe. I used medium here in the photos in this recipe, because I already had a bag on hand (and I’m frugal!). Because shrimp is the star of the show, large works well. It fits on the spoon with a little room for the broth and veggies.

The shrimp will need to be peeled and deveined. You can buy shrimp with the shells on — and you do all the work for some $$ savings — or shells off and already deveined.

Preparing the shrimp: Tails on or tails off?

While shrimp tails are technically edible — and indeed are a delicacy in some international cuisines — I would recommend removing them for this soup, unless you and your companions are used to eating shrimp tails.

For some, including me, there’s a jarring texture imbalance between the plump and tender shrimp flesh and the crackly shell of the tail that immediately fires up my food aversions. The papery texture while chewing sends me right over the edge.

Again, it’s personal preference, but my goal for this soup does not rely on a crunchy texture. The succulent shrimp meat deserves to stand on its own!

How to Make Shrimp Saganaki Soup, with visuals

Here’s a step-by-step overview of how to make this soup, with helpful photos. Don’t forget to review the full recipe below, to make sure you have the correct ingredient quantities you need, plus cooking times.

Step 1: Saute the aromatics

Photo collage of soup aromatics cookings.

Start by sauteeing the veggies. Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven, until the surface of the oil begins to gently shimmer. This indicates that the oil is hot enough to proceed.

Add the onions, peppers, and fennel, and cook until they’re soft, stirring frequently to prevent browning. This will take 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the heat conductivity of your soup pot.

Step 2: Add the seasonings

Photo collage of seasonings and thickening step.

Add the tomato paste, flour, herbs, spices, garlic, and some of the chicken broth. Stir to mix completely and then let simmer for several minutes to thicken.

When a spatula dragged across the bottom of the pot leaves a clear path for several seconds, proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Add the tomatoes and broth

Broth and tomatoes coming up to a bubbly boil.

Pour in the tomatoes with their juices, along with the remaining broth. Increase heat to bring the soup to a gentle boil, and then lower the heat, maintaining an active simmer. Cook for ten minutes.

Step 4: Add the shrimp

Photo collage of shrimp cooking in the soup.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the raw (thawed) shrimp to the pot. Let cook until the shrimp are pink, plump, and opaque. This will take about 5 minutes.

Step 5: Finishing touches

The finished soup, garnished with feta cheese and minced parsley.

Add about half of the feta and stir to mix well. The feta should melt and more or less dissolve into the soup. Doing this distributes the tangy feta flavors throughout.

Add the lemon juice and sugar. Stir well and taste. The soup should bright, slightly salty, and tomatoey.

Sprinkle the remaining feta over the soup as a topping, along with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately. (Or, hold back the feta and serve on the side for your guests to add.)

Overhead view of the soup in a large white bowl.

I highly recommend serving this soup with a crusty baguette or focaccia, using the bread to soak up the liquids in the soup. And maybe top with a Chili Crisp Fried Egg. So delicous!

Warmer weather has arrived here in the Ohio Valley, and this is the perfect soup to transition from winter’s heavy offerings to summer’s lighter fare.

Karen xo
Overhead view of a bowl of Shrimp Saganaki Soup.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Shrimp Saganaki Soup

Transform the traditional Greek shrimp and tomato appetizer into a satisfying soup. Shrimp Saganaki Soup is bursting with fabulous Greek flavors, from the plump shrimp and tangy feta to the zesty tomato sauce.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: shrimp saganaki soup
Servings: 4
Author: Karen Gibson


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small bulb fennel (stems and leaves removed*)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • 28 ounces diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 15 ounces low-sodium chicken broth (about a scant two cups)
  • 12 to 16 ounces raw medium or large shrimp (peeled, tail off, head off, thawed and rinsed if frozen)
  • juice from half of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced


  • Heat the olive oil in a 4 qt. soup pot or Dutch oven over medium until the oil shimmers. Add the onions, peppers, and fennel to the pot and saute until all are soft, before they start to brown, about 5-8 minutes.
  • Spoon in tomato paste, plus the garlic, paprika, oregano, flour, 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, and a big pinch of salt and combine with the veggies. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes to thicken. When a spatula drawn across the bottom of the pot leaves an empty path, the soup base is thick enough.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, the remaining chicken broth, and another big pinch of salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and let the soup come to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and sugar, stirring well.
  • Carefully taste the broth — it’ll be hot! let it cool on the spoon for a second — and add more salt or lemon juice if necessary. Keep in mind that feta cheese is salty, but you still want the broth to be lively and flavorful.
  • Stir in the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes, or until all the shrimp are plump, opaque, and pink. Turn off the heat. Stir in about a 1/4 cup of the feta cheese, combining it with the soup until it melts in. Add the lemon juice and sugar, and taste, adjusting any of the seasonings as needed. Then sprinkle the remaining feta cheese over the soup as a garnish, along with the parsley, and serve.


You can use pre-cooked shrimp for this recipe. Add it at the same point in the recipe, but you won’t need to wait for the shrimp to cook, only to heat through.
* If your fennel came with the green stems and feathery leaves attached, you can use the dill-looking leaves as a garnish with the parsley. They have a subtle anise flavor and are visually lovely.
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.
Recipe Rating


Sunday 19th of May 2024

Loved it! The feta made the tomato soup so rich and flavorful.


Monday 13th of May 2024

Made this soup this weekend and enjoyed our first outdoor meal of 2024 on the patio. We had it with our take on your grinder fried toast (extra cheese for us!) and it was all delish and a happy way to start summer eating. (And then we fired up the fire pit and saw the northern lights!)